Feeding Time: On the Dot, or Not?

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I have long advised friends and family members to keep their dogs’ mealtimes vague, in order to prevent “clock-watching” and demand behaviors from dogs who are anticipating their breakfast or dinner. Not for me, those dogs who wake me by barking for breakfast, no matter whether I’m sick or worked until 3 am the night before. Not for me, those dogs who start pacing, drooling, or staring at 4 pm every afternoon. By keeping mealtimes somewhat unpredictable, within a range of an hour or two, I haven’t ever had to deal with those anticipatory behaviors – even when Daylight Saving Time changes. I’m not one of the people who posts memes and pictures of my dogs freaking out about dinnertime twice a year!

Oh, sure, either of my dogs might do a little happy skip in the kitchen, as I walk toward the dog food area – which happens to be next to the microwave in which I heat my coffee. But if I tell them, “Not yet!” they resign themselves to waiting – alertly, but not underfoot. Or, dog forbid, whining under their breath.

Another Dog Is Throwing Things Off

Things have gotten a little testy over the past two weeks, however. I have been dog-sitting a 14-year-old deaf dog, little Leila, who belongs to a dear friend. Leila has strong opinions about mealtime – and spins and chases her tail for attention, and barks, barks, barks, when she is certain she’s going to starve without food. I have a hard time with barking – but what am I going to do? She’s old, and deaf! Easiest just to feed her when she starts up! Naturally, my giving into her demands has resulted in some incredulous “WHAT DID SHE JUST DO?” behavior from my two dogs. “SHE got fed and we did not? Perhaps WE should skip about and make noises!”

Mom, pleeease.

Taking my own advice when it comes to my own dogs, I’m ignoring the noises and skipping about. Otto gets it, and retires to the floor with a groan and a politely wagging tail. Woody is more persistent, and keeps trying a charm offensive, coming to me every time I sit down at the kitchen table with my laptop or at my desk in my office, and placing his heavy head in my lap, looking up at me with imploring eyes and that seductive slowly wagging tail. “Pleeeeaaassse? We are so VERY hungry.”

Prepping For Otto’s Surgery

Worse: Over the past two days, it has been necessary to skip Otto’s breakfast. Yesterday he had a chest x-ray, in preparation for today’s general anesthesia: He is having yet another tooth removed – he has somehow suffered another slab fracture of a molar (this is his third), so the tooth has to be removed. Also, the vet is going to scope his throat; he’s been having a lot of regurgitation, and we have been treating him for acid reflux and a possible esophageal ulcer. And when Otto has to go without breakfast, I don’t feed Woody, either; doing so would be just mean.

“Some experts recommend making dogs fast one day a week all the time,” I tell my dogs. “You are going to live. Mealtime is just delayed.” So the moping and charming persists for hours.

Do you have set mealtimes, or do you wing it with your dogs?

83 COMMENTS

  1. I have two that LOVE to eat and eat well. I have another that could care less if he ever eats. The two who do are those you would go crazy over. They can’t eat fast enough. My new puppy is a jumping jelly bean (yorkie, 7 months) all the way to the food bin and my 12 yo yorkie poo circles all the way. It makes me crazy! I so wish I could break this behavior but have no idea where to begin. Any advice would be welcomed!

    • Hi, Karen. I had a Lab puppy that was a voracious eater…to the point that he’d throw up because he would eat so fast. To break that habit I would put his bowl down and hold onto him by wrapping an arm in front of his back legs and around his belly and made him “sit” and “wait”. He eventually figured out that I wasn’t going to release him to eat until he complied. The first few times when I let him go he’d head for the bowl like his tail was on fire. I would let him take a few bites, but would then pull him back and go through the “sit/wait” drill again…as many times as it took. Dogs are smart. Good luck with your two!

    • Debra’s advice is great and it’s the same I’d give you. In addition to the “sit” and “wait”, I’d use a slow down bowl so they eat much more slowly. Our puppy mill rescue Dane will eat so fast she throws up and will eat anything in sight. We use a slow down bowl and feed her both her breakfast and her dinner in two smaller portions (rather than a larger portion). That also slows her down a bit (and also helps her with relax and wait, as we wait a few minutes between portions). That works for her–she can then eat and keep her food down. Since you have a multiple dog household, a puzzle feeder may not work for you, depends on your pack (wouldn’t work for us because our Dane will steal the other dogs’ food and a fight over food would not be out of the question), but with the right pack, you might be able to use a puzzle feeder for at least some (if not all) of her food. If in doubt, I wouldn’t try it–a fight isn’t worth it. But using a food dispensing toy will slow her down, as well. Best of luck. And harden your heart against all the pitiful looks and vocal pleas of “But I’m starving” during the sit and wait training.

    • I have a couple of fast eaters and use a smooth, round/oval appropriate size/weight rock in each of their bowls. Works like a charm! (I had tried a slow down type food dish and the one dog just gave up after a few bites.) I used to use the same rock method in buckets for horses who ate their grain too quickly.

