Automated feeders are great for making sure your dog is fed on schedule. But with so many pet feeders on the market, how can you know which to choose? To help you decide, we’ve reviewed the most popular dispensers to find the five best automatic dog feeders on the market.
- What is an Automatic Pet Feeder?
- How to Choose a Timed Dispenser
- 5 Best Automated Dog Food Dispensers
- Frequently Asked Questions
We can’t always be there to feed our dogs exactly on time though. That’s why a timed dog feeder, which dispenses food at pre-programmed intervals, can be a useful tool. The top models store large amounts of food before dispensing the right portion at pre-determined intervals.
It’s vital to get a high-quality and reliable dog feeder though. The best feeders are programmable, easy to use and have a clock you can rely on. They are also durable (so your pet can’t break in) and provide excellent value for money. The worst models, on the other hand, are weak, unreliable and often difficult to program.
With these requirements in mind, I spent countless hours researching the automatic pet feeder market to find the best options. I’ve listed my top 5 models below. Before we get to the recommendations, however, let’s talk about the advantages and disadvantages of an automated dispenser.
Note: This page is about food dispensers only. If you’re looking for water dispensers, check out our water fountains page.
Our #1 Pick: PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed
High-quality dispenser with lots of options
My top recommendation for a programmable dog food dispenser is the PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed. It doesn’t have a smartphone app, but comes with all the other features you expect from a high-quality dispenser. These include up to 12 meals per day, slow feed option and portion control. Highly recommended.
What is an Automatic Pet Feeder?
At a basic level, an automatic dog feeder is a simple device. It releases a certain amount of food on a set schedule so you don’t need to manually feed your pet. This is great for feeding on a regular schedule or if you’re not always at home for dinner time.
All dog feeders have a plastic or metal container for dry kibble. As food is released, it falls into a bowl where the dog can access it.
How a pet feeder dispenses food varies depending on the model though. The most basic dispensers use gravity, which makes them less likely to malfunction but can lead to overeating. More advanced electronic dog feeders allow you to set portions and timings, but are more expensive.
The advantages of an automatic feeder are obvious. While feeding your dog doesn’t take much time, it can be stressful if you’re going to be home late and know your pet is hungry. The best automated feeders also make it easy to provide exact portions, which can prevent obesity or underfeeding. Some even come with smartphone apps so you can feed your pet remotely.
A feeder is also great for canines with certain health problems. All dogs like to be fed on schedule, but diabetic dogs need regular meals to maintain optimum blood sugar levels. A timed dog feeder makes this easy.
Are There Any Downsides?
An automated dog feeder has a number of advantages, but I don’t recommend using one all the time (unless it’s for health reasons). Feeding your pet can be a bonding experience that shouldn’t be fully automated. Dinner times are great opportunities for training too, which is lost when using an automated feeder. Having a timed feeder also shouldn’t provide an excuse for owners to leave their pet alone for long periods.
Additionally, no electronic dog feeder is 100% reliable. There’s always a chance (albeit a small one) that there could be an issue with the computer or mechanism, which could cause your pet to miss a meal. Missing one meal isn’t usually a disaster, unless your dog has certain illnesses, but I don’t recommend relying on a feeder for multiple meals without checking it.
How to Choose a Timed Dispenser
As you’ve probably guessed, there are a number of food dispensers on the market from brands such as PetSafe, Lusmo, Oxgord and others. Selecting the right one depends on your requirements – so it’s important to know what to look for. Here’s a quick overview of the most important considerations.
- Type of Feeder. Gravity feeders are the cheapest option. These feeders use a simple mechanical system to allow kibble to fall into the bowl, which means they don’t require programming or much maintenance. Gravity dog feeders are becoming less common, however, as they can allow overeating and don’t let you schedule meal times. Electronic feeders allow for precise scheduling and portion control, which makes them far healthier. They can sometimes be fiddly to program and are more expensive though.
- Ease of Programming. If you’re buying an electronic dog feeder, it’s important to choose one that’s easy to program. The best models have a helpful manual and easy-to-use programming systems.
