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Free Feeding Dogs

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  • Free Feeding Dogs

    Does anyone else here do it?

    Pros and cons, please.
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  • #2
    Originally posted by vineyridge View Post
    Does anyone else here do it?

    Pros and cons, please.
    When I got my pup several people told me to free feed her. We have always had cats so it made sense to me. That is till I told my vet. He told me it was better to feed meals so that you can predict elimination. Only a vet could say it like that, but I did agree. Predicting elimination seemed really important! Now that she is an adult and bullet proof
    in the house I guess it doesn't matter. But we do leave every morning to go to the barn for the day, so it is better she eats breakfast and then we go. I guess it depends on your situation. The two meal system works well for us.
    Lilykoi


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    • #3
      We free feed but our dog eats like a cat. We had a lab to stay over Christmas, a dog that doesn't breathe until the feed bucket is empty, you can't free feed a dog like that. So, it all depends on the specific dog.

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      • #4
        I used to free feed my dogs - they would munch little bits throughout the day. Never pigged out hardcore. But even so, they all ended up getting quite round and chubby! Now are restricted to measured meals, and the weight is better. I think free-feeding is great for dogs with a fast metabolism, however.

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        • #5
          In my view, the biggest con, if free fed indoors, is overeating, which can lead to overweight dogs. Which of course can exacerbate any joint issues and all the other system strains of overweight. If feeding outdoors (say, in a barn aisle or tackroom), another big con is that you will attract critters you'd rather not. Raccoons and oppossum find dog kibble delightful, and early one morning at a friend's barn I ran a rat off her dog feeder. Squirrels, however, are more likely to sneak a bite at midday, I observed, and watch carefully for the dogs' absence first.

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          • #6
            I have a husky that we sort of free feed. He lives outside (he has a heated doggie mansion, so it's not like he freezes!) and he has never been a porker (dog food isn't his style, much prefers our food). We don't just leave a large amount of food out, but we fill his bowl whenever its empty. If he's hungry, he'll eat. If not well then, he won't. In the summer we put it out, and in the winter he comes in 5/6 times a day. He is almost 11 years old, and in incredible health, still acts like a puppy with just as much energy. Our vet says he is in fantastic health and we have never had any problems with him.

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            • #7
              I do.

              It allows me to go away for the occasional, rare overnight. They are paper trained, so I put grain bags down, and leave extra water, and can escape for 36 hrs or so tops.

              I started because of the Special Dog... and it's worked for all. <shrugs>

              One trainer said BAD, Evil, <hsssss> Another said as long as they always have it, they don't gorge--and they don't.
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              • #8
                I think it depends on the dog. Our border collie was free fed her whole life and it was never a problem. We have corgis now and I'd never consider free feeding them-not an option!!
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                • #9
                  Nope. Free-fed, persay, as puppies... as much as they can in in like 10 minutes a few times a day. Gradually decreased that to two meals a day. Both dogs are in AWESOME weight, shiney coats, nice muscle. Always get comments from the vet about what an awesome job I do keeping them in check.

                  Cats... nope, not free-fed either. One is a porker-wanna-be, so she's on a perputal diet. Did manage to get her to lose almost 3 pounds in four months. That's significant, considering that the cat was only 13.5 lbs... but still too chubby for her frame. Speaking of her, do need to see if we lost that one more pound... she looked so much better at 10 pounds then she did at nearly 14 pounds.

                  At the barn though, the cats are free-fed. I see no problem as long as they can moderate themselves. Some animals can, some can't. Plus, I like being able to see who's eating and how much. If something is off, I'll likely notice way earlier then if I free-fed them. JMHO.
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                  • #10
                    All of my dogs (even the Corgis) were raised with free-choice dry food. The house dogs may get a little pudgy in the winter when we (and they) aren't outside as much, but for the most part none of the dogs overeat. Sometimes a dog will eat a whole bowl of food, but most of the time they eat small meals thoughout the day.

                    I figure that dogs sometimes get hungry at odd times just like people do, and if they're hungry they should be able to eat!

                    My barn cats, however, do not have access to free choice food. It's not because I have any objections, it's because I don't have a good place to put it where the dogs can't get to it.

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                    • #11
                      Free feeding was a blessing for me. I had two dogs that I free fed from when they were puppies. Neither of them gained too much weight. I also fed them meat twice per day, so the access to the free choice kibble wasn't as appetizing to them!

                      The nice part about the free-feeding was that I could go away for a few days and not worry about them. They had a dog door from the house to the fenced-in backyard so they could get out to go to the bathroom, and I had an automatic watering system. The stable girl came over twice per day to take care of the horses, and only made sure that the dogs were barking at the gate. They were protection dogs, so she didn't have to go in to feed them.

                      In my opinion, there is no reason a dog can't eat like a cat. Both of these dogs lived well into old age without getting fat or pudgy. Now I have a new pup -- I don't leave her alone for long periods of time, but she has free choice food at all times. Again, I also feed meat twice per day so it makes the kibble less attractive.

                      Do what is right for you. If your dog gains weight by free-feeding, then it would make sense to go back to measurement feeding. If a dog starts out with free choice feeding, then I think it will be less inclined to pork out. It also depends on the activity level of the dog, and its food drive.

