Pet Articles

Dogs – Nothing in Life is Free – NILF

Does your dog: Get on the furniture and refuse to get off? Nudge your hand, insisting on being petted or played with? Refuse to come when called? Defend its food bowl or toys from you? “Nothing in life is free” can help. “ Nothing in life is free” is not a magic pill that will solve a specific behavior problem; rather it’s a way of living with your dog that will help it behave better because it trusts and accepts you as its leader and is confident knowing its
place in your family.

How To Practice “Nothing In Life Is Free:”

  • Using positive reinforcement methods, teach your dog a few commands and/or tricks. “Sit,” “Down” and “ Stay” are useful commands and “Shake,” “Speak” and “Rollover” are fun tricks to teach your dog.
  • Once your dog knows a few commands, you can begin to practice “nothing in life is free.” Before you give your dog anything (food, a treat, a walk, a pat on the head) it must first perform one of the commands it has learned.

For example:

You Your dog
Put your dog’s leash on to go for a walk Must sit until you’ve put the leash on
Feed your dog Must lie down and stay until you’ve put the bowl down
Play a game of fetch after work Must sit and shake hands each time you throw the toy
Rub your dog’s belly while watching TV Must lie down and rollover before being pet
  • Once you’ve given the command, don’t give your dog what it wants until it does what you want. If it refuses to perform the command, walk away, come back a few minutes later and start again. If your dog refuses to obey the command, be patient and remember that eventually it will have to obey your command in order to get what it wants.
  • Make sure your dog knows the command well and understands what you want before you begin practicing “ nothing in life is free.”
  • The Benefits of This Technique:

    • Most dogs assume a neutral or submissive role toward people, but some dogs will challenge their owners for dominance. Requiring a dominant dog to work for everything it wants is a safe and non-confrontational way to establish control.
    • Dogs who may never display aggressive behavior such as growling, snarling, or snapping, may still manage to manipulate you. These dogs may display affectionate, though “pushy” behavior, such as nudging your hand to be petted or “worming” its way on to the furniture in order to be close to you. This technique gently reminds the “pushy” dog that it must abide by your rules.
    • Obeying commands helps build a fearful dog’s confidence; having a strong leader and knowing its place in the hierarchy helps to make the submissive dog feel more secure.

    Why This Technique Works:

    Animals that live in groups, like dogs, establish a social structure within the group called a dominance hierarchy. This dominance hierarchy serves to maintain order, reduce conflict and promote cooperation among pack members. In order for your home to be a safe and happy place for pets and people, it’s best that the humans in the household assume the highest positions in the dominance hierarchy. Practicing “nothing in life is free” effectively and gently communicates to your dog that its position in the hierarchy is subordinate to yours. From your dog’s point of view, children also have a place in this hierarchy. Because children are small and can get down on the dog’s level to play, dogs often consider them to be playmates, rather than superiors. With the supervision of an adult, it’s a good idea to encourage children in the household (aged eight and over) to also practice “nothing in life is free” with your dog.

    Article courtesy of Dumb Friends League
    Reproduced by permission – All Rights Reserved.

    Other related articles of interest may include:
    WHO’S IN CHARGE HERE? A lesson in becoming Alpha
    Puppy socialization – socializing your dog
    Canine Rivalry

    37 Responses to this Article, So Far

    1. Avatar Barb says:

      Can someone out there help us with our Bassett Hound. She is 9 yrs old and is getting us up at 4 AM to go to the bathroom. She will NOT stop whinning until we let her out. We took her to the Vet and she does not have a UTI. But this can NOT continue. Is there a solution to the problem? Any ideas?

    2. Avatar Judie says:

      Barb, even if she doesn’t have a UTI, she still may be starting to have difficulty holding it due to her age. I hate when my dogs wake me up to go out!. But I hate it even more to think that they are uncomfortable trying to hold it, or having to clean up after them if they can’t hold it. Take her out as late as possible before you go to bed, or if you happen to get up to use the bathroom yourself in the middle of the night let her out then. Or, is she crate trained? Maybe if you put her in her crate it might help, but then again, when you gotta go, you gotta go! If she has to go and you make her hold it, then she could possibly END UP with a UTI from having “old urine” in her bladder.

    3. Avatar Scarlett says:

      my dog is a Lhasa apso male, he is 2 years old and we are having some problems with him being obsessive over me . as i work and only see the dog in the evening and on weekends in most cases we spend as much time together as possible. he is very good with me and the family when we are at home, however when people/other members of the family comes round he gets very possesive over me and will lunge out and growl/snap or in some cases nip people if they come to close to me, he has never been to any training as we have taught him ourselfs how to sit, lie, come back etc. please help us!

      • Avatar Marko says:

        This is too complicated for a blog commment. I invite you to post this on our forum where members can provide a better back and forth.
        Thx – Marko

    4. Avatar Geri Fox says:

      My dog Lulu, (4 year old Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier) has been terrified of walking outside. She’s gotten worse over the last 3 years. I got her from a breeder. A friend of mine had a sister (of LuLu’s) from this breeder in Springfield, MO. I drove up there and the “Sweetie Wheatie’s” Breeder, told me to meet her at this huge Gas Station. A Trucker stop. Lulu was 9 weeks old. She’s the only dog I’ve owned that loves her “caged secure refuge”! I leave the door open, and love her to sleep with me in my bed, but when she wants to retreat… she has her “Space”Over the last 3 yrs. she has gotten CRAZY,Afraid of walking out the door. She freaks out EVERY TIME!!! She is so sad. My neighbors even feel sorry for her. If a new car is in the driveway, or a human with their dog wants to say hello, Lulu flips out and pulls me back in the house. Her quality of life is getting worse everyday. PLEASE HELP!!!

