Dog Self Feeder

The Problem:

For my first solution post, I’m going to use my four-legged furry nephew!

Riley playing with ball
I mean come on, that face

He’s a three-year-old Havanese named Riley. He self-feeds (his food is left down for him to eat whenever he’s hungry) but he lives with another pup who will eat any and all food left on the floor, so now we can’t leave his food down or she will eat it all.

Shih tzu
The culprit – an adorable little piggy

Fix number one is this super cool puppy feeder by The Q on Youtube! Check it out here: DIY Puppy Dog Food Dispenser from Cardboard at Home. See, Havanese are little dogs, but they have these enormous paws! We call them “magic paws” because whenever he wants something, he bats at it and usually gets it. Seriously, we could probably put him on a small raft in a roaring ocean and those paws would hold him steady! So when I saw this video, it seemed perfect. Riley could use his big ol’ magic paws to bat at the release sign and get his food! Here are the results:


He looks up the ramp, where the food comes from, to get more. Hitting the sign to the right doesn’t make sense to him.

First rule of design: there’s no such thing as dumb people, only dumb products (or in this case not using it for what it’s designed for). I wanted to make the feeder inherit, something he could figure out without even having to be taught. By looking at the previous design, I could see that he wants to put his nose where he knows the food is, so let’s make this happen!

The Solution:

First I just want to lay out the pattern for you. I used craft foam to make my feeder (Dollar Store guys, it’s so cheap), which is generally .125″ thick, so you can see I’ve accounted for that in my pattern. You could use a bunch of different types of materials for this, cardboard is most notable, but chipboard would work too, even wood! Wood would (hah) require some pattern alterations, of course. Something I learned is that dog food is greasy, so any absorbent materials (like cardboard) won’t last long.

Pattern pieces
“Rough” meaning to make this work, you’ll need to do some tinkering as you build.

My tools of choice: a cutting mat, an exacto knife, a ruler, a pen, pins, tweezers, and a hot glue gun.

Here’s the back piece. I didn’t cut the holes out until later but I suggest you do, there’s no reason not to. Now is also the time to crease the two hinges: the one above the window and the one below.
back piece folded
The back piece, cut out and folded. The bottom piece is longer than it needs to be so I can cut it to size later.
The two sides all cut out. I just measured out one then traced it. So much easier!
Gluing one side on
Just glue the top to the top of the window (that crease). I used hot glue, nice and fast.
Marking the door swing
To measure where to put the inner shelf, hold a pen against the bottom of the window, and swing the hinge to mark how low it goes. If you put the shelf within that arch, the door won’t be able to swing.

GIF Door swing with shelf

Getting the shelf in the right place will take a little trial and error, but here’s how it works once you have it fitted!

skewer supports
I didn’t trust the foam board to withstand much pressure, so I just glued on some skewers. Popsicle sticks, toothpicks, paper clips, anything with a little rigidity will work.

Go ahead and glue on the other side and let’s get the elastic placed!

Marking where the elastic goes
This is a view of the feeder looking at the front window. The elastic needs to be placed at the bottom of the window so that when the window is pushed in, the elastic pushes it back out. How do we mark exactly where to thread the elastic through the walls? Here’s my foam board/cardboard (not so) secret: pins! They can mark they can hold while glue dries, they’re super useful!
Threading the elastic
This part can be a bit tricky, but thread an elastic through one side of the feeder (through the hole you just marked) securing it with a paperclip, and out the other side securing it the same way. I made a little threader with a paperclip to help me.

By the way, see that messy, crumpled up foam board around where I cut out the window? My exacto blade was too dull and needed changing… oops.

Making room for the elastic
Now that the elastic is secured, I noticed that there wasn’t enough room for it when the window was pushed back. The elastic got wedged between the window and the sides of the feeder. Solution? Just cut a little of the window out exactly where the elastic is, creating a little channel for it.
This was in the recycling, perfect window! As long as it’s a bit of a tougher clear plastic it will do. I had to get rid of the label though and for those who don’t know the magic of Goo Gone, learn it, live it, love it.
Flattening the window
Since my window was a little curved, I glued it into a frame to flatten it then glued the frame on top of my window space in the feeder.

You probably noticed that by this point I’d already glued in the food slide, but I kind of jumped the gun by doing that, so I suggest you do it now.

The food slide
Compared to everything else this is easy-peasy! Simply cut out the food slide and walls, glue the walls on (on top of the slide, not to the sides of it or it won’t fit) and slice some angles into the walls of one side so you can angle it under the hole in the shelf where the food comes out.
Attaching the slide slant
Gluing in the slide slant is just a matter of looking where the food needs to go. Look where the hole on your shelf is, where the food falls, and glue the slant so that food is forced into the hole. If it’s glued too far back, food will get stuck behind the hole.

Now’s a good time to glue on the back and top pieces. They’re more or less there for looks, covering up the inner workings of the feeder.

Creating the door
Like I said, I didn’t cut out the door until now but I suggest you do it while the piece is flat, there’s no reason not to. Then I simply used a paperclip, flattened it, created a handle shape, and poked it into the door, securing it on the other side.

Dare I say it… you’re done!

I think he's got it!