Nutrition Tips

Why We Don’t Free-Feed Our Dogs

Lisa Deal, Breeder/Trainer

As a breeder I talk to a lot of people who potentially want a puppy, and one of the questions I’m often asked is how often to feed that puppy.

As a general rule, we feed our dogs twice a day. Once in the morning and once in the evening, puppies included. They always have access to fresh water. Some breeders will tell you they free-feed their pups and if that works for them that’s okay. What we have found is that free feeding can make potty training a bit more difficult for our new puppy families.

If you are feeding your pup at set times each day you should be able to begin to gauge fairly accurately when he’ll need to go out to potty.  This makes housebreaking so much easier. The less accidents you have, the better and the quicker the training will go.

Crashin’ hard after feeding time!

If you are free feeding your pup and he has access all day long to as much food as he wants, you may not have as accurate an estimate of when he’ll need to go out. You’ll either find yourself going outside much more frequently to avoid accidents, or having more accidents because you aren’t sure when he ate last.

“As a general rule, we feed our dogs twice a day. ”

Additionally, free feeding allows your pup or dog to overeat. Some dogs will self regulate but others, like my Siren, do not. If I allowed Siren to free feed, she’d eat 10lbs of food in one sitting and feel awful the rest of the day. With puppies, we don’t want them to gain too much weight too quickly as we want their bones and joints to develop properly. We feed an All Life Stages food that is nutrient and calorie dense. We do this because the ingredients in the food are so healthy, but we also know that we don’t want anyone, especially the young ones, to overeat.  When puppies put on weight to quickly they can be more susceptible to arthritis and joint issues later in life. This is why large breed puppies typically should not be fed small breed puppy food. The large breed pups need less protein and calories so that they grow more slowly and their joints have time to develop properly.

By feeding at set times, the dogs and pups know what to expect and I can regulate who eats how much. This lets everyone stay at a healthy weight and lets me better track any changes in eating habits as well. If you are free feeding, especially if you’re like me and have more than one dog, it can take longer to notice when one of your furry friends isn’t eating well.  Set feeding times allow me to take notice when someone doesn’t eat breakfast and be watching for any other signs the dog isn’t feeling well so that I can contact my vet quickly if need be. Dogs often don’t show signs of illness until they feel really badly so its important that we notice quickly when those eating habits change.

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