Free Feeding vs. Meal Feeding – The Age Old Debate
This is a seriously heated debate in the dog world! People get emotional about WHY they think their way is better than the other and I must confess there are good reasons for both.
As devil’s advocate and to make sure I cover both sides before I give my opinion I will cover both ways.
Free Feeding Pros & Cons
- Dogs don’t feel pressure to eat, they know there food will always be there.
- Some dogs (not most) will eat only as much as they need more if they are hungry less when they are not.
- Some say this lessens food aggression (although I am not convinced).
- Free feeding delays potty training because it is harder for owners to determine when the puppy eats and therefore needs to go outside.
- A lot of dogs eat out of boredom and some will literally eat themselves into obesity and oblivion. Obesity leads to many diseases and kills dogs.
- Dogs can be less likely to be food motivated for training.
- One dog can over eat while other dogs are not getting enough.
- Can add to the factors of bloat
- Owners may not be home after the dog eats and bloats
- Owners may not notice a sick dog that hasn’t eaten that day or even for a few days if the dog free feeds.
Meal Feeding Pros & Cons
- Can help with potty training puppies! Food in = Food out
- You will notice if your dog is sick and refuses to eat or doesn’t eat it all.
- Food and life revolves around YOU his owner!
- You control how much and when your dog eats and by doing so you can control his weight.
- Lessens dog/dog aggression because you can separate dogs if you need to.
- You can work together using his food as obedience treats!
- Can lessen the chances of bloat
- Owners are more likely be home if dog bloats
- You could be feeding your dog too much or not enough, unknowingly.
- You will have to carve out time in your schedule.
- Some say this creates frantic dogs that can become food aggressive (although I am not convinced).
- Dog may feel like he has to eat when he is not hungry.
My Opinion On Free Feeding Your Dog?
I am a diehard meal feeder! I feed my dogs twice a day and my puppies 3 times a day. I wouldn’t want to go 24 hours in between meals, so I definitely recommend feeding twice a day, but I believe this to be the best plan!
I once had 6 cats and I meal fed each and every one of them. If I didn’t I had one cat that ate so much she was on the fringe of becoming diabetic and other cats that weren’t getting enough.
Although it was difficult (some of them were even crate trained and would run into their crates), it was essential to my kitties’ and my doggies’ health to meal feed!
My oldest dog NIX is or was at one point perfectly capable of free feeding (I use to let him free feed while visiting my mother and her dog that free fed) but my other dog almost ate himself to death once.
Some dogs just don’t have an “off” switch when it comes to food and they can and some will eat themselves to the point of sickness.
AND, obesity is the #1 avoidable killer of dogs!
The Number 1 Reason I Meal Feed?
But, even though I knew all of this it didn’t really hit home until I was a vet tech. Time after time I watched owners bring in dogs that were literally starving themselves because they were sick but their owners didn’t notice the weight loss until it was severe.
If my dogs miss a meal, I am calling the authorities! My dogs rarely if ever miss a meal. The illness would have to be severe if my male dogs refuse their food.
My female sometimes skips a meal after a long car ride or a long day, but I know that about her and if she missed 2 in a row there would be a problem. But, if my boys missed a meal it would be a really bad sign.
Because I meal feed my dogs I notice if they are not eating! If I allowed all three of them to eat as much as they wanted, whenever they wanted; even if they didn’t over eat, I might not notice if one of them was not eating due to illness!
This has made me a proponent of meal feeding, that and the fact I can keep my dogs svelte and healthy!
Do what you want with your best friend and maybe free feeding puppies is what you'll choose but keep an eye out on his habits and his schedule and if he is getting overweight or underweight take notice he might need a different plan!
Let me know your thoughts and what you choose by leaving a comment below.
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.