Freefeeding


In one of your answers you mention that the person should freefeed their dog. I am adamantly against freefeeding. And this is why - It attracts pests, both rodent and insect. Housebreaking is nearly impossible--the saying garbage in, garbage out is especially true with dogs. The dog that eats all day, poops all day. The dog that eats twice a day, poops twice a day. It is difficult to monitor amount of food ingested with a single dog, impossible in a multiple dog household. The food bowl is the possession most often fought over in multiple dog households... In fact, that is the only place my dogs have ever fought. I believe strongly that dogs deserve their own secluded spot in which to eat. Especially in a multiple dog household, or in a household with small children. I think that people needing advice are asking for tried and true methods as well as those others they could try. Better to error on the side of caution when the animals happiness or life is at stake.


Let me address each of your objections to freefeeding separately.

Re: pest problem
Granted, it is a possibility. But I live in South Florida, cockroach capital of the eastern US, and I've never had a problem. And there are tons of food bowls lying around. I find it hard to believe that I'm just lucky. Besides, if it ISN'T a problem in any particular person's case, then this isn't much of an argument against it. The same can be argued, by the way, for an opened bag of dog food in the closet or cabinets.

Re: housetraining
Funny thing is, I've housetrained a couple dozen pups and countless numbers of rescues with free feeding without the slightest problem. Consistency in terms of when you take the dog out is all that is required and attention to their behavior. The dog's feeding habits tend to follow that schedule as well. The dog that is taken out twice a day, poops twice a day. Freefeeding dogs do not poop all day long.

Most Border Collies eat to live, not live to eat, as a lot of Border Collie owners will attest to. Border Collies seem to be naturally this way, irrespective of their upbringing. Some individuals, no matter the breed, seem to be geared to eat until they pop. But most other dogs, if freefed from the very beginning as young pups, tend not to gorge themselves. Wild canids, when reared in captivity and freefed from the get-go, also display this trend. Our rescue dogs when they come in, tend to act like they just hit the lottery, scarfing everything in sight. When they realize it isn't going anywhere, they generally calm down. It was their former lifestyle that trained them to wolf down their food. The same can be said for most other dogs. Border Collies can shift their habits more easily, since I think their natural instinct is not to gorge themselves. Other dogs have much harder times relaxing their styles and most owners aren't willing to wait it out.

Re: monitoring food intake
If that is important, then this is a drawback to freefeeding. I rely on other cues, far better predictors of health, to monitor their status. If diet or amount becomes important to note in a particular dog, they are isolated and monitored carefully (though generally still freefeeding). If the dog is sick, it should be isolated from the others anyway.

I fail to see the logic in this for a single dog, as I know exactly how much I am putting into the bowl and how much remains.

Re: Fighting over food
You note that dogs in your house fight over food - in *your* household where the dogs are not freefed. In my house the food bowl is NEVER fought over. I've got several in different areas of the house and have had up to a dozen dogs freefeeding, greedy rescue dogs and all. Never had a problem. The only scuffles arise around treats - because I don't freefed those. Do you think that people would fight over gold or money if it was just lying around all over the place, free for the taking? Dogs are the same way. You should see the look my dogs give when one of the rescue dogs initially tries to hoard a food bowl - all my dogs (and rescues that have been around a bit) look at them like they're crazy. It's like trying to hoard pebbles on the beach. Freefeeding is the *solution* to food possessiveness, not the cause.

Re: Isolated place to eat
Why? What's the benefit? Or is this a philosophical idea? Seclusion to eat is important if the dog is stressed over trying to protect their food bowl from others but without the threat, there is no stress. The same goes for small children. It is far more dangerous to reach in to take away a food bowl when a dog is eating if it is only fed at specific times. The dog fears losing the food and gulps it down or snaps to protect it. A freefed dog knows the food will be right back or at least there is another bowl of food just in the next room.

There is no crowding around the food bowls at my house, even with a dozen dogs and 6 bowls. No growling, no pushing and shoving, no worries. If I tried to specifically feed a dozen dogs, with a dozen bowls, all at the same time, someone is going to finish first and go to someone else's bowl to get a bit more. It entails a lot of running around to ensure that each dog is fed properly and the bowls are put down all at once. No thanks.

Now, if the dogs are on different diets, then obviously all bets are off and freefeeding is not helpful.

Re: Tried and true method
Free-feeding IS a tried and true method. Breeders, kennels, pet owners, vets, etc. have been using it for decades with great success. How a dog's "life is at stake" is beyond me. Unless you can point to something I am unaware of, the opposite is actually a possibility. Bloat or torsion risk can be slightly higher for those that are forced to eat in smaller time frames (though, I admit, this is only a slight effect). Happiness is a completely subjective standard. My dogs and rescues appear happy freefeeding, but then I've never ask if they'd prefer to switch.

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