- Multiple Scheduled Feeds. You should be able to schedule multiple meals throughout each day. This allows you to create a custom feeding schedule that meets your dog’s requirements.
- Durable Design. Once your dog realises the feeder dispenses his meals, he’ll want to “explore” it further! That’s why it’s important to buy a dog feeder with a strong and chew-proof food container. If possible, the feeder should be heavy so it can’t be easily knocked over (which would prevent it dispensing food).
- Capacity. Some pet feeders are designed to hold a few meals, while others have large containers with enough kibble for several weeks. Make sure you choose an automatic feeder with a large enough capacity for your requirements. If you’re feeding multiple dogs, you may need more than one machine.
- Portion Control. Some of the best automatic dog feeders allow you to adjust portion control. This is an essential feature for electronic feeders, as dogs need different amounts of food depending on their size and breed. Some dispensers also have an option to adjust feeding speed. This is great if your pet gulps down his food, as eating too fast can lead to digestive problems and even a serious condition called bloat.
- Kibble Size. Most dispensers only work with kibble of a certain size. Make sure you check whether your dog’s food is suitable.
- Extra Features. Modern electronic feeders sometimes have additional features. Some, for example, include cameras, manual feeding modes and app integrations. These features are rarely essential, but can make feeding your dog more convenient.
I always recommend buying an electronic dog feeder rather than a gravity feeder. Portion control and scheduled meals are important for your dog’s health, so it’s a good idea to have direct control over the amount and timings of your pet’s meals.
Even so, I know some people prefer the simple design and low price of gravity feeders, which is why I’ve included two on the list below. I prefer to think of these as dog self feeders though, as it’s the pet that’s in control of how often the bowl is refilled, not the owner.
5 Best Automated Dog Food Dispensers
Listed below are five of the best automatic dog feeders on the market at the moment. I’ve included different types, prices and features, so there’s almost certainly an option that meets your pet’s requirements. Make sure you read the reviews carefully to find the right choice for your home and pet.
|Rank||Name||Type||Meals Per Day||Other Features||Price|
|#1||Petsafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed||Electronic||Up to 12||Portion Control, Slow Feed||$$$$|
|#2||Bergan Aut-O-Dine 25||Gravity||N/A||Weather Resistant||$$|
|#3||Petsafe Smart Feed||Electronic||Up to 12||Smartphone App, Portion Control, Slow Feed||$$$$$|
|#4||Electronic||Up to 4||Smartphone App, Portion Control, Pet Camera||$$$$|
|#5||Petmate Pet Cafe||Gravity||N/A||N/A||$|
1. Petsafe Healthy Pet Simply FeedVIEW PRICE
My top pick for an automatic food dispenser is the PetSafe Health Pet Simply Feed. The name is a bit of a mouthful, but it’s a high-quality electronic feeder that allows complete control over your dog’s feeding times.
The Health Pet Simply Feed is an electronic dog feeder, but it doesn’t have app integration. All settings can be adjusted using the control panel on top of the machine though, and programming is relatively straightforward.
One of the most impressive things about the Petsafe is that it allows for up to 12 meals a day. Most dog owners won’t need this many scheduled meals, but it’s great to have the option. There is also a portion control feature, which can be adjusted from 1/8 cups up to 4 cups per feed.
The translucent food hopper can contain up to 24 cups of dry kibble. How long this lasts depends on the size of your dog, but it can hold enough for small or medium breeds. It’s also great for a puppy. I don’t think the hopper is quite big enough for large dog breeds though, as you’ll need to refill it almost every other day.
On a positive note, there’s also a useful slow feed mode, which dispenses food over a 15 minute period to prevent your pet eating too fast. This only works with portion sizes over 1/8 cup in size though, so for the smallest dog breeds it won’t make a difference.
Other features include a chew-proof food holder, stainless steel bowl and an easy-to-disassemble design for cleaning. Unlike many automatic dog bowls, it can handle both dry and semi-moist food. There’s also an “instant feed” option for when you want to feed your dog off-schedule.
In terms of design, the Petsafe is functional rather than stylish. It’s relatively heavy though, so most dogs will struggle to tip it over or steal kibble with a greedy paw. The motor is also quiet compared to alternatives.
