Tag Archives: Dog Diet

Should I Free Feed My Dog or Meal Feed My Dog? Dog Training – Northern Virginia

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How to feed your dog is an age-old debate that we get asked about weekly at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia.

I will give you my personal opinion on this subject, and just to be fair, I will give you some of the pro’s and con’s of each.

My personal belief is that it is more beneficial and generally healthier for your dog to meal feed verse free feed.  There are many reasons that I feel this way, which I will list below:

Pro’s of Meal Feeding:
-Generally, if your dog is sick or something is wrong with them, they won’t eat. When free feeding, it generally takes much longer for the owner to notice.
-When you do the meal feeding with a puppy, it gets their digestive system on a schedule; therefore, you can predict when your puppy needs to go to the restroom which will greatly help expedite their housebreaking process.
-Food revolves around YOU, the owner. Which aids in establishing pack leadership.
-You control how much the dog eats, preventing your dog from bloating or becoming obese.

Con’s of Meal Feeding:
-You can forget to feed your dog a meal if you get busy
-You could be overfeeding or underfeeding; however, with monitoring their eating, you can know when to adjust.

Free Feeding Pro’s:
-The dogs do not feel pressure to eat, because they know food is always available

Free Freeding Con’s:
-Delays potty training
-Many dogs will eat out of boredom
-This can make them less motivated for treat training
-It is harder for the owner to notice if the dog is sick, because it’s harder to tell if they are eating or not
-Many dogs will overeat

Keep in mind, it is proven that a healthier way for humans to eat is by eating small portioned meals throughout the day; therefore, I would assume the same is true for dogs. There are many pro’s to meal feeding and very few pro’s to free feeding (in my opinion).

Generally, I have found dogs that free eat, are often times over weight (much like people who eat all throughout the day with no regulation).


How To Help My Dog Lose Weight

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At our dog training facility in Northern Virginia, we always get asked questions about how they can manage their dog’s weight.

I am always quick to point out the fact that I am not a veterinarian, and you should seek guidance from them; however, there are easy/general changes you can make to your dog’s diet to begin seeing results.

I will start with the very simple concept and principle that dogs get overweight for the same reasons that people do: overeating and under exercising. It’s important to point out that there is an estimate that roughly 35-40 million dogs in the US are considered obese or overweight.  This is the number one nutrition related problems in dogs throughout the United States.

How To Tell If Your Dog Is Overweight?

1. Rib Test: Run your hand down the sides of your dog.  If you cannot feel their ribs, they are overweight.

2. No Tuck of the Abdomen: You should see your dog’s abdomen tuck up from the underneath (once it gets passed their chest area).

3.  When looking from an overhead view of your dog, you should see their sides indent in (making a waist).  If should not be just broad and wide from their head to the rear-end.

How To Weigh My Dog?

1.  Take them to the Vet.

2.  If you have a smaller dog, one easy method is for your to stand on a scale and capture your weight.  Now, pick your dog up, stand on the scale, and capture that weight.  Now simply subtract you and your dog’s combined weight from your weight, now you have your dog’s weight.

Once you have your dog’s weight, you can compare it to a reputable breed website, to see what the standard is for your breed: http://www.petobesityprevention.com/ideal-weight-ranges/.

How To Start Helping My Dog Lose Weight?

1.   Use a measuring cup, so you can see “exactly” how much food your dog is getting per day. Do not just “guesstimate.”

2.  See how much food is recommended for a dog the size of yours, and compare that to how much you have been giving them.  Like a person, slowly reduce their portion sizes.

3. Do not “free-feed.”  Your dog should not have 24/7 access to food.  You should feed them 2-3 times per day.

4. Increase activity in your dog.  Take them on walks, runs, throw the ball, play tug with them, do scent detection, or some other type of sport.  As your dog is doing better, slowly increase the speed and the duration of the activities.  This helps keep them mentally and physically stimulated, promotes weight loss, and speeds up their metabolism.

5.  Cut out the treats and unnecessary snacks!  Just like with a person on a diet, it’s not okay to have ice cream or twinkies on a daily basis, even if in minimal amounts.  Small amounts on a daily basis adds up to be a lot of calories.

Monitor Your Dog’s Progress Weekly:

Every week, weigh them and monitor their progress.  This will help you decide if you need to increase or decrease their caloric intake.

At our dog training facility in Northern Virginia on a daily basis we hear, “I don’t know why is overweight, we go on walks daily.”

Remember, dogs are just like people, one of my good friends Dave Shulter who owns Shutler Fitness always says, “Abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym.  You can workout every day of your life, but if you do not change your diet, you will never major see results.”  The same is true for your dog.