- Pet forum for dogs cats and humans 


Free feeding?

April 16th, 2010, 03:40 PM
I've been reading a few things on free feeding dogs. Some say it makes your dog more easy to train and it feels secure, others say the dog gets fat.
The breeder I got my puppy from, free feeds all of her working dogs.

I've free fed my cat for 5 years and he is perfect size and SUPER healthy.

What are your opinions on the matter?

April 16th, 2010, 03:45 PM
out of all my dogs I've owned and all my fosters I've only had one that I could not free feed, she was a purebred beagle that would eat till she burst (including 5-8 pounds of chocolate stolen from a garbage) *L*. my labx I have now will somedays empty her bowl and at other times her 3 cups will sit for a couple its actually an individual choice.

April 16th, 2010, 03:49 PM
I'm not a fan, but I guess it depends on the dog in question. If I free fed the Bassets' they would look like blimps. On the other hand, my daughter's dog a Husky X would probably be fine, sometimes he goes all day and just smells his food and walks away :rolleyes:

April 16th, 2010, 04:27 PM
Besides the issue of possible overeating, problems can arise as well with the dog believing the floor is feeding it not you, so there is a loss in the bonding aspect of being the provider of food.

April 16th, 2010, 04:31 PM
What if you put a certain amount of food in the bowl each morning, say 4 cups and the dog can eat it throughout the day. You're still feeding the dog just once though???

April 16th, 2010, 06:02 PM
The smaller the breed the better it is for them to free-feed as they tend to nibble 3-4 times a day and are more susceptible to hypoglycemia. I have found that if the dog knows food is always available then will only eat what they need rather than devouring everything when only fed once a day but free-feeding has to start when they're tiny puppies.

April 16th, 2010, 06:28 PM
My (30lb) Shiba Inu is free-fed. He is not a hungry dog and often doesn't even touch the bowl until after 5-7pm (even if he's been at daycare all day [he refuses food], or playing outside for hours). Some dogs will gorge and get fat, some won't. I guess it is like people- some people will just eat their fill and move on, others will enjoy the whole bowl and go for more even when their tummies can't handle it :laughing:

April 16th, 2010, 07:26 PM
Scruffy gets about a cup of kibble in his bowl before bed. If he's hungry at night or during the day, it's there for him.
He knows where his food comes from. Mom gives him his raw, his bones, his treats, his canned, all his good stuff comes from mom.
He doesn't have an ounce of fat on him but he gets lots of exercise too.
THat doesn't work for all dogs though. Some would get fat if they had food around all the time.
Try it and see what works for your pup.

April 16th, 2010, 09:47 PM
The dogs that I've had were all meal fed. The thing I don't like about free feeding is if you travel with your dog whether it's a long car/plane ride or staying at family/friends/hotel/camping - will the dog eat their full daily portion? Some will not eat in a strange environment, or you may not be able to have food out all the time in the car/on the plane etc :shrug:

April 17th, 2010, 12:24 AM
I free fed for years, but now prefer scheduled meal times. My first dog was free fed from the day we brought him home. He maintained a good weight and typically would choose to eat around midnight each night. I'd listen to him crunch as I went to sleep. Our rescue was over weight when we got her. We still free fed. She didn't gain weight, but she didn't lose weight either.

The night she got sick and needed emergency spleen removal surgery, I remember the ER vet asking about her eating habits over the previous few days. With two dogs, I really had no idea how much she typically ate. I did notice a drop off in the food missing from the bowl, but I could not accurately tell how much she had eaten. She was very sick and we came within a hair of losing her that night. Not only did I change to scheduled feedings, I measured the food with measuring cups. I feel that I could quickly notice any changes in appetite and pick up on potential health problems much sooner. I feed my current dog a.m. and a p.m. meals. It makes me happy to see her dance for joy for her food and to pick up a clean plate. I also can reinforce some of her training. She will sit and wait for me to tell her to take her food.

Feeding is a personal choice. But as someone who has tried both ways, I really advocate scheduled and measured meals.

Gail P
April 17th, 2010, 07:29 AM
With one dog it might be easier to just put the food out and leave it, but with multiple dogs that doesn't work so well. You can't monitor what amount each dog is eating. For me personally, I want to know exactly how much food each dog is getting, as to keep them at their optimal weights some need more food, others would become overweight too easily if they got too much. Also, since I run my dogs I need them to eat on a schedule so they are not running on full bellies. And, when I'm at races I need them to eat when I put the food out, I can't leave it down for them all day.

I think that free feeding can teach a dog to become more picky about if/when they will eat (looking at the bowl and walking away, or just eating a bit and leaving it) and if there may be times when you just can't leave the food out then that could be a problem. Other problems with leaving food sitting out (even plain dry kibble) are that it can attract insects (ants, pantry beetles, flies), mice etc. and if the food is moist or has kind of topping mixed in it can spoil. My house is old and we get mice in here sometimes. When I used to leave the unfinished food sitting out mice would steal it and I'd find stashes of kibble hidden in all kinds of places. That was when I didn't have as many dogs. Now they're on a strict feeding schedule, they clean their bowls in less than five minutes and then the bowls are picked up and put away.

April 17th, 2010, 07:38 AM
Brina definately knows where her food comes from *L* when her dish is empty she brings it to me, when she wants treats, she comes to me, goes to the cupboard, then back to me, and I free feed

April 17th, 2010, 01:59 PM
Always meal fed my dogs. I like to know how much each is consuming and when. That way, any change in eating habits, or elimination schedule is obvious and you catch a problem early. I adjust amounts according to age and activity level to ensure weight doesn't fluctuate much. I agree, it is much much easier to travel about even to friends houses etc. when the dogs are on a schedule.

April 18th, 2010, 10:06 PM
It depends on the dog and your preference. Some dogs free feed just fine without getting fat.

One advantage to feeding meals though, is that you can use it as a training session. You also have a lot less poop and house training is easier. If you free feed, they will poop at random, whereas with meals they will go less often and it will generally be at certain times.

April 19th, 2010, 12:40 AM
I can see the advantages to both and really think it depends on your individual dog.

I have three dogs with different needs and have found meal feeding much easier. One of my dogs has allergies, so he is on a special diet (I feed raw so he eats alot of novel proteins - much too expensive to feed to the other two dogs!). My other dog gets the Freedom SA supplement sprinkled on her food. I'm not sure how I would be able to coordinate all their different foods and not have anyone eating the wrong thing etc. if I just free-fed. I have 2 piggies who would eat the bowl dry everytime it was filled and 1 who is too passive/timid and likes to pick all day, so she would likely miss out on free-fed.

When I just had the two littles I was able to free-feed, but meal feeding works better for my situation. If I had one dog, I would likely just put 1/2 the amount in the bowl in the morning and 1/2 in the bowl at night for them to eat as they choose (whether that be all at once or picking at it over a few hours). Since switching to raw I give them a few minutes and if they won't eat it (which is VERY rare :laughing:) I just put it back in the fridge until the next meal.

April 19th, 2010, 07:17 AM
mind you, I only have the one dog, she's free fed and I can pretty well time her two "poops" daily, 10 am and 4 if she's gotten into something she's not suppose to then the timing is way off *L* normally you hear her eating in the morning around 8 am and again late at night around 9-10