Most dogs will thrive best on a twice-per-day feeding schedule, but many people have trouble providing such a schedule, given the demands of work, school and family. This is where automatic dog feeders can come in handy!
Fortunately, there are a number of automated dog feeders available, which can allow you to keep to a regular feeding Fido on a standard time table, even with hectic schedules.
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Continue reading for more in-depth reviews
When Automatic Dog Feeders Are Helpful & Necessary
While some owners may resolve this issue by providing all of their dog’s food in a single daily meal or feeding them at odd hours, neither is a great option.
Allowing your dog to gorge on a day’s worth of food stresses his digestive system and may increase his chances of suffering from bloat – a potentially life threatening medical emergency.
It also means that he’ll be quite hungry while waiting around for his next meal. Instead, the goal is to feed your dog two to three meals, spread out over the course of the day.
Try to provide these meals at roughly the same time each day so his body can get into a comfortable rhythm.
Potential Problems with Automatic Dog Feeders
While automatic dog feeders are very helpful tools that definitely have a place in the world of dog care, they are not magic bullets that absolve you of your pooch-parent duties.
This can come as a bit of a shock to some owners, who quickly learn that automated feeders do not solve all of their pet-care problems.
Regular Refills and Cleaning Still Apply
For example, you’ll still need to load the food reservoir regularly, and you’ll need to wash out the dish on a daily basis.
You’ll also have to trouble-shoot the odd malfunction from time to time. You may even need to teach your dog to use the feeding device, and help soothe any anxiety the feeder causes him (some feeders make sounds that spook nervous dogs).
Dog Feeders and Cat Feeders Require Different Approaches
It is also important to note that automatic feeders serve different purposes for dogs and cats. This is especially true as it relates to keeping your pet fed while you are away for an extended period of time.
Cats (and I can already feel the imminent hate in the comment section), are largely independent creatures, who typically get along fine when left alone for days at a time. They poop and pee in a box, don’t really require tons of attention and probably enjoy having the house to themselves for a day or two.
Therefore, automated feeders are a great way to make sure your cat stays well-fed while you are away for a few days (don’t forget to provide plenty of water for your kitty).
Dogs, on the other hand, absolutely need to spend time with their pack.
Sure, they may learn to tolerate your daily 8- or 10-hour absence, but most will freak out if left alone for even a single day.
Therefore, automated feeders do not make it possible to leave your dog alone while you go on vacation. There’s also the whole elimination issue you’d have to work out.
Dogs are very social creatures that thrive on companionship. Even if you were able to set up an automatic feeder, a continuously flowing dog watering fountain, and a doggy door for outside potty access, leaving your dog alone for days at a time is downright cruel. Dogs were simply not designed to be left alone and unattended. They’re much needier than cats!
Bathroom Breaks Shouldn’t Be Forgotten
Some dogs will be able to eat from an automated feeder and wait for you to arrive home before pottying. However, other dogs will need to go to the bathroom shortly after eating. Make sure you know your dog’s body and understand what he can handle.
Busy households may consider a schedule where your dog is fed early in the morning, allowing you to take Fido out for a bathroom break right before you head out to work.
The feeder could go off again in the evening, perhaps 30 minutes to an hour before you get home. Then you can simply jump out for another potty break when you arrive home, allowing for a fairly automated eating schedule.
Automatic Feeders Mean Missing Out On Hand Feeding!
Even if you only plan on using an automatic dog feeder for days when you work late, it’s worth noting that feeding your pup is actually a potential bonding process, which you should take advantage of whenever possible.
Many veterinarians and dog trainers even recommend hand-feeding your pooch to reinforce your dog-human bond even further.
The Substantial Benefits of Automatic Dog Feeders
So, if automatic dog feeders are not great for reducing your workload, will not allow you to leave your dog unattended for days at a time, and can stand in the way of the bonding process, what are they good for?