    • Karen, I have 3 large dogs from age 5 to 14, with different eating speeds and calorie requirements. Mine are required to `go kennel’, i.e. lie down on their sleeping mats in different rooms where they wait while I bring the food to them. That way I don’t have 3 dogs jockeying for space in the kitchen.
      Some people use `place’ for this concept, and there are videos on YouTube as well as articles in WDJ, etc. on how to teach this. It is a helpful cue in general, and easy to teach.
      I do use a slow feeder (a dish with open maze compartments) for my Akbash who eats too fast and who is an easy keeper. With this dish, she finishes about the same time as the others, so there is no opportunistic scouting of the older dog’s food, which she would do if she finished first.

  2. Our dogs eat on a regular basis. It works for us as it makes us get up at about the same time each day. I might add we are retired

    • I’m with you . My four months old puppy wakes up hungry, and her first meal sets the schedule for the day. I keep each of her three meals a little short of one third of the daily amount to have wiggle room for healthy treats. Being retired , I can please both of us.

  3. I’ve always fed my dogs at random times. It helps if I have to work late or leave earlier than normal. I also recommend this approach to my clients. It keeps my dogs from demanding to be fed.

    Unfortunately, I have a dog undergoing radiation and he can’t be fed the morning of treatment. So no one else gets fed either. They get a bigger meal at the end of the day though. Because I’ve taught them mealtimes are not on a schedule, I’ve had no issues.

    Good luck with your pups tooth extraction!

  4. I wing it and always have. But to be honest, I’m winging it with my own mealtimes as well. We lead busy, active lives, and we just can’t always be at the table eating at the same designated time. I never have any issues with my dogs bugging me when I want to sleep in or are on vacation, and they never bug me to get out of bed. When I am up however, they would happily eat every hour on the hour if I would feed them that way.

  5. I guess we are like a lot of folks, we treat our dogs almost as if they are our children. So, we like to eat our meals on a fairly regular schedule, and so do our dogs. I agree, when we are late for a meal, they will let us know they are hungry. So what? We just feed them.

    • Absolutely. I like giving my girl as much choice as possible. Just don’t understand why people want to show there pup who is boss. They know..the person with hands is. During the summer here, we get up early and as a result my girl wants to be fed earlier sometimes. So what? I’m delighted she can tell me.

      • For me, this isn’t about showing my dog who is boss, it is about not wanting to be harassed if a meal is not served at a certain time. I don’t like barking or being pestered. Also, I just eat when I’m hungry and then feed my dog at the same time because its convenient. Its OK if that’s not for everyone, especially for those who have a regular schedule – it just works out wonderfully for me.

  6. My 3 year old intact, female German Shepherd is UBER UBER picky and finicky. To the point that I now raw feed her (although “raw” isn’t accurate because Princess Snotty Pants[not her real name LOL] won’t eat anything raw so I cook for her), and she eats – usually – twice a day. I leave for work at 5:30 a.m. M-F so she eats in those mornings about 4:30 a.m. then again around 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. On the weekends, she eats later in the morning and the evenings. She’s been known to skip a meal, too but I understand that is normal. My other dogs ate at their leisure, too. But they all ate kibble so it was ok to let it sit out.

  7. I don’t need to look at a clock — 4:00 p.m. for dinner, 5:00 a.m. for breakfast :(. I try to make them wait, but it’s really not worth the aggravation on both sides of the food dish.

  8. Our doggies eat on a regular basis at about the same time every day. I never thought it was too much to ask to feed them at a regular time. Let’s face it, dogs have not too much excitement in their lives. They don’t go to work, don’t go to church, don’t go dancing or partying. Dogs, at least our dogs, have little social life, they don’t know about Christmas, New Years, Easter, Thanksgiving. They HEAR about 4th of July via the fireworks. Is it too surprising that the one thing they get to enjoy, get excited about… having a meal… is a cause for dancing and barking and impatient waiting. The only other thing they get to do is bark at dogs going by the house and the occasional car trip.

    Personally, I like eating at about the same time every day and don’t think it is too much trouble if the dogs like a sense of order. Dogs are naturally creatures of habit and it doesn’t seem like too much of a burden to e to feed them on a schedule!!!

    • I feel exactly as you do. Plus, my greyhounds have always been used to a more regulated routine, so, even though we are all now retired, I try to keep them on a fairly even schedule.

    • Agree with you Patrick. Our dogs eat twice a day and it’s within a half hour of the same time every day. This helps transition during DST changes. We also have other cues besides walking into the kitchen so they don’t expect to be fed every time we go into the kitchen at 7 am or 5 pm. One is putting their bowls down on the dog side of the counter, which after being washed are put in another place. We put their bowls on the counter and start preparing their meals and that’s when they start going crazy. We also have to feed them on schedule because of their meds, some of which have to be given with meals.

    • If you’d like to provide them with a little excitement, get a snuffle mat or make one. That way they can eat their kibble, plus have a bit of hide and seek fun with it. Would liven their days and relieve some boredom. I find a bored dog can bee an annoying dog. When they find something to keep themselves amused it is usually an activity about which I will not be pleased.

  9. My work hours are very irregular. The dogs luckily haven’t gotten set on specific mealtimes. The cats, on the other hand, simply take those few hour windows to be terrible the entire time, just in case.

