Dog Training Tip: Nothing In Life Is Free

Does your dog boss you around? Maybe he pushes his head in your lap, demanding attention. He might refuse to come when called, or ignore commands such as “sit”, “stay”, or “down”.

Nothing In Life Is Free (NILIF) is a simple dog training technique that establishes healthy boundaries between you and your dog. Sometimes referred to as “Say Please”, you can think of NILIF as the equivalent of teaching your dog basic manners.

Living with an aggressive dog

I have used Nothing In Life Is Free successfully with 5 different dogs- all with varying temperaments and behavior challenges.

I first learned about Nothing In Life Is Free shortly after I moved to Fort Collins 10 years ago. My former roommate had a small terrier mix that was an absolute terror! He demanded attention, snapped and growled when directed to get off the couch or bed, and was generally unruly. His behavior problems were unmanageable!

Having recently moved to Fort Collins from Denver I was familiar with the awesome Pet Behavior Helpline offered as a free service through the Denver Dumb Friends League. The Behavior Helpline responded to my request and recommended Nothing In Life Is Free as one method to address his aggression.

While Nothing In Life Is Free did not eliminate all of his behavior problems, it made living with him more peaceful and happy for everyone in the household.

How it works

So what is Nothing In Life Is Free? It is a dog training technique that teaches your dog that he will be handsomely rewarded for good behavior. It is a this-for-that method of training; before you do something your dog wants, he must first do something for you.

For example, you may tell your dog to “sit” before giving him a treat. He does not get what he wants (the treat) until he does what you want (sitting at your direction).

At dinner time you may tell your dog to “sit” and “wait” before he can have his food. My dogs must sit and wait until I put the food bowl on the floor and give them the release command, “okay”. This avoids trying to eat the food from my hands before I have a chance to put the bowl on the floor. They want their food, I want to avoid getting bit.

I also use “sit” and “wait” when letting my dogs outside in the yard. This way they do not rush the door and bound outside blindly. They wait as I open the door and survey the yard to ensure there are no hazards before I release them with “okay” when I have determined all is clear. They want to go outside, I want to make sure it’s safe.

I find “wait” to be especially helpful when going down stairs so the dogs don’t trip me up halfway down the stairs. They must wait at the top of the stairs until I am at the bottom and give them the release command. They want to snuggle up on the downstairs couch, I want to make it down the stairs without being tripped!

Nothing In Life Is Free teaches my dogs to look for me for direction before they get what they want. This training method not only improves their house manners it’s also essential in dangerous situations. I want my dogs to defer to me in risky situations instead of taking action on their own. With NILIF they know they are safe under my care and direction.

Maggie showing off her sit-stay.

Maggie waiting for a treat.

More information

You can find more information on Nothing In Life Is Free, along with lots of additional training tips, from the Denver Dumb Friends League.

Have you used Nothing In Life Is Free with your dogs? Was it successful for you?

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