Taking care of our furry friends is all about making decisions. Like choosing the right toys, the healthiest food, and how to feed them. But some topics have more debate, like free feeding vs. scheduled feeding. How do you know which one is right for your pet? We created this quick guide to help you understand the key differences between these two feeding methods. 

Free Feeding Pros and Cons

Free feeding means leaving kibble available to your dog all day. Instead of monitoring the amount that gets eaten, you simply top up the bowl when it gets low. It’s a good feeding method for dogs who are able to control the amount they consume without overeating.


  • Free feeding offers less rigidity for you and your dog.
  • Dogs can eat as much or as little as they need throughout the day.


  • Free feeding can lead to obesity if a dog overeats.
  • Dog food can attract rodents and insects if not managed properly.

Scheduled Feeding Pros and Cons

Scheduled feeding is when you feed your pet a set amount of food at a set time of day. Often the daily allotment of food is split into morning and evening meals. Some pet parents will allow their dog a certain amount of time to finish, while others may allow their dog to take their time and nibble throughout the day.


  • Scheduled feeding ensures that all pets in multi-pet households get enough to eat.
  • Measured portions decrease the chances of obesity.


  • It can be difficult on pets if schedules need to be adjusted or emergencies happen.
  • On days when dogs expend more energy, they may be hungry between meals.

So What’s the Right Answer?

Veterinarians and dog trainers typically agree that a scheduled feeding with measured scoops of kibble is the best. Measured feedings help combat obesity, a problem that affects nearly 50% of dogs in the United States. Dogs that are overweight have a shorter lifespan and a higher risk for diseases like diabetes and cancer

Measuring your dog’s food can keep them from overeating or let you know if they aren’t eating enough. How much time you allow your pup to eat their measured meal is up to you. In multi-pet households, it is usually best to monitor meal times to discourage resource guarding or keep one pet from getting a larger serving than they need.                                             

But just because scheduled feeding is most often recommended, that does not mean free feeding is a bad choice to make. As long as you keep an eye on your dog’s food intake and monitor their weight, free feeding can be a healthy choice as well. If you have an especially active dog, talk to your vet about whether free feeding would be better than scheduled feedings.

Veterinary Care That Looks at the Big Picture

Choosing how, when, and what to feed your dog can be difficult, but finding the best veterinary care does not have to be. At East Valley Animal Hospital we offer both preventive and emergency services, and we always leave time for questions at every checkup. If you have any questions about the best diet for your dog, or free feeding vs. scheduled feedings, contact us today to make an appointment.





Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (11/28/23). Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash