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Parker, 16 week old standard poodle
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We're really confused about how to feed our poodle, Parker (female standard, 16 weeks old). Our breeder was insistent that we let the puppy free feed, while our vet insists that we provide 3 meals a day and remove anything that's left after 20 minutes. We've been straddling the two approaches, giving about 1.5 cups of food in the morning and then giving 1 to 2 more cups at various times during the day. Sometimes Parker will gobble everything in less than 5 minutes, and sometimes she won't eat it all. We haven't been taking away her bowl if she doesn't finish what we've given her in 20 minutes, we just leave it. Needless to say, this is very stressful because even at 16 weeks we have absolutely no established schedule for taking her out and we're still having pee accidents in the house every other day or so, sometimes several a day (though luckily no poo accidents). In addition, she seems to have a bit of a sensitive stomach and sometimes throws up. We've been several times to the vet and she's putting on weight well and is healthy, but the lack of schedule and routine is getting to us. Would love any suggestions as to how to deal with this - should we feed her 3 meals a day as the vet suggested, always have food in her bowl during the day as the breeder suggests, or provide a set amount of food a few times a day and leave it out if she doesn't finish? Thanks in advance for any advice.
 

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We struggled with this, too. My last girl was free fed for most of her life, but developed an insiatiable appetite with Cushing's Disease in her senior years. I assumed we'd free feed Peggy, too, but our trainer was quite firm on this: Get that puppy on a routine.

So Peggy now gets two meals a day (your puppy would get three): Wet food and kibble, in two separate dishes. The kibble is left down. The wet food is lifted after 30 minutes.

It's a good compromise. If she finishes the kibble (which is rare) we top it up. If she's going through a growth spurt, she'll eat about three times the kibble she does on a normal day.

I like that she knows how to self-moderate.

I also have a "treat kibble" (a different brand) which she gets by hand during our evening training and occasionally throughout the day. She also gets a quarter cup in her crate at night, which she always gobbles down. If she doesn't get a bedtime snack, as with many dogs, she's prone to morning vomiting.

All this to say.... You've gotta do what works for you and your poodle.
 

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I strongly agree with Peggy - it's best to offer food, wait 20 minutes, then pick up anything not eaten.
 

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Each dog is different but I’m a strong believer in regular meals but always adjusting as needed. We do a lot of training before meals. Just a few quick things each meal but over time it adds up to a lot of training and consistency. Food becomes a strong motivator which is excellent for training. Bobby was fed 3 times a day plus a couple of snacks along with in between training treats until 6 months then we decreased to 2 full meals which is still the case. 6 months isn’t necessarily the magic number. We just noticed by that age he was ready for 2 meals. I think it’s just much easier to monitor and adjust amounts and to keep track of in case there is a problem. I think they enjoy their food more too when they are hungry. 😊 Bobby always gets a bedtime snack as he barfs when his tummy is too empty.
 

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Parker, 16 week old standard poodle
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Thank you all for your advice! I'm going to go with your suggestions and provide 3 meals a day at the same times each day, and take the food away after 20-30 minutes if there's any left. I'll let you know how it goes!
 

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Thank you all for your advice! I'm going to go with your suggestions and provide 3 meals a day at the same times each day, and take the food away after 20-30 minutes if there's any left. I'll let you know how it goes!
Just keep in mind that puppy caloric needs can fluctuate wildly. Peggy would go days barely eating, and then eat like a horse for a week. I think it's a worth a little flexibility to support those periods of growth.

She wasn't being "picky" on the off days. She just didn't need as much.

Some breeds aren't as good at self-moderating and will eat themselves sick if given the chance.
 

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Poodles are very good at not being gluttonous. Lily has weighed right around 36-37 pounds her entire adult life. Early on we free fed her and Peeves and they did just fine with that. When Javelin was a pup he was a voracious eater so we meal fed dry food on a schedule for a while. Nobody loved that too well. Then I switched to home cooking for them and since they liked their food much better they adjusted more to meal feeding and that is still where we are.

The main thing I can say about set meal times for puppies is that it does help get a potty schedule in order. That is really important of course.
 
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I think it depends a bit on the needs of the household. Free feeding clearly doesn't work if a dog is prone to resource guarding, or if a dog is prone to overeating, or if an open food bowl attracts vermin. Some people believe bloat is more common in dogs that gorge; permitting deep chested dogs to graze, if the dogs are able to self regulate, is healthier. I don't know that the relationship has been proven one way or another, but I see no harm in allowing a dog to graze if there are no other extenuating circumstances.

Once Pogo and Snarky were full grown I gave them two meals per day, but I let them take as long as they wanted to finish it. Usually they would ignore breakfast until 10 AM or so. Then they would eat about half. Some time later in the day they would go back and finish the rest. The same thing happened at supper: they would eat about half and then finish off the rest as a midnight snack. I knew to increase their ration if they are all the food in one go.

Galen was underweight when I got him, and he had an insatiable appetite. I fed him four times a day. I wanted him on a schedule for housebreaking, and I also didn't want him eating until he puked. Now that he is almost grown I've switched him to the twice daily schedule. Like Pogo and Snarky, he grazes throughout the day.
 

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using kibble for training is also a good idea, especially with a puppy.

free feeding takes the value out of the food, and from my understanding poodles are very fussy eaters,
 
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Keep a record of when you feed, and when puppy poops. A schedule is a must when housebreaking. Writing down eating times, snack time, play time, training time. Should show you some schedule.
I agree with the 20 minute rule for meals. A regular schedule will keep you and puppy sane (at least for awhile)
 

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I think free feeding does decrease the value of food and can be a disincentive for resource guarding. That combined with BF on the kitchen floor with his hands in their bowls playing silly games means we can interrupt eating with no problems for any oddball reason needed. If you do it fairly making dogs wait in front of their food or stop eating is an astounding impulse control game. Just don't overdo any of it or it will be annoying and unfair.
 

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I think you should feed four times a day for a few days, then go to three. Because this is an inside dog, you need to regulate food so you can have control of potty. When she is older you can move to either twice a day or free feed, whatever works for you and your dog. We free fed our standard poodle when I was feeding kibble and he self regulated what he ate. I have found that if a dog is food motivated, he will train for food even if he is full. But, if training, I would hold out some of the kibble for the training so you don't have to worry about over feeding.
 

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We free feed. Our first spoo had the appetite of a Labrador and had to be fed meals, but her juniors were skinny for their entire lives and we switched to free feeding after the oldest died. Our new guy nibbles all day long but so far he's skinny. Despite free access to food, he's always happy to take a treat.
 
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