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Looking for the right bowl for your dog can feel overwhelming with all the options available to choose from. Every dog needs a food and water bowl, but how do you choose the right one for your dog?

Types of Dog Bowls

Different dog bowls benefit different sized and aged dogs. Choosing the right dog bowl for your dog is based on a few different factors, but some of the most common kinds include standard, elevated, and travel bowls, slow and puzzle feeders, and timed dog feeders.

Standard Dog Bowls

The most common way to feed dogs is with a standard dog bowl. These bowls come in a variety of sizes and colors and are made with a variety of materials. Standard dog bowls are often the fastest and easiest way to provide dogs with food and water when you’re at home.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel standing next to its food bowl at home.
AVAVA via Getty Images

Elevated Dog Bowls

As the name implies, these dog bowls are raised off the floor. Many large and giant breed dog owners will purchase elevated dog bowls because they think a dog bending over is uncomfortable. However, some studies have shown that elevated dog bowls can lead to an increased risk of bloat, a serious condition that can be fatal. If your dog has health conditions that you think would benefit from an elevated dog bowl, speak with your dog’s veterinarian about what is best for your dog.

Slow & Puzzle Feeders

Add activity to your dog’s day with a puzzle feeder or slow-feed bowl. Slow-feed bowls are usually made of food-safe plastic, with raised ridges and areas within the bowl. The ridges provide a challenge for dogs as they eat and prevent dogs from eating too quickly. This added challenge can make mealtimes more fun and improve your dog’s digestion. Puzzle feeders are enrichment toys with various compartments where you can hide your dog’s meal. With these feeders, a dog must use their nose, tongue, and paws to “solve” the puzzle and release the food.

Collapsible Travel Dog Bowls

If you’re traveling with your dog, a collapsible bowl is a must. These travel bowls fold flat, but you can pop them out into a larger bowl for food or water when on the go with your dog. These collapsible bowls are great not just for trips. They’re also a convenient option to provide your dog with water or a snack while you’re going to training classes or going out for an outdoor activity, such as a hike.

Banepx via Getty Images

Timed Dog Bowls

If you have a dog that has a medical condition and needs to be fed at the same time each day, it can be helpful to utilize a timed feeder. You can set these high-tech feeding options to release a pre-determined amount of food at a specific time of day. These bowls are especially convenient for busy dog owners who want to ensure that their dogs are fed at a consistent time each day.

Spill-Proof Dog Bowls

Have a messy dog? Spill-proof bowls can help to reduce the mess from dogs drinking and playing in their water bowls. Spill-proof bowls generally have a floating disk inside the bowl that is pushed down by a dog’s tongue, allowing them to get water as they drink. However, the floating disc also prevents water from spilling out if the bowl gets tipped over by a playful dog.

Lick or Snuffle Mats

If you want to add more enrichment to your dog’s routine, consider feeding them some or all of their meals on a lick/snuffle mat. Lick mats are usually made from food-safe silicone or plastic and have different-shaped ridges on the plate. You can spread wet food or other soft dog-safe treats onto the lick mat, so your dog can use their tongue to lick the food out of the mat’s ridges. Because licking is a soothing activity for dogs, lick mats can make mealtime more enjoyable for them. Snuffle mats are another option that contain fabric pockets and sections to hide food in. You can spread your dog’s kibble through the snuffle mat and let your dog use their natural foraging instincts to find the food.

Selecting the Right-Sized Dog Bowl

It’s important to pick a bowl that’s an appropriate size for your dog. Dog bowls should be large enough to fit all your dog’s food and enough water for your dog. You’ll also want to pick a bowl that is appropriately sized and shaped to your dog’s face. If you have a dog with a narrow muzzle, you can use a smaller bowl. However, if your dog has a large face, you’ll need a bowl with a wide opening so that they can eat comfortably.

Your schedule and your dog’s routine will also dictate the size of bowl that is best for your dog, especially for water. Dogs should always have water available. If you don’t have capacity in your schedule to regularly refill your dog’s water bowl multiple times during the day, choose a bowl large enough to hold enough water for a full day.

If you have a dog with long ears, like a hound or spaniel, you may want to select a more narrow-mouthed bowl. These bowls can prevent your dog’s ears from getting into the bowl, to prevent ear infections and help you go longer in between grooming sessions.

Dog Bowl Materials

When selecting a bowl for your dog, there will also be different material options to consider. Most commonly, dog bowls are made of stainless steel, ceramic, plastic, and silicone. There are pros and cons to each bowl material:

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel dog bowls are considered the most durable option. These bowls are easy to clean, dishwasher-safe, don’t leach chemicals, and are difficult to break or damage. The durability of stainless steel bowls makes them a great option for dogs and puppies of all ages. However, they’re generally lightweight, so an active dog may knock their bowl over and make messes.

Beagle eating from a bowl full of kibble.
©alexugalek -


Ceramic dog bowls are heavy, which makes them a great choice for large dogs and puppies who may try to play with their bowls. This heavier material can help keep bowls from spilling and making a mess in your home while dogs eat or drink. Make sure that any ceramic bowls you use to feed your dog are made with non-toxic and food-grade ceramic to ensure there aren’t chemicals that could harm your dog. Note: ceramic bowls aren’t always dishwasher-safe and will chip or break if dropped.


Plastic dog bowls are often dishwasher-safe and an inexpensive option. However, they can be lightweight and easy for dogs to push around or play with, resulting in spilled food or water. Your dog may also easily scratch these bowls, so you may need to replace them more often than other options. Bowls made from plastic that isn’t food-safe could also contain potentially harmful chemicals.

Cleaning and Caring for Dog Bowls

We don’t eat off dirty dishes, and our dogs shouldn’t either. Washing your dog’s bowls regularly to keep them sanitary and help prevent your dog from getting sick. If you’re feeding your dog wet food, raw food, or soaking your dog’s kibble, wash your dog’s bowls or lick mat after each meal. In these situations, it’s helpful to have multiple bowls so you don’t have to wash bowls more than once each day.

If your dog is eating dry kibble, it’s still a good idea to wash your dog’s bowl daily. Keeping your dog’s bowls clean and sanitary also prevents them developing a stale or sour smell, which can impact the taste of your dog’s food. You should also refill and clean your dog’s water bowls daily. Regularly cleaning your dog’s water bowl prevents drool, food, and debris from dirtying the water.

Regardless of what type of bowl you select for your dog, inspect it regularly for any chips or damage. If your dog’s bowl becomes damaged, replace it with a new one.