I’m so glad you asked:
Automatic feeders can make it easier to manage multi-pet homes. People who have several pets often struggle to maintain household harmony during feeding times. However, automated feeders may provide some relief in such situations. For example, you may feed your timid little terrier before you leave in the morning, and then set the feeder to provide food to your ravenous Rottweiler an hour or so later.
Automatic feeders can help establish regular feeding times. Some pups – especially those with sensitive stomachs – will feel best if they are fed on a very consistent schedule. Automated dog feeders help with this, and alleviate the need for you to watch the clock and reorganize your day around your pup’s meal times.
Automatic feeders can help prevent your dog from eating too much food too quickly. Some of the better feeders can be programed to release small amounts of food over lengthy periods of time. This can be a good way to get your dog to eat slowly, which may help reduce the chances that he’ll suffer bloat or other digestive problems.
Automatic feeders can allow you to feed your dog at reasonable hours. Many people are forced to leave for work before the sun rises, and others don’t return home until well after the sun has set, making it necessary to feed your dog at less-than-ideal times. Automated feeders can help you feed Fido at typical breakfast and dinner time frames.
Automatic feeders can provide stimulation for dogs left home alone. Dogs often become bored and anxious when left home alone all day, but an automated feeder can provide them with a bit of stimulation that helps break up the day and soothe their nerves. This is especially true of automated feeders that record and playback vocal messages to your pooch. Check out our article on dog puzzle toys and frozen Kongs for more dog food challenge ideas.
They allow you to sleep in on the weekends. Many of us like to sleep a little longer on the weekends, but our dogs still get hungry at their regular breakfast time. This usually results in your dog jumping up on the bed and attempting to lick you into consciousness. With an automatic feeder, you can feed your dog at his regular breakfast time, while you lounge about in bed.
Types of Automatic Dog Feeders: Different Styles and Systems
Automatic feeders come in a variety of styles, each of which offers different benefits and drawbacks. No one style is appropriate for all situations, so try to select the best feeder for your lifestyle and needs.
Gravity Fed Systems
The simplest type of automated feeder, gravity dog feeders do not provide individual meals. Instead, they simply keep your dog’s food bowl full until the attached reservoir runs out of food.
Gravity dog feeders are great for owners who like to feed their dog on an ad libitum (free choice) basis, but they are not ideal for dogs who tend to continue eating until their food is all gone.
Mechanized Vertically Fed Feeders
These types of feeders usually include a large reservoir, but food is only dispensed when the timer opens the chute.
These types of feeders provide greater control and flexibility than non-mechanized, gravity-fed systems, but they typically cost more and have more moving parts, which always have the potential to fail or break over time. Accordingly, it is important to select high-quality products and maintain them properly.
Vertically fed feeders (as well as gravity fed feeders mentioned above) will only work with dry kibble, as wet food will not be able to fall down the funnel as required to work appropriately.
Clamshell dispensers consist of one or more compartments with a hinged lid. At the predetermined time, the latch is released, allowing the top of the container to swing open, providing your pet access to his food.
These dispenses do have a few moving parts, so they are subject to potential breakage, but they have less electrical components than more complicated feeders.
Clamshell-style feeders usually work with any type of food you’d like to use, including dry kibble, semi-moist food or wet food.
Circular dispensers (which don’t always take the form of a true circle) typically feature several different compartments for food. A rotating lid exposes a compartment at the preselected time, allowing your dog to chow down. While these types of feeders do include moving parts, they are probably less prone to breakage or malfunction than vertically fed feeders are.
Many circular dispensers can be programmed to provide several different meals over the course of days.
Like clamshell-style feeders, circular dispensers are some of the only type of automated feeders that will work with any type of food you wish. Some models rely on an included cold pack to keep wet food fresh.
Things To Look For in an Automatic Dog Feeder
As with any other consumer product, there are good automatic feeders and not-so-good feeders. One of the best ways to distinguish between the two is by considering the following characteristics, traits, and features of any automatic feeder you intend to purchase.
