When it comes to feeding a dog, every owner wants to know they are doing it properly. Owners want to know that they are providing the right food in the right amount. But did you know the method you use to feed your pet can be just as important to their health as the type of food you choose?<
Of course you want to ensure you make fresh water available to your dog at all times and that you monitor your dog's eating habits. But the actual feeding method you choose is also an important element of your dog's health. Depending on several factors, your daily schedule, the number of dogs in your family, the type of food being fed (dry vs. canned), we've compiled a list of methods to help you find the right way to feed your pet.
Free choice feeding (also called self-feeding or ad libitum) means that food is available to your dog at all times. In this case, dry food is best as it will not spoil if left out for long periods of time.
Free-choice feeding offers the advantage of convenience for the owner. You can replenish the food a few times a week and your dog is allowed to self-regulate his or her intake. Automatic food dispensers and gravity feeders can make the process even more convenient by providing a regular source of food. Many owners report that the regular availability of food for their pets can also help reduce begging and nuisance barking. In multi-dog households, timid dogs may also have better chance of eating their fair share.
However, free-choice feeding can be a problem with dogs that are not able to healthfully self-regulate their food intake. Consuming too many calories, weight gain and even obesity are fairly common in dogs that are fed free-choice. In addition, the owner may not notice right away if the dog stops eating. Because a lack of appetite is often the first sign of illness in dogs; it’s important to closely monitor your pet’s eating habits.
You may choose to control your dog’s food portions. During a time-controlled feeding, the dog is given an amount of food and is only allowed to eat for a certain period of time, generally 5-15 minutes. In some case, dogs develop a sense of urgency with eating and often eat too quickly.
It's important to understand the healthy amount of food for your dog at each stage of his life. Your veterinarian can recommend how much food your dog should eat each day and at what frequency. Portion-controlled feeding requires more time and attention from the owner than self-feeding. Typically, feedings are best when coordinated with the owners’ mealtimes.
However, even if you have a busy schedule or are just plain forgetful, automatic timed feeders can help. They can feed your dog just the right amount of food at just the right time, even when you’re away from home. This can go a long way in keeping your dog healthy and on a proper feeding schedule.
Interactive feeding is a relatively new concept for many dog owners. Instead of patronizing the familiar supper dish, the dog must work for his kibble. This can be done using either toys or training methods.
When using toys, a specified amount of food is measured out during the beginning of the day. The food is placed in toys specially designed to release the kibble as your pet plays. There are many different interactive feeding toys, including tough rubber toys that are designed to keep your dog or puppy busy for long periods of time. Interactive feeding is a great way to ward off boredom and gives your dog mental and physical exercise.
On the training side, many dog owners use pieces of kibble as little rewards for things the dogs does throughout the day. Dogs have to work to earn their food. This not only creates a well-behaved dog, but also helps to strengthen the bond between the dog and owner.
No matter which feeding method you choose, never miss giving your dog a fresh water source and keep an eye on his or her daily eating habits. If for any reason your dog appears underweight or overweight, be sure to talk to your veterinarian to see if a change in diet or feeding method is recommended.