Many of you have heard of the "No Free Lunch" program. It's something we've encouraged a lot of our clients and friends to implement in their lives. For those of you haven't heard of it I'm going to give you the basic layout of what the program entails as well as what some of the benefits are.
This program, also referred to as, “Nothing in Life is Free”, was designed by Dr. Victoria Voith. It's very helpful in curing many unwanted behaviors in both puppies and adult dogs alike. It's never too late or too early to introduce it to your dog so don't be afraid to start implementing it today. From the name you can gather that this philosophy is based on the dog having to work for rewards. The rewards that the dog works for are different than you might expect though. Using this program a dog is required to perform a behavior when asked for nearly anything in life including but not limited to; going outside, coming inside, affection, food, treats, toys, praise, being picked up, being allowed into a room, and even eye contact. Believe it or not this is very similar to the way things work in a pack. A dog is rarely given much freedom to eat or socialize with pack leaders until the pack leader initiates contact.
It's best to start with basic things. For a dog which is new to the program a short sit before being allowed outside or to eat a meal is all that's really required. It's important to start ignoring contact with your dog until you have initiated it as well. Things such as your dog nuzzling your hand to receive petting must be channeled in a different direction so that the dog feels he has to earn it as opposed to feeling like he can turn affection on and off like a light switch. If your dog solicits attention from you by barking, pawing, whining, nipping, mouthing, or any other nuisance behavior than simply count to five in your head and then ask your dog to perform a simple task for you. As your dog progresses with the program you can start to increase the challenge. Require your dog to do harder commands such as a long down stay, or perhaps add some higher distractions. Another important step is to implement timed feedings 2-3 times per day. This means that when you set your dogs food down you only leave it down for ten minutes and then come back by and pick it up.
A lot of people view this philosophy as being mean or just plain rude to your dog. The opposite is true. We could not be speaking a more clear language to our dogs than what this program outlines. It triggers some of the most primal and deeply rooted instincts that our dogs carry. Not only will the program eliminate a lot of nuisance behaviors but it will also establish you as the pack leader in your home. This is huge from a training perspective. Without the dog feeling you are a leader than training becomes nearly impossible. Even humans have a hard time listening and obeying someone they don't respect. Imagine how hard it is for an animal with even stronger pack instincts than us!
The benefits from a trainers perspective are not the only benefits you can receive from this program. I've recently heard from three veterinarians who all agree that there can be health benefits to this program as well. A dog who is well balanced is less likely to be destructive around the home which means less chances for dangerous situations. However I was very suprised when all three really supported the 2-3 timed feedings per day as well. They said this can eliminate problems with bloating, gas, vomitting, stool eating, and other unhealthy reactions. With 2-3 feedings daily the food is allowed to digest properly as opposed to one big bowl being plopped down all day everyday.
The "No Free Lunch" program is an extremely healthy, safe, and effective way for you to get one step closer in having a balanced dog. Implement it into your life today and you will see some great results. Just like any training method consistency is the name of the game though so make sure your following through every step of the way.