Gayle Nastasi, animal consultant and author
I have been a follower of Dr. Ian Dunbar, considered by many to be the top canine behaviorist of our time, since the 1990s. Dr. Dunbar is well known for his Sirius Puppy Training program, is the founder of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, and has written numerous books and created many videos on dog behavior and training. He was one of the initiators of relationship-based positive dog training, and still, today, works tirelessly to help owners improve their relationships with their canine friends.
In addition to having all of his books, and having taken numerous online seminars and workshops with Dunbar, I am also a member of the Dunbar Academy website, which has a vast library of written, audio, and video knowledge. The site is primarily run by Dr. Dunbar and his family.
Many of my doggy clients have heard me speak of “Nothing In Life Is Free (referred to by many trainers as NILIF).” That is the process of teaching a dog to turn over control of his resources (and as a result, his anxieties over territory, food, and a slew of other stresses), by asking the dog to “say please” (by sitting) for everything he wants. Part of this plan is to hand-feed your dog his dinner, which builds a relationship of trust.
Ian Dunbar’s approach (along with a few other trainers who follow a similar philosophy of relationship-building) is to eliminate the food bowl altogether.
If your dog has any behavior issues that need working on, or is simply in need of basic manners training, he recommends that you find a high quality kibble for your dog’s main diet, measure out his ration for the day in the morning, and dip into that all day long as training treats and rewards for good behavior, or, during the hours the dog must be alone or in quiet-time, in stuffed chew toys like Kongs.
This turns your entire relationship with your dog into a day-long training opportunity, and builds a bond with him that is based on trust and leadership.
For more information on how the process works, here is a short video by Jamie Dunbar (Dr. Dunbar’s son), hosted on the Dunbar Academy’s sister site, DogStarDaily:
More on this, and a treasure trove of other training and behavior information, can be learned through the courses on the Dunbar Academy website. There are various levels of courses, ranging from free resources, to the full Top Dogs Academy subscription. DogStarDaily.com has also been a favorite doggy resource of mine for many years.
I, personally, haven’t had the opportunity yet to use this lifestyle approach with my own dog (Ryder being embarrassingly well-behaved), though I have had great success with the NILIF program with previous canine friends. To me, “ditching the food bowl” makes a great deal of sense as a way to expand on NILIF and make life one big happy training game and relationship-building opportunity.
Have you used this type of full-immersion training with your dogs? If so, feel free to comment and let me know how it worked for you.
In the spirit of transparency: The links to Dunbar Academy will connect you to my affiliate account, should you chose to purchase any of the paid items you find there. If you decide you would like to purchase one of the stand-alone courses on Dunbar Academy, email me first, and I can provide a discount code. However, there is a great deal of free information as well, so enjoy the site, as well as DogStarDaily.com!