Note: The Petsafe Healthy Pet requires four D Alkaline batteries. These are not included, so you’ll need to purchase them separately. You can also buy a power adaptor, but this isn’t included with the basic machine.
The Petsafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed is an excellent automatic pet feeder – especially for small or medium-size dogs. It doesn’t provide app integration, but has a range of useful features, including the ability to schedule up to 12 meals per day. If you don’t need to control the dispenser station via your phone, it’s a great choice.
2. Bergan Aut-O-Dine 25 Outdoor FeederVIEW PRICE
If you’re looking for a dog feeder for outside, gravity dispensers are your only option. One of the best for outside usage is the Bergan Auto-O-Dine, which features a large capacity and water resistant exterior. It’s also suitable for large dog breeds.
As I mentioned earlier, gravity feeders don’t provide much control over how much your dog eats. Instead of dispensing set amounts of food, the Bergan dispenses dry food as your pet eats. There’s no option for portion control, timed release or other features found on electronic feeders. For this reason, if your dog has a tendency to overeat I don’t recommend the Bergan.
If overeating isn’t a problem, however, then this is a tough and rugged autopet feeder that’s great for outdoor use. It has a large hopper that holds up to 25lbs of dry food, along with a water-resistant design. While it’s not 100% waterproof, it does a good job of keeping food dry in all but the most severe weather conditions. The plastic construction means you don’t need to worry about rust (this is a common problem for metal feeders).
One thing to note about the Bergan is that dogs need to push their head inside a flap to get to the food. This helps keep the kibble dry, but if your dog is nervous he might need some positive reinforcement training to start using it. You may also need to stand it on something for the largest dogs, as they may struggle to eat if the opening is too low.
You’ll also need to occasionally shake it to get food moving again. This doesn’t happen all the time, but food can get jammed inside the Bergan.
If you’re looking for an outdoor dog feeder, the Bergan is a good choice. It’s highly durable and does a great job of keeping food dry. As it’s a gravity-based dispenser, however, it doesn’t provide control over portion size or meal schedules.
3. Petsafe Smart FeedVIEW PRICE
If you want a programmable feeder that can be remotely controlled via a smartphone, the Petsafe Smart Feed is my top recommendation. It’s similar to the other PetSafe on this list, but can also be controlled via an Android or iPhone smartphone.
Let’s start with the Smart Feed’s biggest selling point: smartphone integration. The feeder connects to your home’s Wi-Fi via the wireless router, which allows you to access it via a dedicated app. All settings are adjustable via the app, including feeding times and other options. Installing and connecting the app is straightforward, and creating scheduled meals is much simpler than the basic non-smartphone model.
You can also use the app to track when your pet is being fed and receive notifications when food has been released. There’s even notification if the hopper has jammed, which provides extra peace of mind. I’m also pleased that the feeder still dispenses food if it loses Wi-Fi signal.
One oversight, in my opinion, is that the app doesn’t notify you if the hopper is empty. This isn’t a major issue, as the translucent sides allow you to quickly see when it needs to be refilled. I hope they add this feature in later versions though. The feeder also can’t be controlled using Amazon’s Alexa, although this is only a minor issue.
In other ways, the Smart Feed is similar to the excellent Healthy Pet Simply Feed. You can schedule up to 12 different meals each day, which are dispensed from the 24-cup hopper. Portion sizes can be adjusted between 1/8 – 4 cups and there’s an option for slow feeding. PetSafe has also included a “Feed Now” option if you want to give your dog dinner outside of regular scheduling times.
The similarities to the Healthy Pet Simply Food also mean the Smart Feed has some of the same issues. The biggest is that the relatively small hopper makes it inefficient for larger breeds, such as German Shepherds. It’ll still work and can dispense relatively large amounts of food, but you’ll need to refill it every few days.
As you would expect, the Smart Feed is more expensive than the basic Petsafe auto feeder. I still think it’s worth the money though, as the app integration makes it much more convenient to use.
The Petsafe Smart Feed is one of the best smartphone-enabled automatic dog feeders. It’s not cheap, but has a range of useful options and is easy to use. The time release settings and remote functions are also excellent.
