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How long should it take to train my dog to free feed?

May 28th, 2006, 01:07 AM
I know there are a ton of pros and cons for free feeding. But, we decided to try it with our bird dog after our other dog passed away a few weeks ago. With two dogs, I knew it wouldn't work. But my husband and I both work at home and can keep a close eye on him for over eating and he has a doggie door, etc.

As expected, he ate too much the first day and then stayed away from the food the next. Now he eats much slower and is eating in the a.m. and in the evening with a few tiny snacks during the day. It's only been one week since we started free feeding him, but so far, he doesn't seem to be gaining any weight (I know it's probably too soon to tell - but I'm paying attention to make sure this will work).

My concern is I think he is still eating too much as he seems a bit uncomfortable after mealtimes and doesn't seem to be sleeping as well. Although, he has definitely made much progress since the beginning.

My question is - am I at a plateau or is he going to figure this out? I am wondering how long I should give him before I give up. How long do you think it should take for a dog to get used to free feeding if it's going to happen?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

May 28th, 2006, 01:14 AM
Why are you switching to free feeding? Measured food amounts are much better in the long run, IMO. If you already had the doggy eating at distinct times, I'd just keep it like that.

May 28th, 2006, 10:06 AM
Please DON'T free feed.

Already he is at risk of overeating and bloating - a sure way to kill him! I am so sorry to be so dramatic but dogs eat their kibble, drink water right away the kibble expands and the stomach fills with food, water and gas and then the distended stomach bloats and possibly twists - you have a dog who is in serous pain for a short while and then dies.

Free feeding is not what best for him on any level. Mentally the one who owns the food is the leader - so if he has food all day he thinks he must be the leader. Feeding proper meals is one very simple way to keep your leadership role in tact.

Dosg are built to eat one meal at a time. They would eat the whole rabbit and then rest (fast) for a few days until they got the next rabbit. Their body is built for it.

It also keeps his stools regular - 2 meals in 2 meals out.

Free feeding is taking a major step backwards - not forwards

May 28th, 2006, 12:37 PM
For some dogs, freefeeding works great (like my dog, who was not food oriented in any way--except towards people food like cheese ;) ), but if you feel your dog is overeating, it sounds like it's not the right choice for him. How about just measuring out the food in the morning and then letting him eat it throughout the day? Just because he's not being freefed doesn't mean he has to gobble it all down at once. :)


May 28th, 2006, 12:58 PM
I don't understand why you would want to switch your dog from scheduled feedings to free feeding. :confused:

I agree with the others that said not to free feed your dog. :pawprint:

May 28th, 2006, 01:36 PM
If you think the dog is eating too much at meals, why not feed less on your schedual..?
A lot easier than worrying about it, and the potential to over eat.

May 28th, 2006, 03:27 PM
Well, I do think it depends on the dog. We have had dogs that we free fed without any problems. I think that if you have a dog that can free feed themselves responsibly it makes sense. They eat when they are hungry and if we get home late for some reason, I would know he wasn't starving for a meal.

All that being said we have definitely decided that our Guinness not one of those dogs. He isn't totally gorging himself, but is eating too much and doesn't seem to be learning. I was hoping after a few days that he would figure it out. (the vet did say that his breed of dog had an unusually small brain. LOL).

This a.m. we gave him his alottment for the day and he ate all of it. I was hoping that after a period of free feeding he might take a while to eat it. Live and learn. We have put him back on his normal schedule of food in the a.m. and food in the p.m.

His two doggie sisters (both gone now) ruled the roost and always were in charge of everything he ever got. Poor thing. He'd be so excited to catch a squirrel (or something else "good) and they would just take it away from him. So, maybe in a situation like that he is just not trainable.

But, he IS a sweetie. He's such a lover and has lots of great points about him. He is by far the sweetest, good natured dog I've ever had.

Thank you for all the advice. Although, I was hoping someone would answer my question of "how long it should take to switch them over" whether right or wrong. Either 3 days; or a week; or immediately; or whatever to give me an opinion on when to give up. I have given up - but I'd still be interested in any opinions on that if anyone has some.


Lucky Rescue
May 28th, 2006, 04:39 PM
Although, I was hoping someone would answer my question of "how long it should take to switch them over" whether right or wrong. Either 3 days; or a week; or immediately; or whatever to give me an opinion on when to give up.

This is because there is no answer. It depends on the dog. My dog could never be free fed, as she would gobble her whole day's rations in 15 seconds, and nothing will change that.

You mention your dog is "bird dog". I don't know if you meant setter or pointer, but both breeds are deep-chested, and as someone mentioned, he is a good candidate for deadly bloat.

Two set meals a day is the best option for most dogs.

jesse's mommy
May 28th, 2006, 06:29 PM
I agree with most that it really depends on the dog. My sisters dog who is a GSD/Rott mix can't be free fed and must be monitored closely because she will eat everything in sight. I think it has to do with the fact that she was found on the side of the road starving and never grew out of the fact that she thinks she might starve again. As for Jesse and my parents dog, they were never starving so we can leave food out for them and they eat them as they are hungry, but NEVER overeat. But the other thing with Jesse is that even though we don't have to monitor her eating habits because she is very controlled, we do have to monitor her water intake. She will drink and entire bowl of water in about thirty seconds, throw it up and look for more. I think this has to to with the fact that the humane society found her wondering in a field with a leash on in the summer and may have been water deprived. She has gotten a lot better, but we still keep a close eye on her. Even though we watch her water intake closely, we still keep an eye on her food bowl to make sure she doesn't go into the "I have to eat everything insight" mode. :D

May 29th, 2006, 12:14 AM
This is because there is no answer. It depends on the dog. My dog could never be free fed, as she would gobble her whole day's rations in 15 seconds, and nothing will change that.
I'm with Lucky. It would take my dogs till the day they died probably to settle into a free feed schedule... Some dogs (especially labs and lab mixes) are not good with free feeding. I think it's rarer to have a successful free feeder than a meal-needer...

May 29th, 2006, 10:30 AM
I free feed my boy and have done so with all but one of my dogs. I own a Mastiff deep chested dog prone to bloat. I put out my dogs daily amount of food which I might add he very rarely finishes. I have found it usually takes a couple of weeks for them to get used to free feeding. I also have Bud's food and water raised after I believe it helps to cut down on bloat. I had one Mastiff bloat on me and I never want to go through that again. He did not have raised dishes which I switched to immediately after that and have not had any problems. I find they help with the digestion too they do not get as much air in there stomachs. I would monitor your dogs weight and the amount of food. If he eats all the food do not put more out he will learn to monitor what he eats. Bud literally only eats when he wants and because of his eating habits if he ever does finish a bowl I do give him more but that is very seldom and you will find as the dog adjusts to it they tend to eat less as opposed to gobbling down the food you put in front of them at dinner time. Eating fast. is one contributing factor in bloat. Dogs prone to bloat should eat at least 1/2 to 3/4 of an hour before exercise and minimal water when they come back in from playing and exercise give small amount of room temperature water and just a little, water contributes to bloat. No food for an hour after strenuous exercise. I hope this helps. I think free feeding works well just monitor it.