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Is leaving food out all day for my dog a good thing to do?

A great deal of contradictory advice is given by dog food manufacturers, breeders, veterinarians, dog trainers & instructors, pet store personnel and other dog owners. It is no wonder that people are sometimes confused!

Reasons why leaving food out for any dog of any age so that s/he can ‘free feed’ all day is NOT a good idea:

1.   Dogs are primarily meat eaters and, unlike sheep or cattle, don’t need to graze all day.

2.  A meal time schedule establishes a routine, certainty and security.

3.  House training is much easier if your puppy or adult dog has scheduled meals. You can predict when s/he needs to be taken outside to be rewarded for a bowel movement in the correct location.

4.  A leader controls all resources at all times. Allowing your dog free access to food you make yourself irrelevant & unimportant.

5.  Many dogs can quickly put on weight and become obese which, as with people, often leads to skeletal and other health problems.

6.  Dogs that are allowed to snack whenever they want often become fussy eaters that pick and choose.

7.  Flies can quickly become attracted to any type of food that is left out with a subsequent  risk of disease.

8.  If you leave food out you can’t be sure if your dog has actually eaten it. Maybe it was the cat, another dog or, if outside, a crow.

9.  When a dog is ill one of the first symptoms is a loss of appetite. If you don’t know if and when your dog last ate you could miss an early clue as to the state of your dog's health.

10. An empty stomach is desirable before surgery. If your dog needs an emergency operation you won’t be able to tell your vet accurately when  your dog last ate and there is an increased risk of choking in vomit.

11. Free fed dogs often seem to become obnoxious, inattentive, yappy, bossy and totally out of control.

12. Meal times with a hungry dog are one of the best training opportunities, especially for puppies. [‘Sit’ and you can have a full tummy. Don’t do so and you will go hungry!]  Why waste such a valuable opportunity?

Dr Ian Dunbar – internationally renowned Veterinary Behaviourist, author of many cutting edge books and founder of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers – dedicates his book, ‘Before You Buy Your Puppy’:

 ‘To all truly exceptional dog breeders, who care as much (if not more) about their dogs' physical & mental health as they do about their dogs' coat color & conformation; to all knowledgeable veterinarians, who understand the crucially important role of early socialization & training for the prevention of  predictable behavior & temperament problems; to all caring & responsible puppy owners, who did their very best to choose, raise & train their puppies to be good-natured & well-mannered companions. And to all overworked pet dog trainers, shelter staff & volunteers & animal rescue organizations, who try their best to solve  the many problems created by other dog breeders, veterinarians, & dog owners who failed to grasp the big picture'.

If you are still in doubt about ad lib or ‘free feeding’, talk to an experienced & knowledgeable breeder, veterinarian or dog owner who truly undertands the 'big picture"!

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