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I see the consensus seems to be "do NOT free feed, it will ruin your dog's life" and to have only set feeding times, and to pick up the food that hasn't been consumed within 20 minutes.

The way I feed my puppies is to put half their day's kibble into a Tug-a-jug and a couple of Kongs, twice a day, and they spend quite a bit of gleeful time shaking the toys to get the food out... but they may spend 20 minutes doing it then come back a few hours later to work on it (and eat) some more.

Is that considered to be free feeding?
 

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No. The problem with access to food all the time is a very inconsistent potty schedule which can lead to 'accidents'. If you're home 24/7 then, it may not be a problem.
 

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IMO a dog's life is meant to work for food. The effort required by the dog between a food dispensing puzzle and a regular bowl is self evident. I prefer the food dispensing puzzle too, and would not call it free feeding.
 

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The problem with access to food all the time is a very inconsistent potty schedule which can lead to 'accidents'. If you're home 24/7 then, it may not be a problem.
Ahh, that makes sense. Fortunately they're pretty "regular" already so that part is fine. I'm glad the toy-feeding isn't considered the same as free feeding because they LOVE it!
 

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We free feed our dog because she wasn't eating enough before on a timed schedule. I'm home all day long, so it's never caused problems for us, and she still keeps herself pretty regular.
 

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Another issue I have seen with free feeding is when people like to keep food in their dog's bowl at all times. This often leads to weight problems. What you are doing sounds fine.
 

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Yeah, as long as the portion in the bowl is appropriate for a dog's daily calorie requirement, there shouldn't be a problem. I know with some tiny breeds, people free feed because small dogs are prone to low blood sugar and the issue is often fixed if they can just 'graze' throughout the day.
 

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I wish it took my dog more than 5 minutes to get her food out of the Tug a Jug. She mastered that thing in a few days. First feeding it took her 4 hours (ahh, that was lovely). Now she has it all out very quickly.

Your dogs may get faster too, I wouldn't worry about it. I love feeding from puzzle toys and only feed from a bowl when using it as training or on daycare days when running late.
 

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I'm a horrible dog owner. I free feed.......out of a bowl!!!

Apparently I'm ruining my dogs life, am not making him work for his food, causing him to be irregular, and leaving the chance of him having weight problems.

Shame on me! <slaps hand>
 

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One thing I read, but haven't heard anyone mention yet is that by feeding on a schedule vs. free feeding, you reinforce the idea that you are the leader because the dog makes a clear distinction that he/she depends on you to provide the food, and decide when that happens- as opposed to the dog deciding for themselves when they eat and feeling like they have control over that.

Not saying that's true or that anyone else is wrong, that's just what I read. Anyone else have some insight on that?
 

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Not saying that's true or that anyone else is wrong, that's just what I read. Anyone else have some insight on that?
This idea is based on extrapolation of intraspecific behaviours, particularly those of captive wolves. Many of these extrapolations are now known to be false. Feeding is not dependent on a "leader"...it's dependent on availability of resources. Food just happens to be a resource we can use to get the behaviors we want.
 

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I see, thanks for the info. The connection with wolves is interesting, I read that in context with training the more 'pack oriented' dogs like Huskies and Samoyeds, etc.

I believe it went together with type of training known as "nothing in life is free", where it was coupled with giving the dog some sort of command or something that it had to obey before you give the food so they associate obedience with getting what they want. It made sense to me when I read it, but I'm brand new to all of this stuff, so I haven't had much time to see for myself how well (or poorly) those ideas work yet.
 

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We pretty much free-feed, as well. She just won't eat her food all in one go, so she gets one serving in the morning, and a second when that one is gone or at 6pm, which ever is later, and that's it.

If anything, she is underweight. I'd like her to gain about 5 lbs.
 

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We pretty much free-feed, as well. She just won't eat her food all in one go, so she gets one serving in the morning, and a second when that one is gone or at 6pm, which ever is later, and that's it.

If anything, she is underweight. I'd like her to gain about 5 lbs.
When I got my dog he was that way. I think he was used to being free fed. I put the food down for 10 minutes and if he didn't eat it, I put it away. In the evening he was hungry enough to eat it all. The next morning we repeated the process. It didn't take him more than a week or so to catch on to what was going on.
 

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When I got my dog he was that way. I think he was used to being free fed. I put the food down for 10 minutes and if he didn't eat it, I put it away. In the evening he was hungry enough to eat it all. The next morning we repeated the process. It didn't take him more than a week or so to catch on to what was going on.
This didn't work for Zoey.. she's free fed now.. Even if she caught on that the food was only going to be down at this time and then gone again.. she still wouldn't eat. She get's a tummy ache if she goes too long with out eating, and that makes her not want to eat.. and then she'll throw up. It was a vicious cycle. I feel that she is better off being free fed. I know I would never make it having my food at specified intervals through out the day.. I like to eat small meals and snacks through out the day.. unlike most, I can't just sit down and eat an entire plate full of food with out feeling sick afterwords, nor can I go several hours with out eating anything... it's interesting that my dog would be the same way.
 

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Binkalette, our pup is essentially the same way. She is certainly not overfed, and some days she manages to eat it all by noon, other days she nibbles until 4 or 5 pm.

It works for her, it works for us.
 

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I was just thinking about this...

I have an older BC that I did not realize had really fattened up this winter. She has signs of arthritis. It's not fair to her, so it's diet time.

Thing is, I have two other skinny dogs that are grazers. Maybe I will try the scheduled, eat now thing.
 

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If you are concerned about it, there's really no reason you can't pick up the food-dispensing toy after a reasonable amount of time and present it again later, as you would with a bowl.

Physically speaking, with toys or with scheduled feeding, it's easier to determine if your dog has gone off his/her food, and to ensure they are eating ___ amount each day. The toys just have a nice mental component which, for those of us with high-drive, energetic pet dogs...well let's just say most of us will use any method available to keep our dogs a little more balanced, and even 5 minutes of puzzle solving vs. 20 seconds of bowl eating is worth it lol.

I'm a horrible dog owner. I free feed.......out of a bowl!!!
The first step is admitting you have a problem :p

If you have a single dog that self-regulates and you are able to tell how much they are eating...it's not like you are harming your dog. However, many people here have multiple dogs or dogs that will eat for as long as there is food in front of them, to the point they make themselves sick, so that's not really an option for them.
 

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I think you'll find as your dogs get older, it will take them less and less time to get the food out. I just think the biggest drawback to free feeding is that you lose control over the most important resource to a dog.
 

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I'm a horrible dog owner. I free feed.......out of a bowl!!!

Apparently I'm ruining my dogs life, am not making him work for his food, causing him to be irregular, and leaving the chance of him having weight problems.

Shame on me! <slaps hand>
I'm not commenting on your post but wanted to say, I noticed you're from Buffalo NY...I was born & raised in Tonawanda!

For us, free feeding would never work. I have a pbgv who would eat anyone else's food...my younger sheltie is a sweetie, he'd let him eat his food and the other sheltie would bite his butt. My peeb eats in the kitchen, alone, with a baby gate seperating him from the dining room, where the shelties eat. I like mealtimes, it makes it easier if we're gone for the day and a neighbor is here to feed, I don't need to worry about a dog eating someone else's food, stuff like that. On the other hand, I know someone with 17 dogs and she free feeds. I guess it depends on the dogs.
 
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