Ask The Trainer: Scheduled feedings ideal for your dog
My boyfriend and I are having a major disagreement about feeding our 2 dogs. He comes from the “free-feeding” school of thought and I want them on a schedule. In addition, one of the dogs is 8 years old and a little overweight. Please help us settle this dispute!
Mealtime is a very significant event for most dogs and a food bowl is likely a high value object. If a dog is on a feeding schedule, it is a place where food magically appears a couple times a day.
I’m a strong supporter of scheduled feedings and I’d like to help to change your boyfriend’s mind, so here are few discussion points:
1. Scheduled feedings allow you to control each dogs’ intake. You mentioned that the 8 year old is somewhat overweight and at that age, he is more likely to develop joint issues when carrying extra pounds.
2. Knowing how much each dog eats every day will help you determine if something is wrong. If a bowl is constantly full, it may take a couple days to realize a dog is not feeling well.
3. Food guarding is a common problem, especially when multiple dogs live in a house. A bowl full of food is a prime target for one dog to guard against the other.
4. Scheduled feeding times let you better gauge when the dogs are hungry and motivated to train. I like to integrate training into my dog’s day before each meal-time. You can also use training cues like “Wait” before putting the food bowl on the floor.
5. Many people do not like to feed treats in addition to kibble. By controlling a dog’s hunger level, you can use some kibble as training rewards.
6. When a dog is allowed to free-feed, you are missing an important opportunity to show him you are relevant and the provider of this important resource.
I hope these points help you make your case.
Carla Brown, CPDT is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of The Savvy Dog in Truckee. If you have a pet topic/issue you would like to see covered in the Ask the Trainer column, please email her at email@example.com.