When you bring your adorable new pet home for the first time, it’s natural to just want to cuddle and play for weeks on end. But it’s important to remember that those first few weeks are an important time to lay some groundwork in obedience training and routine. Just like humans, our furry pals need routines too. Routines, especially regarding food, give your pets a level of comfort and security. By reassuring pets so that they know they will get fed, and that it will occur at a certain time, this will help them to avoid developing anxiety and antisocial behaviours.
Feeding schedules for pets are extremely important and can have positive or adverse psychological effects on your pet. Food can play a role in training, health monitoring (i.e. noticing if a pet is ill due to seeing them skip a meal,) the metabolization of medication, and even your pet’s emotional states and social natures. A feeding schedule that is well adapted to your pet’s individual needs can even aid in the reduction of separation anxiety and related behaviours.
There are several methods of feeding that can be adopted. Some of these methods are also translatable to most pets, including cats and dogs!
For those of us who work long hours and understand our canine and feline friends constant desire for disposable food sources all day long, we can leave dry food (wet spoils faster) in a bowl ready for our pet’s consumption.
When using this method with cats, free feeding is best restricted to single cat homes, or larger cat homes where food bowls can be spread out, as some dominant cats may hoard food or push less dominant felines out at meal times. If your pet is a guts and eats its way through the whole bowl at once, you could try using mechanical feeding bowls that let out certain portions of food at certain times.
Controlled feeding is best suited to owners who know they will always be home for their pet’s during meal times. Controlled feeding can work in two ways: Timed or portioned. For time controlled feeding you may place food into a bowl and allow 10-20 minutes before taking the bowl away, preventing your cat from overeating as some breeds are known to do with the free-feeding method. If you choose to use portion control, you can simply place a certain portion of food into your pet’s bowl and allow them to eat at their own pace. Cats and dogs on medications or diets will need to be fed in a controlled manner.
Different pets, of different species, breeds and ages require different feeding schedules. A young puppy needs to be fed three times a day, much more than an adult dog which can be fed one or two times per day. Puppy meal times can be modelled after your own, i.e. morning, noon and early evening.
To avoid puppies being overfed some basic obedience training during will be required during meal times: If your dog is trained to sit and stay, order your dog to do so while you fill their bowl and then release once the bowl is filled and your hand has been taken away. You can also use meal times to reinforce behavioural training, as well as a time to bond with your pet.
You can find more information about how to create obedient behaviour patterns at mealtimes here.
It’s always worth speaking to your Vet regarding the age and breed of your pet to get a second opinion on the best feeding method. Remember that controlled feeding can act as a way to bond with your pet, as you can play with them before and after meals. Free feeding can interfere with food motivation and thus obedience training. Always be sure to check with your Veterinarian regarding meal schedules, sizes, and training.