  10. My daughters dogs eat on the dot and they start the begging and staring ten minutes before it’s”time” to eat. I feed my dog at whenever schedule. I’m happy with it and I think he is as well . I don’t experience the begging or any barking. I do think different breeds are more food driven, that being said I have a Malinois my daughter has labs.

  11. My 14 yo will certainly die if she doesn’t get fed, pretty much on time. You can see her drop 10 pounds in a matter of seconds and in minutes, she will be transparent. She is fine if we are not home on time LOL. We have had her 4 years, she was pretty thin when we got her and still keeps her girlish figure. On the other hand, the11 yo only has to walk by food and she gains a pound.

  12. I have been following the Absolute Dogs folks recommendations about Ditch the Bowl (as well as Ditch the Routine). So dogs get food at irregular times, and not as a meal, but here and there as training treats or enrichment (Kongs, likimats, puzzle toys) or scatter feeding, as when noises pop up outside, and so forth. So not two big meals, but food here and there as is useful. One thing I do for Ditch the Routine is to not walk twice in a row in the same location; I pop a dog in the car and drive to a different neighborhood, park, etc. All this has increased the desire for food for the dog that has always been a bit iffy and choosey about his food. For the other, this was never a problem! This non-routine routine seems to be working well. Hardest part is keeping track of whether they are getting too much food.

    • Interesting. Although I walk in different directions, I walk my dog in the same neighborhood, covering about four blocks. Last night I had to walk back from a friend’s house, same neighborhood, but farther away. He pulled and acted like an idiot till we reached four blocks out and suddenly, perfect loose leash walking. Hmm. Lesson learned…thanks!

    • I use a similar feeding strategy. I measure out the daily kibble ration (based on what I will supplement with Kongs, training treats, canned food, etc) and put it in a few containers around the house. The goal is to empty the containers each day. Sometimes I just dump one of them on the floor or even in a bowl near the end of the day, if needed. If I give an unexpected Kong or excessive hi-value training food, I omit the kibble.

      My dogs aren’t super active, so I need to be mindful of their kcal intake. This works for us.

  13. We have always had approximate meal times, with dinner somewhere in a two hour range and occasionally a bit longer wait. Really cuts down on the stress when I am delayed, the aggravation with Daylight Savings and is especially good when we travel – lots of dog sports means we are often on the road when some dogs may be eating. Works for me, except I do feed the others even if someone has to miss a meal. I put the dog who can’t be fed in the car, come back and feed the others, then take the dog who was in the car for a short walk.

    Sending Best Wishes to Otto for positive results.

    • I do the same thing about putting one dog in the car. The only time I can’t feed one of my two dogs is if one is going to the vet’s for something, so the dog left behind gets fed but the other dog doesn’t have to see him eat. Works well for both dogs, but then again my dogs are in and out of the car going places at least once a day, if not more, so they are used to their car crates.

  14. With all of my pets throughout my life I have never had an exact meal time. Generally within a few hours time but not written in stone. Currently we have 2 male German Shepherd mix pups. I take them out to *potty* after I have finished my morning routine then feed them breakfast. Back out approx 45 mins later, 4 hours later lunch and out, again for dinner, then out 1or 2 times before bed. They are doing great with this routine that is not an exact time schedule. I say, to each their own. If you want to have a set time, great! If not, all good! 🙂

    • Mealtimes are flexible but within an hour or so…I’m fortunate, my 3 year old Shih Tzu is not that demanding about food. We “ditched the bowl” and feed in all different ways; you have to be more imaginative with raw but can make it work!

      I do hope Otto is ok – have you tried mashed green (unripe) banana to help with the acid reflux? That helped my Shih Tzu (and me!). She is only just over 7kg so had a tsp a day for 3 weeks, then twice a week (approximately, I don’t always remember!). Previously she couldn’t go more than 4 hours without bringing up foam and bile but this has sorted her and she happily goes 10 hours through the night now without food. I mash or blend the bananas (sometimes grocery store staff will produce really green ones from out the back if you ask!) and then freeze in ice cube trays. Hope this helps someone, it was a human nutritionist whom told me – I like things to have bern tested on people first!

  15. Our English Lab/Mastiff gets fed at a fairly regular time. Being an extremely chill dog, he lays down and waits for his dad to finish “decompressing” from his day in the evening. Mornings, he gets fed after the coffee’s made and before my husband makes his lunch.

    He is (to put it mildly) an enthusiastic eater, so we had a potter friend make a bowl with raised ridges to slow him down (you can buy them too). They do work very well.

  16. My dogs feeding schedule is the same time each morning & evening without fail.
    When I was on a relaxed time frame, my female dog would vomit yellow bile.
    This is a healthy dog otherwise…
    I asked my vet when I took her in for a check up for this reason, we had the conversation on feeding.
    My vet asked if I had a feeding schedule…yes, but it maybe that I am late about an hour in the morning and also in the evening sometimes.
    He told me to not do that because bile irritates the stomach and when they have to wait too long in between feedings bile will result and she will vomit.
    Ever since I took his advice, all is good.
    So, in the best interest of my dogs health, without fail feeding time is spot on everyday.
    As far as one not being feed due to surgery…I also have two dogs and when one had to be spayed and the other neutered, I took them in very early morning before their normal feeding time …..so, when I got home, the other dog would be fed at its normal time…pretty simple!

