Why This & Not That: Free Feeding vs. Scheduled Meals

Mar 19, 2021|

Welcome to Vid 3 in this series which tackles those common issues that owners ask the Chateau Canine team every single day! A topic of regular debate, which clearly has no “right answer”, but needs to be personalized for each dog, and each household. Today we are talking about Free Feeding vs Scheduled Meals. Watch the below vid to learn why its more than just “food”…

Ok, so what is free feeding? Free feeding is making food available to your dog at all times. This method works best with dry foods and it is really convenient for owners with a busy schedule.

Now, what are scheduled meals? Scheduled meals are that you feed your pup portioned meals at certain times throughout the day. Some dogs get one meal a day, some dogs get two and puppies can get three meals a day.

Both of these methodologies have significant merit, and definitely, there is no one practice that suits all dogs. When you are considering which one to use, we need to consider that the daily practice of feeding is more than just eating, it can also have strong associations with several quite important aspects of your dog’s life:

Portion Control. Having free feeding set up for your dog can be like living right next to a buffet table.  If you are trying to help your pup to lose weight by controlling food intake, then free feeding is not an optimal approach. Generally speaking, a healthy adult dog won’t overeat by free feeding, but if your dog is eating way over the recommended portion of the food, then it’s best to check their thyroid index at the vet to see if there is an underlying problem.

Appetite is an important indicator of health. Lack of appetite is often the first sign that a dog is not feeling well. If your dog has a habit of grazing throughout the day, it’s harder to know if he hasn’t eaten yet because he’s preoccupied by life or if it’s because his stomach is bothering him.

In contrast, if your dog has been conditioned to exhibit signs of being hungry within a certain time frame, and readily eats when his meal is presented, you’ll have a reliable sign that he’s not feeling well if he turns up his nose at the bowl. At that point, the owner knows to be on the lookout for other signs of illness, and can decide if a vet appointment is needed. Additionally, should you visit the vet, accurate information about your dog’s most recent meal will better guide the vet in diagnosing the issue.

Feeding is an opportunity for bonding. Every time you serve your dog a bowl of food, it’s bonding time. Your pup would be very excited and happy about the meal provided and it’s also a great time for some life skill training as well. Not only you can train your dog to sit and stay, which teaches your dog to control impulses, but also it helps with the practice on coming when called. Something that everyone wants.

Behaviour Concerns. In multiple dog family, one may hoard and bully over the bowl and not allowing others to have a turn. If eating becomes a competition, dogs tend to overeat and eat too quickly. Obviously, this isn’t great for digestion. If your dog is already having food guarding issue with other dogs, living right next to a buffet table will actually make him constantly on guard which creates ongoing but unnecessary stress. Additionally, it can also be a trigger for unintentional reinforcement of aggressive behavior. Watch our video on unintentional reinforcement to learn more.

Every dog is different, and every doggie household is different, so weigh your options based on your own scenario at home. At Chateau Canine, we practice a scheduled and portion controlled feeding. This is not only so we can closely monitor every in-house guest’s appetite, but also to continually help them achieve their weight goals. (Free feeding in summer also has problems of attracting bugs into the feeding area – no one likes that!)

As always dog lovers, the team and I are here to answer any questions that you have regarding your dog and its development, give us a shout out on our wechat and we can work together to keep your dog healthy, happy and safe in China!

See you in the next vid on Why This and Not That!

Found this article interesting or useful even? Support our efforts by taking a look at Chateau Canine’s Social Responsibility Initiatives and see how you can change a street dog’s life, just by buying a toy / treat / food / bed / clothes / dewormer etc etc for your own dog! That sounds Barking Awesome doesn’t it 😉

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