7 Reasons to Not Free Feed Your Dog
“Free Feeding,” means having food available for your pup or dog throughout the day and evening, allowing them to eat, well..., freely.
Scheduled Feeding Brings Many Benefits!
Keeping dogs on a defined feeding schedule, instead, is critical to helping them on several fronts:
- Having scheduled feeding times, means your dog will likely be hungry at feeding time. This can encourage and motivate them to eat their entire meal when it is provided.
- Scheduled feeding times allow you to know the intake quantity your dog should be eating versus the amount they may not be eating due to any unknown health issue that may arise. Loss of appetite is often the first sign of illness.
- Scheduled feeding times allow for a predictable output schedule as well. Depending on your pup or dog’s age and the corresponding digestion period, you can easily predict when they will need to go outside for a potty break based on what time they last ate. This minimizes any guesswork for housetraining and also allows you to plan your own schedule around this activity.
- From a training perspective, having your dog on a feeding schedule means you have created a fantastic opportunity to train at meal time. You can use your dog’s kibble as rewards in a quick training session. Your dog will be hungry at meal time, you’ll have their full attention and motivation for food.
- For homes with more than one dog, planned eating times allows for the dogs to eat and complete their meals at set intervals, stress free. Otherwise, when food is left out, unrecognized tensions can be experienced between the dogs. One or both dogs may be experiencing competition for this resource when they are allowed to access the food when no one is watching.
- Similarly, one dog may be eating more of the other dog’s food without their people being aware of it. We want each dog to consume the amount of calories recommended for optimal health each day.
- Myth Bust - if your dog has any level of resource guarding, leaving their food out continuously creates tension for your dog. If this valuable resource is out all day, your dog will continuously feel the need to be on guard because their resource is exposed and needs to be protected. This may only occur if someone approaches the food bowl area or may extend to general stressed behavior throughout the day.
Start feeding your dog(s) on a schedule; usually two times a day for adult dogs and three times a day for pups. Take up all uneaten food after about ten to fifteen minutes even if they haven’t finished it. I recommend to my clients that they even make a bit of a show of this when picking up the food bowl to remove it. It doesn't hurt to let the dog know a new schedule is being started and the food is being removed.
Not to worry. They will quickly learn they have a finite window of time in which to eat, and will begin to eat when the food is placed down for them. Be patient. This can take a few days for your dog to learn the new routine. Then you can both start to enjoy together the benefits of the new feeding schedule.
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