I guess I missed the insults being thrown around. I don't think anyone really cares what other people feed, but if someone asks for advice they are sure to get it.
My dogs would eat an entire bag of yucky, dry kibble. And yes, they have no self-control and would be fat pigs.
haha my dog (lab mix - not a breed known for refusing to eat!) is apparently a diva. She refused to finish her yucky dry kibble unless it was mixed in with cooked chicken but will happily munch on the expensive stuff (sometimes with cooked chicken, sometimes without). Once I figured out what was in the yucky stuff I decided I could live with paying a bit more. Having said that our family dog (larger mutt) lived a happy & healthy 16 year long life on yucky dry kibble so I do not judge anyone based on what they feed their dog.
On not noticing if a free eating dog wasn't eating - um, you still have to refill the bowl. Anyone would notice how often they refilled a dogs bowl, surely?
"Choose to chance the rapids, and dare to dance the tides" - Garth Brooks
"With your permission, dear, I'll take my fences one at a time" - Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
My free fed dog is fed high quality kibble and always has been. He's a perfect weight - he fluctuates about 1 lb a year. I like the free feeding because it's always available to him if he wants it, but he rarely eats in the middle of the day - only at night when we eat, and if he feels like he needs a little more to eat ( like after a hard day of agility or in the winter to bulk up a bit ) he gets it. He will actually LEAVE food in his bowl if he is on a second helping. He often walks away when he's full.
And as for knowing when he's off his food, we know. My husband mentioned that he didn't eat all weekend while I was gone. Sunday night was the first night he ate since Friday and he scarfed down 2 bowls of food.
There are many ways to feed dogs. A greyhound breeder friend of mine successfully combines the strategies and all eight of her dogs of various ages are in great shape. She has several bowls of high quality kibble that are always available, and then does "scheduled" feelings twice a day of chicken necks or other raw food (despite the fact that some people think it is harmful to combine kibble and raw feeding- it works very well for her).
She can tell right away if someone has lost their appetite, and her dogs can eat whenever they want. They do not fight over food.
I do twice daily scheduled feelings for my eight wolfhounds, as several would become overweight otherwise. Feeding time varies, depending upon my schedule, and they cope with that. They do watch me pretty closely though, the four in the house can be sound asleep, and the minute I take off my reading glasses, they leap to their feet, knowing I'm about to feed them!
They are not crated to eat, they eat in pairs or groups and don't fight over food.
I know some breeders who feed groups of hounds and tether them to eat. They all run to their spot, are hitched up, eat, and are released. I do sometimes tether some if I am feeding a fast eater and a slow one together. They wouldn't fight, but the fast eater would end up getting too fat and the slow eater would lose weight.
I know a deerhound breeder who feeds her pack together from one huge vat, sort of like the trough method for feeding a pack of foxhounds. It can take some management to feed that way though. They may let the thinner or slower-eating ones have first access.
I do scheduled feeding but don't take it up if she doesn't eat it because I didn't want to train her to scarf it. She can have the same food sitting around all day but I don't fill it up again until the evening feeding time. She has the choice to eat all day but she doesn't get more than her specific amount. So not true free choice food. I don't personally like true "free choice" just because it can make it hard to regulate weight and that can be a huge issue, especially for labs. But it seems to work for lots of people here. I didn't want to encourage the quick eating due to GDV risks since our puppy was supposed to be a large breed and she is deep chested.
Stella eats free choice and always has. She's a finicky eater with a pretty small appetite. It works for us, as she's an only dog. I TRIED, desperately, to make her a scheduled eater, but she is stubborn and independent beyond measure and WOULD NOT EAT. So, she eats when she wants. I top off her bowl as needed. She has always, always maintained a great weight (occasionally borderline too thin).
THAT BEING SAID, she and I have lived with other dogs on and off over the years, and just through sheer competitiveness has often fallen into the other dogs' schedules. Since I couldn't leave her feed down all day (which wasn't an issue, since she is goes to work with me), I would offer her food in the morning (she's not big on breakfast, like me ), usually kept food at work for her to pick at a bit, and then feed her dinner with her at home companion. I could usually count on her to eat most of what I gave her, especially if I laced it with a little something yummy. Because she is a painfully slow eater BUT is also an alpha personality, her usually hoover companions would kinda spur her on to keep eating, because, god forbid, they get any of her food (whether she really wants it or not....she also races the cats through the door every night to the kitchen where they all have food, just in case they MIGHT show interest in her food!).
So, it is possible to kinda reform a free feeder. It helps that Stella is slow and meticulous and also a little possessive. I can even usually feed her on a schedule when visiting family, with the resident dogs.
To slow your hungry pup down, they do have bowls built to slow hoovers down (akin to throwing big rocks in a horse's bucket to keep them from wolfing their food down).
So, I borrowed a crate for the time being from a friend of mine. Big dog goes into her crate to eat and the other dog just eats in the middle of the kitchen. While they are eating, I go out and feed the horses and chickens and that seems to give the little one plenty of time to eat everything. Big dog just gets dry food but I mix a little wet into the other one's food to get her to eat most of her food. We started this yesterday and it's working fine so far. I got to thinking about it and it really isn't any different from feeding the horses. The horses have always been fed on my schedule and they are all surviving so far! So the dogs shouldn't be too different, I'm thinking
The added benefit to the cage is I can put her into it at night as well and that gives the cats a chance to come out They are slowly coming out from under the bed and the 2 not-as-timid ones are now hanging out ON the bed during the day. The 2 skittish ones are still under there tho, but they have been coming out at night and I know both of them wandered the house last night with the dog being locked up. This dog used to live with a cat that actually liked to play with her, so she is thinking that she wants to play with the cats and the cats REALLY aren't interested I know that one of these days she is going to go to chase one of them and they will stand their ground instead of running, and that will probably stop most of the chasing. She doesn't want to hurt them, so I'm not going to be too worried about them eventually figuring something out. All the cats do have their claws, so they are nowhere near defenseless!
Training on the invisible fence is going very well. It will be nice when I can just let her run and play and get worn out without having to have her on a leash. I'll tell you what, she is learning the word "no" really fast since we have started working on the fence training I know hounds tend to be the ones that will run right thru if they are chasing something, so I'm hoping that we will see a rabbit or something that she can chase and see how well she stops. My poor barn cat has been our only test so far and she drags me down the driveway chasing her, but so far has always stopped before getting to the flags. We had some friends come over last night and I had 1 of them walk past the boundary flags and as she got close, she slowed down and when I told her no, she turned right around and ran back to me. Throwing the toys thru will be next.
Thanks again for all the ideas and back and forth! I'm not even going to get into what type of food is better and that whole argument. I don't feed a high quality grain free organic, just because it's not in my budget and neither of these dogs need it. Personally, I think that as long as you are feeding them, even if it's junk, you are on the right track. I personally do try to find something that lists meat as the first ingredient. Other than that, as long as they eat it and stay healthy looking, I don't get too stressed over everything else.