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                      • #12
                        My two freefeed. I know aproximatly what they eat per day, but I like that sometimes it changes. I'm used to their routines as far as eating goes, so I know when they will need to "eliminate." They get a scoop of kibble (almost said grain..LOL) in the morning that they snack at all day, then another at night when I come inside. I try to always have kibble in the dish.

                        At the moment they are a little round, but thats because its winter (ie freezing F*ing cold) and they have about as much interest in going outside for walks as I do (I can get on the elipticle, they can't). They tend to gain 2 or 3 lbs over the winter and it gets run off in the spring.

                        My vet is perfectly fine with them freefeeding so long as tehy aren't overdoing it and they maintain their weight well.

                        I would not freefeed a puppy though. I think it would make them too hard to housebreak, especially if I wasn't able to be there all the time. In that case one they were solid housebroke I would start introducing the concept.
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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by mkevent View Post
                          I think it depends on the dog. Our border collie was free fed her whole life and it was never a problem. We have corgis now and I'd never consider free feeding them-not an option!!
                          Yep, how you manage feeding depends on the dog and situation.
                          Puppies have to learn good eating habits, so they are better fed at meal times.

                          You definitely don't want to free feed where everything else has access to the food, like rodents, strays, etc.

                          If your dog eats little and is not getting fat, it is ok to free feed, but you won't know if your dog is off as easily as if you are putting the food down and your chowhound turns it's nose up, a good early warning signal that he may be sick.

                          One reason to free feed a little, as I am now, is because we have always hand fed, but there were several of us home, no animals would go long without someone checking in.

                          The last few years, living alone, it may be a few days if something happen to me before anyone comes by and takes care of my animals, so they are all where they have a few days at least of food and water, just in case.
                          In this situation, free feeding is a necessity, until that changes.
                          I also have a little dog that is not much of an eater and more of a grazer, so she can have a small amount of kibble out without eating it for a day or two sometimes.
                          A dog with a serious weight problem would just have to be managed differently.

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                          • #14
                            though many here seem supportive of free feeding, there are a couple of things to think about.

                            1. what is the first question your vet asks you when you go in? Is your dog eating and drinking ok? If you dog nibbles and you just add to the dish as necessary, do you know how much and when he ate last?

                            2. if your dog needs emergency surgery, the vet needs to know when and how much the dog ate last.

                            however, you also need to understand, voice drops to whisper I feed kibble. The evil kibble. And not Flint River or Solid Gold. So you might want to take this under consideration when reading my posts.

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                            • #15
                              Border Collie/Heinz 57 mix mutt and an English Setter. Free feed Pro-Balance Performance. The BC female is neurotic as can be about nearly everything and always worried over her dish when I didn't free feed (not food aggressive, just preoccupied with the empty bowl). It took her a while but now she doesn't guard it and will even let Soap Dog (the Setter) eat out of it with her sitting beside it. He comes and goes and eats out of his own feeder as he wishes, and eats lot more than she does. In fact I never see her eating. She's very shy about things like that.

                              So if the dog can manage it, sure. If they overeat, fight about it, get hoggy, then no.

                              I don't free feed the cats. Too tempted to hog out. Only if we leave town do they get more food than they can eat, to last Friday-Sunday. They party it up then go on a diet when we get back.

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                              • #16
                                With our first black lab we free fed, and he never had any issues. But then came our first pound hound! After that we did twice per day feedings with a small snack mid day.

                                Now we have 4 dogs here (we did have 5 up until this week ) and I cook their meals so free feeding really isn't an option anyway. One has severe allergies so his food is totally different than the other three get...it's a carnival let me tell you
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                                • #17
                                  We have five that we have free-fed for years, ranging from Bostons to a Rott. The only one that tends to get fat is the bulldog, but she is LAZY!! I have never had any issues with it.
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                                  • #18
                                    We originally had a pair of pound puppies. They were not related. One was half registered Blue Heeler and half traveling salesman; the disgusted breeder dropped off the puppies as soon as they were old enough. The other was a pure stray, an Afghan mix. We fed free choice outside on the porch because they were farm dogs, and they were going to eat free choice anyhow - especially rabbits! It worked fine and both lived well into their teens.

                                    The replacement pound puppy is a different kettle of fish. His official breed is Large Stupid Dog. The only thing I've seen him succesfully catch are marmots, which are about the slowest of the slow. He has to come in the house at night as he is an infernal nusiance otherwise (will bark all night that the tree that had a squirrel in it - yesterday) so he only gets fed when he's inside.

                                    When feeding free choice outside we seldom had a problem with other critters getting at their food; the heeler had a suspicous nature and kept a good eye on things. The only real exceptions was during the day in the winter. Did you know that birds like Purina One? The bluejay would divebomb the dish and make off with a piece. The red-headed woodpecker would come attack the bowl. And the male cardinal would sit in the middle of the bowl and chirp loudly to let the ladies know he'd found a great food supply for them!
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                                    • #19
                                      OUR dog? No. She's a beagle-basset mix and would eat until she exploded.

                                      Other dogs? Might work.
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                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by vineyridge View Post
                                        Does anyone else here do it?

                                        Pros and cons, please.

                                        I've free fed my dogs for decades. The only time I didn't was if I had to housetrain a puppy and the puppy either didn't have access to a doggie door or I was going to be out all day.

                                        I've never had an overweight dog, never had a dog with bloat, never had a dog choke, never had dogs fight. I've had many different breeds of dogs, but mostly hounds.
                                        Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
                                        Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
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