Free Feed versus Routine Feeding

Aug 18, 2012 | 2012 Articles, Pets, Sheryl Wall

by Sheryl Wall

There is a lot of debate on whether a dog should be free fed throughout the day or be on a routine schedule. I have found that all my dogs thrive on a routine eating schedule and that it supplies many benefits to health and training.

Obesity in dogs is a real problem in our society. According to, allowing our dogs to have access to food all the time is a sure way to increase the chance of obesity. Being overweight can lead to many health problems and shorten our pets life. Having a routine eating schedule helps insure a healthier weight because dogs don’t have the capability to control their own impulses in food intake. Free feeding tends towards creating more picky dogs as well which makes it harder to feed them a nutritious diet. Creating finicky eaters also causes more stress on dogs and their owners because its hard to find that right food that they will be happy with. Its like when kids are picky it makes meal times so much more stressful on everyone.

A feeding schedule helps us house train our puppies. If a puppy nibbles throughout the day its hard to know when they need to go outside thus increasing accidents. According to What all Good Dogs Should Know by Jack Volhard and Melissa Bartlett, dogs thrive when they are on a routine. If they are fed at the same time each day your dog will also go to the bathroom about the same times everyday as well. This makes house training a lot less complicated. A schedule also helps us keep track of our pets health. Its much easier to know when a dog has a healthy appetite when you have a set time to feed them rather then when they nibble throughout the day. Lack of appetite is one of the first signs of a sick dog so its good to keep track of what they eat.

I find that routine feeding makes a dog happier and more ready to learn. Dogs that have access to food all the time tend to be less willing to work for treats thus making training all that more difficult. Training is important for a well behaved dog in addition to a means to bond with their owners. Dogs need to understand that we supply them with their needs and to rely on us to do so. With free access to food its harder for a dog to understand this vital part of our relationship.

If your dog is used to free feeding you can still change them to a schedule. You can feed your dog 2 or 3 times a day. Give them their bowl of food with a pre-measured amount for a set amount of time and then put it away whether empty or not. It won’t take long for your dog to realize he needs to eat when you feed him.

My dogs love having a routine and always get excited about meal time. They are always eager to train and learn new things. Life is much less stressful and fun with a set routine in our household.

Sheryl Wall is an ongoing contributor to our
Pet Perspective section, providing pet care advice from years of personal experience.


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