  17. I am a physician so I know human physiology better than dogs. I have read often than it is better for human health to eat at regular times everyday. It creates a reliable cycle daily (an “internal clock”) for your stomach, gallbladder, and pancreas to start making digestive enzymes and hormones, when mealtime approaches. It is much better for the body, than eating at all different times.
    I would guess it is the same in dogs, but I’d like to have a vet weigh in on this. So . . . If I were hungry and was creating stomach acid and pancreatic enzymes to eat, I’d hate to have someone say “No, wait. You will eat later.”

    I love my dogs and look at their mealtimes as a great joy for them (as a previous commenter said.) At 5:00pm my dogs start dancing and coming up to me wagging their tails, and I feed them! I love their happiness about things, and it makes me happy too! My dogs bring me so much joy that I cannot stand to feel that “YES, I SEE that you are telling me that you want to eat, but I WON’T let you.”
    Then why have a dog, just to exert YOUR power over them? Get a fish

  18. 8:15 AM for breakfast, 5 PM for dinner. At home or on the road… in our kitchen or a hotel room… 8:15 AM for breakfast, 5 PM for dinner. Only Sunday is different when they’re in church at 5 PM. Home by 6:30 and dinner at 7 PM on Sundays.

    Everything is a routine in our family. My wife says I’m CDO (alphabetical version of OCD). I learned it from the WW2 vets that raised me. “Do everything the same way every time. That way, when you get shot, the next guy can step in and pick up right where you left off. The mission gets completed no matter how many guys it takes to get it done.”

    And the dogs seem to appreciate the regular routine. We’ve had some hilarious moments together when they’re trying to remind me that’s dinner time :).

  19. My dogs get fed 3 times a day, in the past I had 2 dogs that needed this, I found it so convenient that I still do it even though they went to the Rainbow Bridge 10 years ago. I usually feed within a 30 minute timetable and the rarely pester me. If I won’t be home for their feed time I either feed them early or they wait until I come home depending on what time I am leaving the house. I have 4 dogs now, if one has to have no breakfast or any reason my other dogs still get their breakfast, I put the dog going to the vets in another room with the door shut. The think getting fed an hour early when the clocks go forward is wonderful, they don’t react when the clocks go back an hours. Dogs love routine but when something happens that the routine has to change, they cope very well and I don’t have any problems with them.

  20. With dogs with medical issues, it becomes a challenge to not feed on time. Bile vomit can arise from many medical issues not just GI related. Caution is definitely required for senior dogs and medically challenged dogs.

    • We had a diabetic cat who also suffered from pica. It was difficult to manage his diabetes if he didn’t eat on a regular, set schedule, and more difficult to manage his pica if he couldn’t “graze” on his kibble throughout the day. We finally got him used to set meal times, but it was difficult not to kill him (not really, speaking metaphorically) during the process–with loud meows (that sounded like a child being tortured) and a claw in the ankle if you walked by. It was no fun for several weeks. But it was really necessary to feed him at regular times to help control his insulin and get his insulin shots (which, surprisingly, he didn’t seem to mind). We lost him last year and I still miss him terribly.

  21. Always been varied times. I don’t want my dog waking me up on a weekend or a day off if I want to sleep late. As it turns out, my dog will sleep as late as I let her! 🙂

    If I’m working from home, every once in a while my dog will do the “dinner dance.” It starts by her standing in the doorway just staring at me. Once I acknowledge her, she will run and get a toy. She’ll stand just outside my grasp, and if I reach for it she’ll drop it and run to the kitchen. Being a retriever, she KNOWS that she has to deliver the toy to my hand and not drop it on the floor. So, i call her, tell her fetch, and then start her dinner. But only if it really is (or should be) dinner time!

  22. I run a boarding kennels and cattery, so I feed at pretty much the same time every day otherwise the anticipatory barking can become quite deafening as well as raising stress levels in the dogs…and I’m neurotic about the possibility of Bloat and GDV in which stress can play a part. Obviously the time required to feed all the dogs will vary according to how many dogs are in boarding, but it doesn’t vary by more than about half an hour. My own dogs only get fed after the boarders and if a client arrives in between, they may have to wait a little longer than usual. They know the routine so well, but accept that they WILL be fed, albeit maybe half an hour later than normal sometimes. They do however lie at the gate between kennels and house to see what stage of the process I am at 😀.

  23. My husband is an early riser and feeds our dogs early. When he is out of town, the first morning is a challenge, because I don’t get up that early. “His” dog wil jump on me in bed and bark in my face. After that first day, I now lock him out of the bedroom and 5:00 a.m. breakfast comes between 6:30 and 7:00 at my convenience. For dinner, that always changes because of our dog training schedules. They don’t eat before evening trainin, which happens 3-4 nights a week. We can then adjust their dog food according to how many treats they have had. I wish I could look as good as my dogs.

