I hated economics class.
Like, HATED it.
I hated it in high school, and when in college that hate grew to proportions only rivaled by my thoughts of math class.
Despite my personal grudge against the content that often left me staring off into space (this is before cell phones were what they are so no such distractions were available), I still remember a couple of crucial lessons that directly apply to life with a dog.
In particular, how we can influence our dog’s perspective of life with us and what is valuable. While this concept applies to many different things that we can get benefit from in our life with our dogs, we are going to focus right now on food.
The more availability something has, it’s easy for us to become disinterested.
Can’t picture what I mean?
Think about dating. Ever heard the term “play hard to get”?
Think back to when you were perhaps in the early stages of dating someone. Every moment brings a rush of adrenaline and your skin tingles in anticipation of their eye contact, a text from them, or even their touch.
Fast forward to you’ve been living with them for a year.
Not the same is it, and don’t bother posturing right now saying it is to earn points with your significant other. You know exactly what I’m talking about.
What about when you get a job at your favorite restaurant. Or better yet, the local bakery.
I love cannolis.
If I worked at a bakery and had an endless supply of cannolis at my fingertips it wouldn’t take long for that lovely treat to fall from the top of my favorite treat rankings.
An overabundance of a thing makes the thing less valuable. Whatever power that thing once had soon weakens.
Free feeding is a term used to describe the practice of keeping an endless supply of food available for a dog by way of a food bowl always left out with food always in it.
Even though even the most disagreeable dog trainers actually agree its not a good idea, even though many vets will say its not a good idea, even though your most decorated and notable competitive dog trainers agree its not a good idea, many pet dog owners still do it.
Some do it simply because they don’t know any better which i totally understand. The dog didn’t come with an instruction book so they “wing it”. (this is why I wrote OPERATION DOG and you can get this basic guide for dog ownership for FREE by clicking this)
However there are other dog owners who have heard all the reasons they shouldn’t, and they still do it.
I know exactly why they persist doing things that are actually unhealthy for their dog, but that’s a rabbit hole better left for another time.
So now that we know what free-feeding is, let’s talk about why none of the world’s top dog trainers, dog competitors, and medical professionals do it. We can evaluate free feeding in two contexts, behavior and health.
Your dog can’t talk.
At least not in the way that we talk or communicate using words and sounds, sometimes too many of them, to convey a message or thought. The lack of a clear distinct audible language means we have to really understand our dog and how they DO communicate to have an idea of what’s going on with them from day to day.
This is relevant in the context of how our dog feels or their general health. The two places we look to on a daily basis are the front and the back to monitor what goes in and what comes out.
Yes, you will need to become a poop expert if you expect to help keep your dog healthy.
You also need to have a very keen understanding of their appetite.
For many potentially fatal health issues a dog can experience, appetite is the first warning sign that there is a problem. Many of these health issues have a stopwatch that directly relates to the potential for survival. The earlier you catch it, the better their chances to live.
The dog who has an endless supply of food at their disposal in a food bowl left down 24/7 is almost impossible to accurately or consistently evaluate in terms of their appetite.
You simply can’t see the minor changes in response to food that indicate your dog might have a fatal timebomb of a bowel obstruction in their colon.
Your dog can die because you failed to catch it quick enough.
You failed to catch it quick enough because you thought leaving an endless supply of food down on the ground would be a monumental demonstration of love for your dog.
No, it isn't’ and did I mention it can result in your dog dying because you weren’t able to diagnose the issue soon enough?
It’s worth mentioning twice for those who are too busy getting butthurt because they’ve been free feeding and instead of saying “Oh wow, I never thought of it that way, I want to learn more!” they are all up in their ego more concerned with how discovering that they made a mistake upsets them.
Don’t be like them, they love themselves more than their dog.
Instead, this should at the very least spark some reflection on your part if you have been free feeding. That reflection might just lead to the curiosity of wanting to know more about this topic.
If so, continue reading. If you’re still upset you were told you made a mistake, go ahead and put yourself in timeout with the rest of the bratty children. Reading any further won’t help you anyway.
Yes, how you feed your dog has massive carryover to their behavior and more importantly, your control over that behavior.
Many dog owners end up in situations where they literally are a servant to their dog. The dog tells them what to do, and they happily do it. They do this out of some misguided idea that by putting the dog on a pedestal and treating him like a child prince overlord of an empire, somehow, that makes them a better person.
