Meal time is my dogs’ favorite time of day, but to be honest, sometimes my schedule makes it difficult to feed them at their preferred times. In the past, people might have put out an extra bowl of food if they were going to be gone through mealtime. But in my house, that extra food would be gone as soon as I turned my back, and a doggy stomachache would soon follow.
In this day and age, technology can help! Automatic dog food dispensers portion out meals for your pets according to a pre-programmed schedule.
They’re especially useful for dogs with specific dietary needs who have to eat the exact right portions at the exact right times each day.
What should you look for in an automatic pet food dispenser?
Some automatic feeders are fairly simple, dispensing two meals a day. Others offer more servings and more complex features.
- Sturdy design that can’t be easily tipped over
- Easy programming
- An easy-to-clean hopper (food container) and bowl
- The ability to schedule multiple meals and adjustable portion sizes
With that in mind, we’ve researched the most popular, reliable automatic food dispensers available. Here are our picks for the four best automatic dog food dispensers.
Best Simple Programmable Food Dispenser
- Stainless steel bowl is hygienic and easy to clean
- Runs on batteries, so no electric cords to trip over or pose hazard for chew-curious dogs
- Online reviewers love the “turtle mode” that dispenses food slowly to prevent rapid eating
- Programming procedure is tricky; keep the manual on-hand!
- Super-smart pups may be able to nudge the unit and cause extra food to fall out
Most helpful review: “I have a rescue dog who had starved on the streets for a while before we found each other. He’s always been stressed about getting fed on time, and keeps us all on a clock…this gizmo COMPLETELY ELIMINATED his STRESS about getting fed.”
Best “Smart” Dry Food Dispenser
If you’re looking for something truly futuristic, look no further than this app-connected “smart” feeder with a built-in webcam. The WOPet SmartFeeder can be programmed for up to four meals a day, and online reviewers praise its quick and easy setup (though it helps if you’re already tech-savvy).
- Reviewers love the voice record function, which lets you program a personal message for your dog to hear at mealtime
- Relatively easy to program
- Timed meals help train dogs to eat more slowly, potentially preventing common digestive issues
- Some reviewers note difficulty maintining wifi connection
- Unclear if app will continue to update with upcoming smartphone software
Most helpful review: “Bought this for my Golden Retriever and it is BRILLIANT. He used to have antacids from reflux as a result of bolting his food and we tried everything, from feeders you fill that roll around and dispense food to bowls that are like mazes – nope. No deal. But this one has stopped his tummy problems.”
Best Automatic Dry/Wet Food Dispenser
Many of the most popular automatic food dispensers on the market are for kibble only. But if your dog relies on canned or wet food, you need a dispenser that can handle the mush. The Feed and Go Smart Pet Feeder is a state-of-the-art automatic food dispenser that easily handles kibble and canned food. It has six separate compartments to dispense meals, snacks, and/or medications, and reviewers love how easy and reliable it is. And it comes with a ton of bonus “smart” features, including a webcam, “call your dog” voice recorder, and app for easy scheduling.
- Easy to program
- Attractive, modern appearance
- Food tray is dishwasher safe
- Sends you a text when your pets are fed so you can rest easy (and/or tune into the video livefeed and watch your dog chow down)
- Food compartments are a bit small for big eaters, holding only one cup each. But you can always schedule two “meals” in a row!
- If you’re not into “smart” features, it may have too many bells and whistles
Most helpful review: “Hands down, the best automatic feeder out there! I purchased this and two other brands, and I’m returning the others and purchasing two more of these. LOVE.”
Best Throwback Gravity Feeder
This one is pretty low-tech. In fat, it’s no-tech, but gravity feeders are an old-school “automatic” option that works. Simply fill the food hopper and let gravity do its job, pouring food into the attached bowl and refilling as the bowl empties. Gravity feeders won’t work for for dogs who can’t stop eating (like my two piggy pit bulls). But if your dog is a grazer, this throwback “automatic” dog feeder may be for you!
- Simple to use, just fill the storage hopper and go
- Available in a variety of sizes
- Easy to clean; the parts can even go in the dishwasher
- Fully analog, so there’s no “off” function. Only appropriate for dogs who graze and won’t overeat.
- Some reviewers complain that larger kibbles get stuck in the opening between hopper and bowl
Most helpful review: “Got this for my senior dog who is losing her sight. It’s big enough that she sees it, easily eats from it, and can’t accidentally knock it over.”