When I got Teddy, my black lab/golden retriever/irish setter
mix, I decided that I would free feed her. Free feeding means making food available to your dog all the time â€“ as
much as they want.Â If you start when
your dog is a puppy, free feeding is really easy. I just put out a bowl of dry dog food and
filled it whenever I noticed it was empty. Teddy self regulated herself â€“ never overeating. It helped that I made sure she got lots of
exercise. My vet warned me repeatedly
that with her lab genes she was going to get fat. I told him Iâ€™d watch her and if it became a
problem Iâ€™d change. (Ironically, Teddy
is now wasting away from kidney disease. She never was overweight though.)
The reasons I wanted to free feed were:
- I donâ€™t like it when dogs fixate on food. You know the type, itâ€™s dinner time and they are jumping and
slobbering all over. I had a roommate who had a cat who thought he ought to be fed at 6am every
morning. If she wasnâ€™t home heâ€™d gallop down the hall and slam into my door. Repeatedly. And he weighed 30 pounds.
- I knew I wouldnâ€™t be home everyday at the same time and I didnâ€™t want my dog feeling like she was starving.
- I figured she could self regulate and just eat what she needed better than I could regulate for her. On weeks where we went backpacking and 6 mile runs, she might need more food. On days where I spent all day in meetings and went out for dinner instead of running, she might need less food.
A couple of warnings or caveats:
- Itâ€™s much harder to start free feeding when your dog is already used to a
scheduled diet. You can try but for the first few days they are sure to stuff themselves. They may or may not even out.
- You should stick to dry food. Wet food shouldnâ€™t sit out all the time.
- Introducing a new dog into the situation creates difficulties. I had to stop free feeding Teddy when
Chase joined us. She would gobble down all her food as if she was terrified Chase would eat it all and there wouldnâ€™t be any more. Now we pretty much free feed both of them but Chase still insists on being fed at 6pm. If thereâ€™s still food in the bowls, we pick up the bowls, pour food from one to the other and put them back on the floor. Then he eats!
Photo by leff.