Poorly constructed automatic feeders may allow your pooch to access food before the designated time. To avoid this, look for feeders that feature some type of locking system for the reservoir and avoid those that are made from cheap, flimsy plastics (even more essential if you have a heavy chewer on your hands).
Ability to Handle Large Kibble
Some kibbles are manufactured in pieces that are too large to work properly with a given feeder. In these cases, you may need to switch to a smaller sized kibble to ensure proper feeder function.
This may not be a huge issue for some owners, but it may be problematic if your dog eats a specific type or brand of food featuring large kibbe. If your dog prefers larger sized kibble, keep a look out for a feeder that’s known to handle larger-sized kibble without issue.
A High-Quality Feeding Dish
You’ll have to keep the feeder’s dish clean, so you want to purchase a product that includes a smooth-sided, non-toxic and dog-friendly feeding dish.
Stainless steel dishes are the preferred choice, but high-quality plastic dishes are acceptable as well – they just may not last as long.
Relatively Air-Tight Food Reservoirs
No automated food dish will keep the contained food completely fresh, but the better models will allow less air to enter the reservoir and keep a tight seal. This will help keep the food from going stale for longer, and is especially important for high-capacity, gravity-fed dispensers.
Best Automatic Dog Feeders: Our 6 Top Picks!
Below you’ll find reviews for six of the best automatic pet feeders we found on the market. We’ve made an effort to include a number of feeders which include different features and provide various capabilities for different needs.
As always, you want to be sure to select an automatic feeder that suits the unique requirements of you and your pet.
- Automatic Food Dispenser Makes Feeding Hassle Free for Pets’ Dietary Health & Wellbeing
- Capacity: 6L. Up to 4 meals a day ,each meal dispense from 1-39 Portions, Each Portion is around...
- Built in Voice Recorder and Speaker : Record your voice 10 seconds to call your pets for meals.
- Prevent Food Locking and Spills : Built in infrared detection which can prevent the food locking,...
About: The WESTLINK 6L is a completely automated feeder that is easy to fill, use, and program. It is a feature-packed feeder, which not only allows you to program up to four meals per day, it also allows you to record a 10-second-long voice message for your pet to let him know it is chow time!
The WESTLINK 6 will hold up to 6 liters of food and it can be programmed to dispense up to 39 separate meals.
- Built-in infrared sensor helps ensure smooth operation
- Each meal dispenses approximately 10 to 12 grams of food
- Requires kibble pieces smaller than 0.39” x 0.39”
- Powered via batteries or USB
The WESTLINK 6L received glowing reviews from most owners. Most found that it worked reliably and that it was built better than they’d have expected given the price point. A number of owners also liked the square shape, which makes it easy to stick in a corner.
A small number of owners reported that their pet was able to break into the food reservoir, but this wasn’t an especially common complaint. It is important to note that this feeder probably won’t work well with large pets.
- Large capacity hopper 6.5 dry food, Humanized design, simple Setting
- Voice record/play at the programmed meal time, accurate portion control, two power supply: battery...
- Ip camera. Feeding via free app, our customer service phone number is 833-364-6377, please give us...
- Dimension: L 16.5 * W 8.66 * H 16.14 inch (assembled), weight: 3kg (6.6 pounds) (without batteries),...
About: The Dogness Automatic Feeder is a Wi-Fi-enabled feeder that makes it very easy to keep your dog fed, even when you’re not home. It even comes with an included camera, so you can keep an eye on your pet from afar.
Instead of having to use a clumsy push-button control panel, you can program this automatic dog feeder with camera with your smart phone. You’ll need to download a free app to use this feeder but connecting your phone to the device and making adjustments is quick and easy.
- Powered via batteries or included AC cord
- Available in five colors: Grey, Blue/Orange, Dark Blue, Pink, and Tiffany Blue
- Holds up to 6.5 pounds of food
- Works with 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi; Does not work with 5G
Most owners were very happy with the Dogness Wi-Fi Feeder. Most reported that it was very easy to set up, program and use, and the included camera was a very nice bonus.
