Alright… you might think I’m being a bit dramatic, but free feeding is seriously a terrible idea! It’s bad for training, and it’s bad for their health. If you don’t know what I mean by free feeding, it’s basically when you just try to keep your dog’s bowl full as opposed to measuring out meals that your dog completes in one sitting. So here’s three reasons why I want you to stop doing it today!
1) Be the boss, not the butler
It’s bad for your relationship. Would you rather your dog view you as their leader or their butler? A dog’s natural instincts tell them that food is something you need to work for. Dogs in the wild have to hunt for their food, and I’m not suggesting you start making your dog catch their own supper, but I am suggesting you ask them to work a little bit for their food so that they can have that instinct fulfillment that they are most likely craving. A perfect time to feed your dog is right after a training session, or use their food during a training session instead of treats. This will go a long ways in helping them to realize that you’re in control of a very valuable resource, and again, will help them to view you as their leader instead of just the butler that comes to top off the bowl whenever it’s running low. If you want to learn a bit more about this theory you can check out our “No Free Lunch” blog.
2) If your dog is fat, fix it!
Reason number 2 is pretty straight forward. Obesity in pets is rising at alarming rates. I care a lot about the dogs I work with, so it’s not uncommon for me to caution their owners when I notice their dog is getting a little over weight. PetMD suggests that nearly half of the dogs in the United States are dangerously obese, and that the effects of this are wide ranging (http://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/evr_multi_long_term_effects_of_obesity_on_pets). Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is much easier when you control the intake. Some dogs regulate just fine, but many dogs are like me and always want a little more than they really need.
3) Your dog can’t tell you when they’re sick
Monitoring your dogs health is absolutely vital. I think at some point we’ve all wished that our dogs could talk to us. Unfortunately since they cannot, it’s up to us to watch them closely. Dogs naturally try to hide injuries and illness. This is a basic instinct for them; in the wild if you’re weak there’s a good chance you’re going to be someones supper! One of the first signs that a dog is sick is usually a change in appetite. That’s why it’s vital to know how much they are eating, so you know quickly when something is up. About two years ago one of clients noticed that their dog decided not to eat breakfast. Just missing a meal isn’t much of a big deal, but when the dog skipped dinner as well they knew something was wrong. They got the dog into the vet the next day, and it turned out he needed an emergency surgery which saved his life. Had this dog been on a free feeding schedule, they might not have noticed anything was wrong until it was too late. In this situation, free feeding could have killed this dog. The problem is that in many households the bowl just gets filled up whenever someone notices it’s running low. Somedays it might be one spouse, other days it might be one of the kids, and if it’s always full the family just assumes that someone else in the household is topping it off. This means a dog could easily go days without eating before anyone notices.
Thanks so much for reading y’all! We hope found this little tip helpful, and more than anything we hope that you will employ it in your home today!