Why Free Feeding isn’t a Good Idea
What is “free feeding”?
Free feeding is a method in which you leave a bowl of food out for your dog(s) at all times. When it gets low, you refill it. Your dog has constant access to this food bowl and can graze or eat as often and as much as it desires.
Why we DON’T recommend free feeding:
Here at Adventure is Barking we don’t recommend free feeding for a number of reasons but our number one reason is that you cannot accurately track how much food your dog consumes.
Other reasons we don’t recommend free feeding:
If you have a puppy, potty training can take much longer because you’re not able to keep track of when they may poop. It’s always best to let the puppy out right after they eat because a lot of times it gets their system going and they’re inclined to poop after. If you don’t know when food is going in, you won’t know when it’s going to come out!
Appetite can be a great indicator of health. If you closely track your dog's eating habits and then one day they don't eat then you’ll know something is bothering them because lack of appetite is generally one of the first signs that a dog isn’t feeling well.
In houses with multiple dogs it can be near impossible to track each individual dog's food intake. You will also create situations where the more assertive dog will likely intimidate others to give up their portions or resource guard the dish. When feeding multiple dogs it’s best to teach them to respect each other's space and mind their own business.
Got ants? You will. Free feeding can attract unwanted pests to your previously clean abode. Trust us, you don’t want to tempt the insect gods. Food left in the bowl is an open invitation to insects and any other hungry pests.
Meal times can be great opportunities to train as well as engage the brain. If you leave the bowl down all day you’re missing out on being able to train new commands with food, implement puzzle toys into feeding time and will miss out on building any sort of food drive. If something is available all of the time, it’s not very exciting.
Free feeding can lead to obesity. Did you know that 56% of all dogs in America are overweight or obese? Don’t contribute to the most common preventable disease in dogs. Our dogs depend on us to make the right food decisions for them, they can’t just walk into the kitchen and serve themselves. Here’s another sobering fact: “A large, lifetime study of Labrador Retrievers has found that being even moderately overweight can reduce a dog's life expectancy by nearly two years compared to their leaner counterparts”. (https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/obesity-in-dogs)
You’re limited to a dry dog food diet (kibble). If you ever want to better your dogs nutrition by adding in fresh foods to top their dry food or plan to switch to a balanced raw diet, you cannot free feed. Raw meat cannot sit out all day and frankly, kibble shouldn’t either. When kibble meets air or humidity it speeds up the rate of deterioration and then you run into issues with toxicity, mold growth and loss of nutrients. Enjoy tossing away money? Because you’re also doing that when free feeding. We all know that solid, wholesome and good quality kibble isn’t cheap. Do yourself the extra favor and don’t let that 65$ kibble sit out all day and spoil/lose nutrients. You might as well buy the discounted stuff from the grocery store at that point. This is also why proper food storage is encouraged as well (air tight, food grade storage containers like Vittles Vaults are wonderful options)
Pros of free feeding?
Convenience. That’s it.
How do we feed our dogs?
Sara and the Adventure is Barking staff feed everything from kibble to freeze dried to balanced raw to whole prey raw that involves whole raw rabbits, quail and baby chicks (yes, feathers, beaks and all)
When it’s time to feed our dogs we make them sit and wait as we set down the bowl, they then have 10-15 minutes to eat. If they don’t then the food goes back into the container/fridge/freezer etc. They then get to wait until the next feeding time to eat.
Dogs, unlike cats, will NOT starve themselves to death. This means that it is a battle of the wills. That's not to say that if your dog goes 3 days without eating that there isn’t something wrong. That would indicate that you may need to call the vet. What we do mean though is that picky eaters can be overcome and you can shape your dog's eating habits.
While we at Adventure is Barking do recognize that all dogs are individuals and what one dog thrives on another may not… but more often than not, free feeding is not one of those things. The convenience of free feeding is wholly for humans. The benefits of free feeding do not outweigh the risks and consequences. We encourage all of our clients to seek a more regulated schedule with their dogs when it comes to feeding so as to help ensure their dogs health and wellness.