It simply fosters and builds a state of mind in the dog that directly relates to the very same behavior problems the dog owner will be posting about in FB group 5 months later begging for help and claiming they have no idea why it's happening.
Dogs need food to live.
Dogs are born with strong instincts and desire to WORK or PURSUE food.
When you keep a full food bowl on the floor you are essentially robbing your dog of the opportunity to fulfill those instincts and desires.
Yes, a never-ending food bowl actually deprives your dog.
It also removes any potential value you can have if you were to control that food, only give it at certain times, and in exchange for the dog doing something you ask.
If the food is endless, and you give it freely, you’re weakening your relationship with your dog.
If that idea or suggestion upsets you, ask yourself why?
Why would you be upset to hear that?
Getting upset means your ego is taking over again, not your desire to do what’s best for the dog. Be less upset about having made an honest mistake, and more focused on learning about this massive opportunity right in front of you, that can change your entire relationship with your dog in a VERY cool and wonderful way.
The same folks vehemently defending their decision to be their dog’s servant and jump when the dog gives them an obedience command to fill the food bowl, are the same people who will say how when on a walk their dog pulls them everywhere, or when the dog sees a squirrel it doesn’t listen, or better yet…
That their dog is “stubborn”.
No shit your dog ignores you and doesn’t do anything you ask, after all, you’ve been telling the dog that THEY call the shots, not you. Oh, by the way, the food bowl is looking low, better hurry and top it off before Mr. Snuggles gets grumpy.
Anyway, dogs are supposed to be man’s best friend right? Why get a dog if you don’t want to be of any value to the dog?
Real, tangible, your dog looking at you hoping at any moment you will give it an obedience command kind of value.
If the food bowl is always full, then the dog doesn’t need you at all.
No, the dog isn’t going to be loyal because it knows that you are the one filling it.
It doesn’t work that way with spoiled entitled children and it doesn’t work that way with spoiled entitled dogs.
Why not explore something different, something that can actually bring you and your dog CLOSER in your relationship? Something that can result in your dog no longer being “stubborn” or “defiant”.
Is food the only answer to the above?
NO, but its a great start.
Become valuable by teaching the dog that food comes from YOU.
Help the dog fulfill its natural-born drives and instincts to work for food by engaging in some daily training that incorporates food, in an appropriate way, into the activities.
Something as simple as telling your dog to go in their kennel then rewarding by placing a food bowl with a measure out amount of food into it can have dramatic results in their behavior and their health.
Your dog should get excited when you go to the food bin and grab the bowl.
They should be mouth open, tail wagging, bundles of energy waiting for you to tell them what they need to do to earn that food.
The dog WANTS to work for their food deep down.
You just have been robbing them of that opportunity.
If you made it this far in the article then you indeed are an awesome dog owner.
Many have clicked off earlier due to my direct and honest style of communication. I do that very deliberately.
I don’t want to work with, let alone interact with people who care more about how they look or how people see them as a dog owner than they do about the actual well being of their dog.
My way of sharing free tips and help in these blogs and social media helps sort out the fakers from the truly dedicated dog lovers who sincerely want to learn how to be their best for their dog.
If that’s you, well then, I’d like to help you out even more.
Let’s keep it simple.
Grab a free copy of my E guide, Operation Dog. It's not the end all be all dog ownership manual by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just an introduction to a perspective that maybe you haven’t seen yet.
Get it HERE.
Hop over to my Instagram if you have it. I give a TON of FREE help to dog owners over there through posts and frequent Live Q & A videos.
Follow me on Instagram by clicking HERE.
For those who are all in, die-hard, dedicated dog lovers and will do whatever it takes to learn how to be the best human for their dogs, I have something extra special for you.
My Canine Blueprint Coaching program is an online experience for dog lovers unlike any other. Without the frustration, the confusion, the guilt that so many dog owners feel when trying to figure out what the hell to do with their dog's behavior, a whole new world opens up for you and your dog. Imagine knowing that your dog truly thinks you are everything and knowing your dog will ANYTHING you ask simply because you asked. Imagine the peace of mind knowing that when you tell your dog to “come” they will indeed come, no matter what’s going on.
Best of all, imagine all of that without having to send your dog away to a stranger because you did it all yourself.
If that sounds like something you’d like to enjoy, click HERE.
But at the very least, now that you’ve completed this article, go pick up the food bowl on the floor (if you have been free feeding) and put it on the counter or on top of the fridge.
For the sake of your dog, please pick it up.