The only big drawback to this product is that it is not compatible with Android devices yet. So, this is really only a feeder that will work for owners with an iPhone.
- FEED YOUR PET WHILE YOU’RE AWAY - Schedule up to 4 automated feedings per day using the built-in...
- KEEP YOUR PET FROM OVEREATING - Your WOpet feeders each hold up to 17 cups dry food. Be proactive...
- RECORD A CUSTOM MESSAGE FOR YOUR PET - Keep your pet excited about meal times! Press and hold the...
- OPERATING TIPS - Suitable for dry food only, with the food pellet size ranging from 0.2-0.6 inches...
About: The WOpet Automatic Pet Feeder is a feature-packed automated pet feeder that makes feeding your pet a breeze. It will hold up to 2.5 pounds of food at a time, and you can program it to dispense up to four meals per day. This feeder is equipped with an infrared camera to prevent jams and a built-in speaker, which allows you to record a 10-second-long message for your pet.
But one of the most notable things about the WOpet Automatic dog feeder with camera is its affordable price tag, that makes it a great option for budget-conscious owners.
- Cute cat-shaped body and graphics
- 39 different portion size options
- Made from BPA-free plastic
- Powered by batteries or included USB power adapter
The WOpet Automatic Feeder received a number of very positive reviews, and owners generally found it to be well-built, durable, and easy to program. Most were happy with the product and found that it made feeding time much simpler.
A few owners reported that the programmable interface could stand some improvement, but most owners still found it easy enough to use, once they familiarized themselves with the controls.
- PROGRAMMABLE FEEDING: Conveniently schedule up to 12 meals for your pet; best for cats and small to...
- FLEXIBLE MEAL PORTIONS: Schedule 1/8 cup to 4 cups depending on your pet’s unique needs
- SLOW FEED OPTION: Schedule smaller meals to help prevent stomach upset for pets who eat too fast
- PET-PROOF: Dispenser helps keep food fresh and prying paws from stealing food; the clear lid lets...
About: The PetSafe Automatic Feeder is a feature-packed pet feeding station, which provides owners with a number of ways to customize the manner in which the dispenser releases food.
Unlike many other feeders, which are only capable of providing a small number of meals, this feeder can be programmed to provide up to 12 meals per day.
- Feeder can dispense food amounts ranging from 1/8 cup to 4 cups at a time
- Removable stainless-steel bowl is easier to keep clean than the plastic bowls included in most other feeders
- Includes “feed now” and “pause feeding” functions, for maximum flexibility
- Requires four D batteries (not included), but it also works with a power cord (sold separately)
Most owners who tried the PetSafe Feeder were happy with the product. It was considered secure by most owners, and several were very happy that it came with a stainless-steel food bowl that was easy to remove and replace. Most owners reported that it was quite reliable and worked as intended.
The most common complaints about the PetSafe Feeder was that the unit was difficult to program. A few owners also expressed frustration when trying to use this feeder for large dogs, as the bowl is rather small and the food reservoir won’t hold a great deal of food.
- Automatic Food Dispenser: Cat and dog gravity feeder dispenses dry food as pets eat, prolonging...
- Multi-Pet Households: The pet food dispenser has a 6 lbs. capacity to accommodate multi-pet...
- Food & Water: Keep pets fed with fresh food & water with a variety of our products. Check out our...
- Petmate: For over 50 years, we at Petmate are passionate about our dogs, cats & furry friends in...
About: The Pet Café Feeder is a bare-bones gravity-fed feeder that will keep your dog’s bowl consistently full of food (at least until the storage container is empty).
It is designed to provide maximum convenience in a simple and affordable package.
