Bringing home a new puppy can be scary because you’re now responsible for another living thing. Their basic needs now mirror your own and you find yourself wondering when they need to eat, what type of food you should feed, and how much they really need.

When I brought home my new puppy, he was not very interested in the food I bought him for the first couple days. He also didn’t want to eat out of his bowl but preferred when I would throw it toward him on the ground. I had planned to free feed, but my vet was not a fan of that practice. So I had to decide, which method is better—free feeding or scheduled eating?

Free feeding

Free feeding involves leaving a bowl of kibble in a specific place to let your dog eat whenever they feel hungry. This method allows the dog more freedom and also takes some responsibility off of the owner.

Although this method sounds great, it may not work for every dog. Some dogs have no self-control and can end up overweight if they free feed. However, my very first dog free fed and we never had any issues with it. We started this method as soon as we brought her home and she usually eats her dinner while we sit down for ours. When we are gone, she is left to roam the house, but we have found that she will not eat her food unless we are home.

Pros:
  • A dog can eat as much as they want and won’t be hungry
  • Less responsibility for the owner
Cons:
  • Possibility of obesity
  • Hard in multi-pet households

These pros and cons will vary depending on each situation and the breed of dog. If you get your dog at infancy, you may have a better chance of training them to be free fed. Your adopted or older pet may have other needs that require feeding on a schedule.

Free feeding v. scheduled eating
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Scheduled eating

Scheduled eating involves feeding your dog on a schedule according to their and your needs. This method helps the owner to know what, how much, and when their dog is eating. It provides more control over their appetite and even their schedule (which can assist with training).

Pros:
  • Controlled portions
  • Helps with training
Cons:
  • You have to adhere to a schedule and be home to feed them
  • Can lead to food guarding

Food guarding is a trait that can show up in both free fed and scheduled fed dogs. It can show up at a higher rate with dogs who are anticipating their food, rather than having the option to eat whenever they want. Whatever way you choose to feed, if food guarding is an issue with your dog – it can be trained out of your dog with hard work and patience.

In the end, I chose to free feed my new puppy. So far, it has been a very good decision. He eats when he feels hungry and has been good with sharing his bowl with other dogs in the house. There have been no issues with his weight and he is a happy, healthy, and active two-year-old dog.

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