    • I can commiserate. My husband pretty much insists that we feed the dogs at a particular time. I go along with it because (frankly), it isn’t worth fighting with him about and it isn’t harmful to the dogs (if I thought it was bad for the dogs, I’d got toe to toe with anyone who begged to differ). It isn’t a problem until he is late getting home from work. Then I am the one who has to deal with the pleading eyes and the “But, mom, we’re starving” hoots and hollers. I usually just go ahead and feed them myself (even though it’s usually something we enjoy doing together).

  24. We have a German Shephard rescue dog and trained him from when we first adopted him at 3 months, to sit and wait while we put his food bowl down. When we release him with “OK’ and/or pointing to the food bowl, he eats. He’s now 3.5 yrs old and does this without fail twice a day. He eats just before we do, and it’s usually 7-8am and 4:30-6pm. Sometimes he comes over and puts his head on my lap with the big eyes that seem to say “can you feed me now”. If I don’t, he lies down and waits. We did this with our last 2 dogs as well, and it makes mealtime so peaceful. We adjust the amount of food depending on how many training treats he has throughout the day.

  25. I have two food lovers who used to do the same thing even an hour before dinner. I set a reminder at dinnertime everyday on my Amazon echo. Now the dogs don’t act like that because Alexa is in charge of dinner time, not me. No more whining or heads in my lap or running into the kitchen when I go in there. They just patiently wait for Alexa’s reminder. It took only about three days for them to learn what Alexa’s announcement means. Before I had Alexa, I set the alarm on my phone.

  26. I have 2 dogs. I feed them when I get around to it usually twice a day. Mornings somewhere between 5am -8am and evenings between 330-7pm. they like to graze on there food unless it was an exceptionally busy play day the day before. Both dogs are very picky(if the kibble is stale) they may not eat at all. I often need to coax with high value treats (cooked chicken or beef) on top of the freeze dried raw with gravy to get them to eat.
    I think they may wish to sit at the table with the family to eat.
    Bottom line though my dogs only eat when they are hungry they do not eat if they are not hungry. I am fortunate to not have any feeding issues. My little 8lbs Shi-poo still wakes me up to go out for his busyness very early in the mornings.

    how I love my dogs
    I will do whatever it takes to keep them happy and healthy.

    My house is not a home without my dogs.

    Chantal

  27. I have used both regular feeding times and irregular feeding times. It depends on the dog I have at the time. Over all, with the malamutes I tried to keep feeding times within a specific range of time such as half an hour or so either way but with my current dog, he is perfectly happy being fed whenever I get around to it within an hour or so. I adopted him when he was 10 years old and he is more than happy with the life he is leading. His needs always come before mine though, because he is a very important member of my household. My dogs are treated the same as when I was growing up on the farm. My father always said look after the animals before you look after yourself. So when we were tired and hot, cold or freezing, the animals always were exercised, fed and watered before we went into the house.

  28. The Alexa reminder is brilliant. Also very funny. I had a similar situation with a dog that required meds twice a day, so I set my phone to quack at 8:00am and 8:00pm. Sometimes I’d still be at the gym at 8:00am and when my phone quacked, other gym goers would holler at me that it was time for my dog’s meds.

    As for feeding time, my dogs eat raw, once a day, in the evenings, right before bedtime (mine and theirs). They eat while I’m fixing my own dinner, then, since I don’t watch TV, we all head for the bedroom where I eat and read in comfort. A bonus is that they relax after dinner, as is advisable for breeds that tend to bloat, even though bloat is rare in raw fed dogs.

  29. To each his own but the only time my Rottie doesn’t get fed when asked at mealtime is when I am not at home. He is polite but I get a hard stare when it is time to eat and he gets a tiny bit when I eat something. I don’t see it as a problem because I am retired and with him a lot. He gives me so much, it is a pleasure to meet his needs (wants).

  30. I get up at 5AM and the dogs are out by 5:10. While the coffee is brewing, I prepare my dog’s breakfast along with their supplements. I put their food in their crates in the garage and let them in. Between 4:30 and 5:30PM, I feed them supper. The only time I see urgency is in the morning to get back in to eat. If I am late with supper, they don’t seem to really care as they would rather chase balls than eat.

  31. I prefer a set schedule – it works for us all. The time change is only an issue for one day, then everyone seems to adjust with no problems.
    My understanding is that dogs do better with a set routine – no matter if the routine Is food-related or something else.

  32. I mostly wing it, but try to not get too far off schedule. Since I, myself, do not have a set daily schedule, my hounds have learned to adapt and are quite patient with me- almost to the point that I might get engrossed in a project and lose track of time. My boys do get fed twice a day – breakfast and dinner. Sometimes they get fed first and then I feed myself and other times its reversed; it depends on how the day is going. However, I do have friends who have that demanding dog who knows time and it can be a real hassle for them, especially if “life happens” and the meal is not ready on time.

  33. I have two large rescue dogs, both pit-bull mixes. I have a general time when I feed them in the morning and evening but that varies on the weekend. I sleep later on the weekend and they have no problem with it or with daylight savings or variations in eating times. One of the dogs was so skinny when I got him and he ate so fast that he would choke himself. I tried hand feeding him, throwing down a couple kibble at a time, and a couple varieties of bowls made to slow down dogs. What I found works well is that I now mix some kind of wet dog food with his kibble. Both often get pumpkin or a half a can of wet food in the evening and in the morning they will get a half a can of wet dog food in the morning. All mixes well and the food sticks together so he has to eat it at a slower pace. He is still a fast eater but rarely does he choke himself.