- Feeder base and lid are dishwasher safe, which makes them easy to keep clean
- Reservoir holds up to 12 pounds of kibble
- Reservoir is made of safe and environmentally friendly PET plastic
- Attractive pearl-tan color will match the décor of most homes
- Requires no batteries for operation
Most owners found that the Pet Café Feeder worked as advertised and helped make it easier and more convenient to feed their pup. Several praised the large capacity of the food reservoir, and a handful of owners appreciated that because this feeder has no moving parts, it doesn’t make sounds that may scare some dogs.
A few owners complained that the dispensing system would become jammed relatively easily. This was most commonly a problem for those owners who use foods comprised of large kibble pieces. Additionally, as with all gravity-fed feeders, this is not a great choice for gluttonous dogs, who will overeat if given the opportunity.
- SCHEDULE MEALS: Set timer to feed your pet two meals up to 48 hours in advance
- GREAT FOR SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED FUR BABIES: Each food container holds up to 1.5 cups of dry kibble
- TREAT YOUR PET: Set one or both trays to deliver snacks or a rewarding treat while you are away
- EASY TO CLEAN: BPA-free plastic food trays are top-shelf dishwasher safe
About: The PetSafe Automatic Feeder is a relatively simple clamshell-style feeder that opens at a predetermined time.
The PetSafe Feeder actually provides two separate feeding compartments, which allows you to provide two separate meals for your dog, which become available at specific times pre-programmed by the owner.
- Requires one AA battery (not included)
- Food dishes are dishwasher safe, making them easy to keep clean
- Each food dish has a 1.5 cup capacity (3 cup capacity in total)
- Recommended for small- to medium-sized dogs and cats
- Suitable for wet or dry food
By and large, owners who tried the PetSafe Automatic Pet Feeder were pleased with the product. Many customers even reported that it continued to work flawlessly for extended periods of time (12 months or more).
While most owners found the PetSafe Feeder was secure enough for their pet, a handful or particularly persistent or clever animals have managed to break into the unit and access the food. A few owners liked the unit, but lamented the lack of a power cord, which would make the feeder more convenient to use. Several owners also complained that the timer was not very precise.
- Manufactured from tough 24 gauge galvanized steel for durability, and have a specially angled shoot...
- The magnetic door closure helps to keep the food fresh and dry, and aids in keeping out unwanted...
- Designed to hang on wall or frame
- Comes completely assembled
About: The Little Giant Chow Hound is a gravity-style feeder that is ideal for owners who want their pet to have constant access to food. Aside from the swinging door, there are no moving parts, so this is heavy-duty automatic dog feeder is unlikely to break and leave your pooch hungry.
Made from 24-gauge galvanized steel, this feeder is not only super-durable, but it can be set up in a few different ways. You can simply place it on the ground and use it as a free-standing unit, or you can attach it to a wall or custom-built frame for additional stability.
- Magnetic door is easy for dogs to open, but closes securely when not in use
- Holds up to 25 pounds of kibble at a time (they also offer one of the best dog feeders for large breeds, that’ll hold up to 50 pounds of kibble)
- No assembly necessary! Comes completely assembled and ready to use
- Angled food chute dispenses food reliably
Most owners who tried the Little Giant Chow Hound were happy with their purchase. Most dogs seem to have no trouble accessing the food, and a few owners used it outdoors without issue.
This type of feeder doesn’t provide discrete meals, so it isn’t a good option for dogs who are likely to overeat. A few owners also noted that it is easier for dogs to access if elevated a bit off the ground, so you may need to engineer a frame or base for the feeder.
Make Your Own Automatic Dog Feeder: DIY Solution for Handy Owners!
You don’t have to purchase an automatic dog feeder if you don’t want to. Instead, you can just make one at home!
Just check out the video below to see if this looks like a project you’d enjoy making.
Have you found a great automatic pet feeder that works for your pooch? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below. Let us know what you like about it, what you didn’t like about it and how long you have been using it.
Make sure to also check out our recommendations for automatic dog waterers for a complete doggy care system! Want to keep an eye on your pooch while you’re out of the house? Treat-dispensing dog cameras are just the thing!