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Discussion Starter #1
Just curious. Are there others out there who free feed? I grew up doing this and continue to do so with Ozzy, our only pet.

I am curious as to the benefits of actually timed meals or drawbacks of free feeding? As it stands, Ozzy eats half his food in the evening and finishes it up at night - he has access to it all day.

Is this bad for metabolism? He is 74 pounds right now and the vet seems to think he is perfect.

Just interested in any observations/knowledge/experience with free feeding vs. timed feeding.
 

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Besides that my dogs would eat until they explode I like knowing exactly how much they are eating when. I can see free feeding being difficult to moniter their intake if you had more then person in the house adding food.

That would be a major problem for me. If they suddenly but significantly changed their eating habits I want to know.
 

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If you have one dog and the dog eats the proper amount, then I think it can work. I grew up with a dog that did that also. Now that I have multiple dogs, I wouldn't ever do it - one exception being very tiny fosters. I do tend to leave them food access in their crate/x-pen/whatever because they rarely overeat and can get low blood sugar without a lot of little meals.

My big dogs would eat until they pop though, so even if I only had one it wouldn't work.

What kind of food are you feeding? How palatable it is can affect how much they eat at a sitting.
 

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Reasons against:

Hard to monitor intake, and thus know if the dog is going off his food (sign of illness).

Hard to know when the dog has eaten, and thus when he has a full stomach. GSDs and other large breeds are prone to bloat and torsion, and one of the rules for cutting down on the likelihood of that happening is no heavy exercise within a couple hours before or after eating. Much trickier to safely time exercise if you don't know when he's eaten, and thus when he has a full stomach and is at higher risk of bloat or torsion.

Makes training with treats harder. You don't know when you're dog is hungry vs. when he's not. And dogs who have free access to food whenever they want it loose their food drive because it is no longer a somewhat scarce commodity that they only have occasional access to. So they are much less willing to work to earn food in training... why should they when they can have food whenver they want without having to work for it.
 

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And one more--

If you have set mealtimes, you get to act like the benevolent leader! Here, I will share my food with you...if you sit. Good boy. Okay, enjoy.

Nice opportunity twice a day to reinforce who's paying the bills.
 

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Sarge has access to his food at all times. I keep the bowl full. He eats very small amounts at different times of the day.He stays around 80 lbs. and the vet says hes very healthy. A bowl of food will last him about 2 days not including snacks he gets and trips to mc donalds as as a treat.

As for training, even though he has access to food he will still mow the lawn for a small piece of cut up hot dog. I take a cold hot dog and cut it into a bunch of small pieces and use those for training.

He snaps to attention when he knows its hot dog training time.

I would say there's no right answer to the question that takes in every dog and its eating habits.

I agree with not leaving food down for multiple dogs but for a single dog I think it would have to be decided on a case by case basis.
 

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I have five pets right now, sometimes fosters, and will soon be getting a puppy (6th permanent pet), so free feeding ANYONE is totally out of the question. Cats will eat dog food and vice versa. Everyone eats different amounts, different foods, and eats at their own pace. Also, for health issues I need to know who eats what and when. If a dog is trying to vomit and I have no clue if he's eaten in the past few hours or just scarfed everything in the bowl, I wouldn't know whether to suspect bloat or something else...
 

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Another reason against:

If a dog eats randomly during all day, they poo randomly during all day. It means to be cleaning dog poo at all times to keep the yard clean and to have to be opening doors for dogs (in some homes) all day. A dog with a mealtime schedule also has an intestinal schedule.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Ozzy gets Timber Wolf Elk and Salmon. He never turns his nose up at a hot dog either so training treats have never been a problem.

As far as knowing how much he eats and when, he is like clockwork. I fill the bowl (about 4 cups) in the morning and he has eaten about half of that by the time I go to work. He doesn't touch it again until 9 when he eats the other half.

When we first got him he was about 10 pounds lighter than now and so skinny so I wanted him to eat whenever he wanted. He has never been a chow hound and would never eat until explosion.

However, I read so much about feeding times, etc. on the board, I just want to make sure I am just not being lazy here with the feeding or hurting him in some way with the free feeding.
 

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Sarge has a interesting habit. He wont eat all afternoon and waits to see whats for super. He prefers leftovers from dinner. When no leftovers are fourth coming and he sees us getting up from the table he heads to his food bowl and eats.
 

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It sounds like you are feeding him the same amount every day, but instead of you spliting the food into two seperate meals, Ozzy is doing this himself. I don't think this is a problem since you only have one dog. I did the same thing with my Jasmine, because she too was very skinny when I rescued her and needed to gain weight.

As others have stated, there are benifits to scheduled feeding, but from what you have described about Ozzy's eating habits, I would not worry about free feeding him too much. If it works for you and Ozzy that is all that matters.
 

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I have 3 shepherds and I let them free feed ages 19 mths to 4 1/2 yrs, everyone is a healthy weight they don't gobble it down for they know it is there when they want it, they sometimes eat a little through out the day and sometimes just once. I have never had a problem with that nor with bloat since food and water is always down and they take their time eating. This just works for me but may not for others.
 

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Giving your dog food only at mealtimes is an excellent way to reinforce your role as pack leader. When the bowl is out all the time, in the dog's mind, the food comes from the bowl. When you feed at certain times and then take the bowl back up, in the dog's mind, the food comes from you. It's a very easy and simple way to reinforce pack structure, not to mention I'm a big proponent of NILIF for pretty much all dogs.
 
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