  34. Our Lab will let me know its 4 pm time- time for dinner.. if it is earlier he know we gotta wait. At 4:00 he’s right there, or jumps in the air – straight up- to let me know its time. We recently switched his food to 1/2 kibble and 1/2 freeze dried raw. He stands next to me and chuffs, may let out a small whine- but waits for the food prep, which culminates in a small amount of pumpkin on top, of which he gets to lick the spoon. He then hurries to a spot he designated as the wait spot- and is on a Stay until I put the food down, sit down, and release him. He pretty much designed the scenario. It cracks us up. He hustles to his wait spot so fast he slightly tips over and catches himself before he tumbles. I do try to take him for a longer walk close to dinner time to mix up eating and get him used to a moving dinner hour. He’s good with all of it.

  35. As another stated earlier, sometimes the decision is more critical than others. One of our dogs has idiopathic epilepsy and takes phenobarbital at 12 hour intervals. This should be taken with food. My wife and I also work fulltime jobs with fairly normal work hours. My wife does the early feeding about 6 am and I do the late feeding about 6 pm. That makes it easy, the dog doesn’t have seizures, and everyone is happy.

  36. I sort of have a life beyond dogs, so dinner time can vary. Sometimes they’re screaming, starving maniacs when I get home; occasionally, they seem to have forgotten what they missed. I go with either. They get half a Nubz after breakfast, so they aren’t interested in me having a relaxing coffee before the morning routine. Fasting a full day? Ha! My life (and conscience) would suffer way too much.

  37. It is such a relief to hear someone saying fixed mealtimes are not necessary. My dog and cats go with the flow and
    know they “usually” get fed within an hour or so of when I get up. Since I’ve retired the time I get up is all over the
    map depending on what time we went to bed. Also there are occasional mornings when I’m selfish and eat first
    because I’m hungry but again they go with the flow. My previous dog did also. No one has died of starvation and
    they trust me that they will get fed.
    Thank you for saying my way is okay.

  38. mealtime at my house varies on the day of the week. As leave at different times during the week in the morning. The weekends are when ever I peel myself out of bed . Their evenings meals depend on when they were fed in the morning. I try to not to fed them too late tho.

  39. My terrier/lab (I think terrier/hound) male, Merle, has breakfast 1/2 hour after a long morning walk. Since I, a night owl, am working on sleeping longer, his breakfast is usually between 10:30 a.m. and noon. Dinner for him is 8:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., with the last walk 11:00 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. He is on Grandma Lucy’s Salmon Macanna to which I add poached in water wild caught Alaskan/Canadian Salmon and steamed organic veggies (tho not carrots). He eats what he wants, and I refrigerate the rest; he knows he has to eat his leftovers first at the next meal as we are not into wasting any type of food in our house. He’s just great at knowing when to stop eating; he has maintained a perfect, healthy weight! We have the world’s weirdest schedule; works for us, though. Sometimes he wants his leftovers when my husband is feeding his doggie dinner (5:00 p.m. ish). If Merle asks for the leftover bowl, he gets it. I still make a normal size dinner bowl and let him figure out how hungry he is. I really liked reading about all the different feeding methods and schedules. So wonderful to see so many people so involved with their dogs. Nice to know that there are all types of feeding schedules and non schedules and that dogs thrive under many circumstances. I think the key is to research the food you feed, see if supplementing with human food is a good thing for your dog (and I think it is if the dog is on kibble….how could something so processed and carb-heavy be healthy for all meals for an entire lifetime?). Remember, look at the ingredients on any manufactured dog food. Subtract the percentages of ingredients shown from 100%….the answer you get is carbohydrate. You’ll be amazed……that’s why my doggie gets salmon and fresh organic veggies in his bowl….otherwise even a high quality freeze dried food like Grandma Lucy’s is too carb heavy.

  40. My dogs, four Dachshunds ranging from two to seven, have breakfast between 8-9 and dinner between 6:30-7:30, most days. If there is an early, fasting vet appointment, I usually wait to feed everyone; if the appointment is later in the day, or not local, I do feed the others and the patient just doesn’t get any, but by the same token, when the patient gets home, he eats and the others get nothing. My situation is a little complicated since one has EPI. Because of the rigid protocol, everyone is used to seeing her get a little food mixture and then waiting 15-20 minutes for the main meal. It works for us.

  41. I do not feed my girl (2 yr.old Beagle mix) at regular times and she’s fine with it. She expects her food when she sees me pick up her bowl. I am also the full time caregiver for my severely autistic adult son, and we don’t have a set sleep/awake schedule. I just try to make sure she’s fed within 12 hours of her last meal. She also has treats a couple times a day. My husband will feed her at mealtime if I’m sleeping and she goes downstairs. But since she’s usually sleeping right next to me, she doesn’t always wake up for meals!

