The Downsides of Free Feeding Your Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu, with its friendly disposition and adorable face, is a beloved companion in many households. One common approach to feeding these little dogs is free feeding, where food is made available to them at all times. While it might seem convenient and loving, free feeding can lead to a host of issues, particularly for a breed prone to obesity and dental problems. This article will explore the cons of free feeding your Shih Tzu, providing insights into why this might not be the best feeding strategy for your furry friend.

The Risk of Obesity

Free feeding a Shih Tzu can often lead to overeating, as the constant availability of food does not limit their intake. Shih Tzus are not known for their self-restraint when it comes to food, and without structured meal times, they can easily consume more calories than they expend. This caloric surplus can lead to obesity, a condition that is associated with a myriad of health issues including joint problems, diabetes, and decreased life expectancy.

Difficulty in Monitoring Food Intake

When food is always available, it becomes challenging to monitor how much your Shih Tzu is eating. This is particularly problematic if your dog needs to be on a specific diet due to health issues. Without the ability to track consumption, it’s difficult to adjust food quantities to meet their health requirements, potentially exacerbating existing conditions or contributing to new ones.

Dental Health Concerns

Increased Risk of Dental Disease

Free feeding can contribute to poor dental health in Shih Tzus. Chewing dry food can have a mild cleaning effect on a dog’s teeth, but when dogs graze all day, they may not chew their food as thoroughly. This can lead to plaque buildup, tartar, and eventually, dental disease, which is a common problem in small breeds.

The Perils of Constant Snacking

Constant access to food means that Shih Tzus are more likely to snack throughout the day. This continuous intake can disrupt the natural balance of saliva and bacteria in their mouths, further contributing to dental issues. Regular meal times, conversely, allow the mouth to rest and saliva to effectively cleanse the teeth and gums.

Behavioral Issues and Food Guarding

Development of Possessive Behaviors

Free feeding can inadvertently encourage possessive behaviors over food. Shih Tzus may start to guard their food bowl, showing aggression towards humans or other pets that come near it. This possessiveness can lead to problematic behaviors that are difficult to correct and can disrupt the harmony of a household.

Lack of Routine Can Lead to Anxiety

Dogs generally thrive on routine, and feeding is a significant part of their daily schedule. Free feeding eliminates this structured aspect of their day, which can lead to anxiety and stress. Establishing set meal times helps provide a sense of security and routine, contributing to a happier, more balanced dog.

Difficulty in Training

Training is an essential aspect of dog ownership, and food is often used as a reward. If a Shih Tzu has constant access to food, it diminishes the value of food as a motivational tool. This can make training more challenging, as food rewards are less enticing to a dog that can eat whenever it wants.

Impact on Social Behaviors

Dogs that free feed may have less opportunity to interact with their owners during meal times, which can be an important bonding experience. Structured feeding allows for positive interactions between dogs and their humans, reinforcing social bonds. Missing out on these moments can affect the overall relationship and may lead to a more independent and less sociable dog.

Increased Risk of Gastrointestinal Issues

Free feeding can lead to irregular eating patterns, which may disrupt a Shih Tzu’s digestive system, leading to gastrointestinal issues such as bloating or diarrhea. Regular meal times help maintain a consistent digestion process, contributing to better overall gut health.

Challenges in Weight Management

Without the ability to control the amount of food consumed, managing a Shih Tzu’s weight becomes a significant challenge. Obesity in dogs can be difficult to reverse and can lead to long-term health issues. Controlled feeding is essential in preventing weight gain and in managing weight loss in overweight dogs.

Considering free feeding for your Shih Tzu? Explore our articles on Shih Tzu feeding tips, Shih Tzu food options, Shih Tzu food allergies, feeding Shih Tzu in different life stages, and benefits of coat brushing for Shih Tzu before making a decision!


While free feeding might seem like a convenient and carefree way to feed your Shih Tzu, the potential cons far outweigh the perceived benefits. From health risks such as obesity and dental problems to behavioral issues and difficulties in training, the drawbacks are significant. Implementing structured meal times can aid in preventing these issues, fostering a healthier, happier, and well-behaved Shih Tzu. Remember, the way we choose to feed our pets can have a profound impact on their health and well-being, making it crucial to consider the best feeding practices for their needs.

Britta Thygesen

Britta Thygesen

A passionate dog owner and a full-time certified dog trainer. Aspires to make DogCareHacks a go-to place for all the doggo info. Shares personal experience and professional knowledge.

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