4. WOPet Smart Feeder
If you don’t want to buy the PetSafe, a slightly cheaper dog feeder with an app is the WOPet SmartFeeder. It has many of the same features, including both Android and iOS apps, although I don’t think it can quite match the PetSafe when it comes to quality.
The programmable SmartFeeder allows you to set up to four scheduled meals each day. This is much less than the 12 allowed by the PetSafe models, but should be enough for most pets. There’s also a portion control option, which allows you to change portions from 1-10 per day.
Meal times are scheduled via the smartphone app, along with various other settings. The app, on the whole, is simple to use, but it lacks the polish of others on the market. It seems to be fairly easy to connect to the feeder though, which is often the hardest part when setting up an app. You can also send notifications to multiple phones simultaneously after a timed released.
An interesting feature of the WOPet is that it comes with a forward facing pet camera. This allows you to check your pet is OK wherever you are. Considering most pet cameras only have a treat dispenser (or no food dispenser at all), this is a welcome feature if you want to monitor your pet while you’re out. It’s not as high resolution as many of the best dedicated pet cameras though.
A downside is the relatively small hopper size. It can hold around 18 cups of kibble, which is smaller than the PetSafe auto dispensers. This size is fine for small or medium breeds, but for large dogs you’ll need to refill it regularly.
Note: The WOPet only works with 2.4GHz Wi-Fi networks. If your router is using a different type, you’ll need to change it before the feeder works.
The WOPet Smart Feeder has some impressive features, such as the pet camera and multi-phone notifications. It’s partially let down by a poor-quality app translation and a maximum of four meals a day though. Even so, it’s a great animal feeder with features you won’t find on other models.
5. Petmate Pet CafeVIEW PRICE
One of the best gravity dog feeders is the Petmate Pet Cafe. It’s a simple model that lacks the advanced features found on pet feeders with timers, yet can still be useful and is available for a very low price.
As it’s a gravity feeder, the Pet Cafe automatically replenishes food in the bowl as it runs low. This is great for dogs that can manage their own eating habits, but for some dogs it can lead to overeating.
Some indoor gravity dog feeders are difficult to clean, but Petmate has designed the Cafe with a wider top opening. This also makes it straightforward to refill. Additionally, there are three colors available (blue, white and grey) to match your home’s interior.
There are some drawbacks to this model though. While it can hold enough food for small or medium breeds, it’s not big enough for large dogs. Food can also sometimes get stuck, so you need to shake it to get the kibble moving again. In general, the Pet Cafe gets jammed a lot less than other gravity feeders though.
The Petmate is one of the best gravity dog feeders on the market at the moment. While it can occasionally become jammed, food usually flows readily and it’s easy to clean. Keep in mind that gravity feeders can cause overeating though.
Frequently Asked Questions
What About a Dog Feeder With a MicroChip Sensor?
If you have multiple pets – especially a mixture of cats and dogs – you might want to consider a microchip-activated pet feeder. These have a flap that only opens if the “right” pet comes near, while preventing others from stealing food.
A dog feeder with a microchip sensor is not the same as an automatic dog feeder though. They usually only hold one portion at a time, so you have to refill them manually. They are also often too small for dogs.
With that said, they can be useful for stopping your dog eating your cat’s food. My top recommendation in this category is the excellent SureFeed Microchip.
What About Puzzle Feeders?
Puzzle feeders don’t feed your dog automatically, like the auto feeders on this list, but can still help your pet’s digestive system by slowing down his eating. They are also great for providing mental stimulation. Click here for a list of the best dog puzzle feeders.
If you want to ensure your dog is always fed on time, an automatic dog feeder could be a useful addition to your home. The best food dispensers can provide the correct amount of food at pre-set intervals, which provides extra peace of mind and may even help your dog’s digestive system.
My top recommendation for a basic pet food timer is the excellent Petsafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed. It has a range of useful features, such as up to 12 scheduled feeds and portion control, yet is available for a great price. If you want app integration, go for the PetSafe Smart Feed.
I hope this article has helped you choose the best automatic dog feeder for your pet. If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them in the comments section.