  42. I used to have a meal schedule with my previous three dogs and yes, that inner alarm was most inconvenient. My current dog is on a much more relaxed schedule. I did schedule her nap times on the dot (and crated) and now at almost 15 months she is following them pretty well even though she is no longer sleeping in the crate and free to nap whenever she wants.

    She gets breakfast when I get up, which varies from day to day. I’m retired so I have no set schedule except my own and it’s pretty loose. Dinner is likewise pretty loose. Could be any time from 4:30 to 6:30.

    My last dog used to bug me for treats with the nose flip. His last few years I indulged him for most of these requests because, well, he was old and I didn’t know how much longer I’d have him (14 years and 9 months) and he would be content with one small treat.

    My current dog could eat a full breakfast and then eat a constant stream of treats until dinner so she is kept to a strict limit as to how many and what kind of treats. They are given randomly and she much work for them. This also helps reinforce training. Right now she’s on some meds and she must work for those hot dogs that contain her pills. No free rides for her and no rewarding for asking. She may get a surprise bully stick at random, just for being her.

    Because of this random schedule I don’t have to deal with her crying, whining and barking to wake me up in the morning because I want to sleep in an extra half hour.

  43. I pretty much do as you do. However I have another problem. He doesn’t get many treats, just at special times. He gets one after his last outing at night just before we go to bed,. around 10pm Over the last two years he has managed to now get that treat at 9pm. He seems to have an internal clock, he starts barking anywhere between 8 and 8:30 but I refuse to give in. I tell him it’s too early and I swear he know what I am talking about. Also I tell him he has to go out and go potty and he goes out on the porch and when he sees me turn around he runs back in, uh uh, like I really believer he went out in the yard. I let him think he fools me.

  44. I thought I was random, and that does apply to breakfast. But Harry’s internal clock for dinner showed up at the last time change. He started lobbying for dinner 1 1/2 hours prior to dinnertime. Realized it was “jet lag” from the time change as well as a fairly set 6pm dinnertime. There was a disappointed and impatient pooch for about 3 weeks until the “jet lag” wore off. Happens every year in fall, I had just forgotten. They do like routine.

  45. And off topic, but I had a Westie girl who would stop whatever she was doing and get a drink at 9:30 pm. You could set your watch by it. I still chuckle about it (she is long gone). Wonder if anyone else has experienced something similar?

    • My dog used to have a randomish schedule. He will happily sleep as late as I do and eat when we get up. But recently he got anaplasmosis (which went undiagnosed for a few weeks and settled in his kidneys) and is on meds every 12 hours, plus he had an added bonus of pancreatitis at the same time, so he is on a third med for that. So basically he gets a small meal with his meds about every 6 hours. This has become a big habit and now he lets me know when its mealtime! Sometimes his stomach hurts from the pancreas and when that happens he will come and stand on whatever item of furniture I am on, and look me right in the face. I feed him immediately when this happens. Even just a few dog cookies will help. He has not taken advantage of this or tried to turn it into a way to get extra treats. He only does it when he is in pain and food will help.

  46. Because I work part time my dogs must be fed at different times, although on the days I don’t work, I aim for 6 p.m. +/-. On the evenings that I work they get fed as soon as I get home–usually closer to 8 p.m. and they don’t seem to care one way or another. Mornings are iffy: they get fed when I get up and get dressed. Both are good sleepers, so they are willing to stay in bed as long as I do. My eating habits are flexible, so my dogs’ are as well.

  47. We go with the flow. There is no set routine although I wish sometimes we did walk more…but AM’s we snuggle until I have to get up and get dressed for work; fresh water and a cup of food is always available, but typically uneaten until I get home and we eat something within an hour or so depending on if it will be frozen or I’m cooking, and of course there are treats in the AM and one before bed.

  48. I don’t have an AM feeding because I never want my dogs excercising on a full tummy, and also because I use treats on off leash hikes to reinforce good behavior, and think treats are valued more by hungry, rather than satiated dogs. Their night feeding time varies quite a bit, anytime from 6PM to 10PM depending on what we are doing. Altho they really enjoy their food, they never seem concerned.

  49. Our dog is a bad eater who gets even more finicky when stressed. Routine helps him feel calmer so we have a set routine – but not a set time. Walks and meals follow each other in the same rhythm each day but an early weekday it might mean we do our morning walk at 7 am and he eats before 8 am – on a late weekend morning we might walk after 9 am and he eats around 10:30 am etc. We’ve tried to sometimes change it up but he doesn’t take to it, he’s a finicky eater especially when stressed so if things get too strange he just won’t eat at all.

  50. My 18# mini-Schnauzer / Shih Tzu mix would never even consider eating dry kibble (3 days no eat …“I’m not eating this junk”) … loves Stella & Chewy and Primal Freeze Dried. I feed her from 8:00 AM ± 30 min and at 6 PM ± 30 min. She never begs for food (never feed from table) but does watch when I start to rehydrate it. She is excited to follow but waits patiently until I tell her to eat. Going into the backyard or for a walk is a different excitement … Jumps and round & round in circles or goes to look up at her harness and leash to request a walk. Hunts in the back yard 5-8 times a day. Will respond to “later” but will return within 20-30 min to “request” backyard trip usually to hunt. She early on learned that demanding did not work ( I would not respond) so she asks to go out by licking my hand. I am 79 and love this little rescue dog and her refined manners.

