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How to Decide Whether to Free-Feed Your Dog

Many people keep their dog’s bowl full and let him eat whenever he wants, known as free-feeding. Although this may seem like an easy approach to feeding, there are many reasons why it's best not to free-feed.

  • Dogs who are free-fed are more likely to be overweight. This may not have been true in the past, but with today’s highly palatable foods, your dog will enjoy eating long past the point where he is full. The result is that he will likely take in more calories than he needs and carry the fat to prove it.

  • You can’t tell exactly how much your dog is eating. In fact, you may not recognize that your dog is ill until you suddenly notice you haven’t been adding much food to his bowl in the past few days. Food intake is one of the best indicators of health, so you should always be in a position to monitor your dog’s intake accurately.

  • Medicating dogs who are free-fed is more difficult. If you have to give your dog pills, such as heartworm preventive and your dog is free-fed, you have to make sure you pop it down his throat and he swallows it. If, however, he gets fed two square meals a day, you can just add the pill to his food and it will go right down the hatch!

  • Free-feeding is difficult in multi-dog households. Frequently, one dog hogs the food and gains weight while the other dog is deprived of the food and loses weight. Plus, free-feeding is impossible if your dogs require different kinds of food.

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