  51. Three of my 5 dogs have a perfect clock and let me know when it is time to eat. That said, they are patient when I have to vary the schedule and when we are traveling for trials. It works out – I find it a rather endearing quality that they can tell time 🙂

  52. We like on a farm with four working dogs and one house dog. They have no idea what a schedule is other than they will be fed in the morning and evening…at some point. The old blind house dog is closest to a schedule. She is blind from SARDS and is more driven to eat and does better on a schedule. Like you, we try to keep it within an hour or two. Our own meals don’t even have a schedule. Like the house dog I eat closer to a schedule as per health requirement but still not a dedicated schedule. Onward and upward at our home.

  53. Great article & comments on how different we all are. And while I know this is WDJ, my two have the dubious distinction of living with three felines – they are the truly discontent. And while our furry, fanged family can generally expect to eat within the same two hour window morning & evening, life does happen. We have housesitters with different schedules, sometimes we have to leave extra early (granted, they normally think it’s amazing to be roused from sleep to be fed a meal), sometimes we have to come home late. And horror of horrors to the dogs- they have to fast every Friday night. We did choose that night because it is the night we are most likely to be out. So you could say we have flexibility within predictability in our family. Bon Appetit!

  54. Meal time around my house with 5 terriers is pretty fluid. I feed once per day, in the evening, around 7:00. I will feed them earlier, but try to avoid later. They don’t demand food, and don’t get excited until I say, “get in your boxes”. With 5 male terriers, and 1 or 2 foster terriers in the house, they all are fed in wire crates lined up in my craftroom. It just keeps me sane, and prevents piggy behavior. Oh, and I do fast all the dogs once per week – on Fridays when I take my parents out to dinner. The boys all know that day each week that mom comes home really late means they all go to bed hungery!

  55. I have an AmStaff/Great Pyrenees rescue (Skye) and a LH Dachshund (Mia). They never get insistent about their food. I feed twice a day. No set time. They both will sit in the kitchen on their respective “anti fatigue” mats if I’m in the kitchen for any reason. My big dog just watches me with this pensive look like Eeore while the Doxie stares at me in eager anticipation tail wagging a mile a minute. I used to feed them both in the kitchen, but then I realized the Doxie had her bluff in on her big sister banishing her away from her elevated feeding stand with just a intimidating glance. So I moved the big dog (65lbs) to another room that can be closed off with a gate from the persistently glutenous (13 lb) Doxie. 🙄. Now I don’t worry about Mia over eating on the sly and Skye getting all of her portion of food. 🤗

  56. I I purchased locally two of those dog food bowls with tunnels and curves in them to slow down my golden retriever voracious eating.. and they work perfect…he has to go round and round and into each little crevice to retrieve his food.. but them they are worth it, home goods, tj maxx, marshals all had them…

  57. My husband (a thoroughbred horse trainer) enjoys feeding the dogs, and he is a man of schedule and routine.
    He takes the three Border Collies in the Dog/Peace Mobile (No one ever fights in the Dog Mobile) to his breakfast place, and they sit in the Blazer and look around.
    They are totally Jazzed about going, although they do nothing.
    He feeds them their morning milk at the same time, and he does dinner at 5pm.
    All they DO is bother him from 3pm on… The puppy being the ambassador of hunger and a chow hound to boot.
    He has taken to warming their milk… Really!!!… And using kitchen shears to cut up the raw chicken legs (BARF diet) a little so the poor helpless dears can manage to consume it… (Eye rolls)

    When he went away on a trip, I took over the feeding.
    This is what I do to change the dynamic:
    The first day I blow their minds by feeding them at 3pm.
    Feeding time STOPS when the puppy (chow hound) gets through her Fifth or last chicken leg.
    If anyone (my 11 year old BC) is still lording it over her food, in an attempt to bait the others into trying to eat it… Giving her a chance to zoom in and bully them… And, one chicken leg is where she is at… One is all she gets for that day.

    Then I wait until 6pm the next day. I don’t take any guff about being fussy, either.
    I don’t warm milk, or cut their food up for them. (More Eye Rolls)
    I hand it to them whole or chuck it to them.
    By the second day, the recalcitrant 11 year old is suddenly uninterested in baiting and bullying. And, she eats her food with no problem.
    NO ONE gets to bother me over it.
    I tell them “Not yet, Go lie down somewhere!”
    And, that’s what they do.
    But, I am a Canine trainer, and know better than to let them take control.

    I have pointed out to my Husband that he trains HERD animals, and I train the Pack Carnivores that eat them… It is two different scenarios.
    But, since he enjoys it so much, and gets something out of the interaction, the most I do is tease him for being such a softy.

  58. If my dog gets me up a little early, after he goes outside, he gets to eat right away…or else his built-in anxiety takes away from MY relaxing cup of coffee. (and that won’t do) For his later meal, it is usually within a half hour of the targeted time. He used to get a small midday meal, but he slowly stopped eating that one and now inhals all of his late meal.

    Gotta love ’em!

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