      • Avatar Marko says:

        This is a bit complex but can be solved through slowly desensitizing your dog to what freaks her out.
        A referred professional dog trainer is what is really needed in this case to see how your dog reacts when she gets afraid and to make a plan on how to fix it.
        You need to slowly build up the dog’s confidence.
        Feel free to also post this on our forum for free where other members can share what they know and you can engage in a “back and forth” with the questions that they may ask.
        Good luck!

    5. I have a 6 month old female rotti, also have a 2 yr.old male rotti. The female is basically housebroken, but there are times, especially when the male is present, she will urinate deliberately. I have corrected her, taken her outside and then confined her. It has nothing to do with an accident, because she will come in from outside after she relieves herself, and then 5 mins. later right in front of you, she will urinate, as if to say, clean it up. I’m the boss. We are home with these dogs 24/7 because we have a Barbershop in our home. At night , she is put in her cage and she is fine all night. I am stumped at what to do. Thank You

    6. Avatar tina says:

      hi i have a small rat terrier/bishion giffon mix male pup born 8/10/2011 he is a weird charter very nippy like when you walk away we bites your legs ONLY thing is now he is biting to hurt and my husband is getting mad i don’t know what to do and also he is scratching alot more very hard to cut his nails they are black even the vet makes him bleed please help i love this puppy and don’t want to have to get rid of him

      • Avatar Marko says:

        If you love this puppy, my golden advice is group obedience classes. Take them from a recommended trainer.
        Take him to these classes and the trainer will teach you how to teach the dog to obey your commands. This is the BEST investment you will make for your dog.
        Dogs never nip at the leader. Dogs listen to the leader. It does not sound like the dog respects you and your husband as leader. Group obedience training will change this.
        Good luck.

    7. We have 5 dogs…One shep husky mix age 11, a westie age 5, cairn age ??probably 10 , shepherd 5 yr and a king shep, 15 months. The last 4 are rescues and there have been no issues since the last shepherd came to us 4 months ago. Our cairn has now started jumping into bigs dogs faces and growling aggressively, even visiting dogs he has known for several years. 5 sutures were required a couple weeks ago. We have been keeping the cairn separate from the king shep and it it going well but the dog “juggling” is exhausting. Our yard is perfect for doing this as it is a fenced acreage with another fenced area inside so all can be out with the fence dividing them. Problem is our cairn will still growl at the king shep even through the fence. We correct the behavior and things were going well so I took the cairn on a leash on the back deck. Sure enough as soon as the shep came close , the cairn jumped up and growled. We have implemented strict rules in the house for all the dogs but this is a concern.
      We have considered rehomoming the king but it is not an easy task due to his size and immaturity. He was wild when we got him and we continue to train him daily but he needs a strong owner to carry this on .
      Any suggestions?

      • Avatar Marko says:

        Rehoming…honestly in this case is just passing the problem to another person.

        Have you tried hiring a referred professional dog trainer. They see stuff like this all the time.

    8. Avatar Ben says:

      @ Barb

      December 26, 2010 at 9:39 pm

      Have you ever thought about installing a “dog door” on your door??
      That would give her the chance to go out on her own without you
      even noticing it.!
      And as Judie said right after your comment, take her out right before you go to
      bed, that would give her all the chance to sleep comfortably.


    9. Avatar sami says:

      i have 3monthz old shih tzu male……..he jus bites soo much…….evn if v NO in a loud voice he do nt listn n continues 2 do d sme evn more……………v jus got irritated bcoz of his biting habbit………..plz suggst me if u hv ny solutn foh diz…………

    10. Avatar Susi says:

      Our Golden Retriever pup is 10 months old. We attended an obedience class with her and taught her some basic commands. Sit (excellent), lay down (good), stay (ok), come (only when I want to). She can be very sweet with all members of the family, but wants to exert her dominance over our 2 kids, ages 10 and 12. When she wants to play with them she jumps on them and grabs their clothing, chases them and mouths their hands, feet and legs. We even installed a lead attached to a stake in our backyard, to keep her away from the kids when they are playing in the backyard, especially with their friends. We have used a spray bottle of water to stop the mouthing, but I don’t think we were very consistent. We also put her in her crate with a toy to ‘calm down’ when she gets into a frenzy like this.

      I know she is smart enough to learn commands and her place in the household. I also know that some behaviors she will grow out of, but I’m afraid that she will continue this mouthing and scare away our friends. She has a ton of energy and we walk her a lot and even use a backpack with weights in it. She has a large backyard for running and playing fetch, which she loves. She also has some doggie friends in the neighborhood that she has playdates with. I’m not sure how else we can use up this energy.

      Aside from hiring a trainer to come into our home, how can we show her who’s boss and that the kids are not her littermates?

    11. Avatar Ben says:

      Hi Susi, have you tried”teaching” your kids?

      I mean, teach them how to put a stop to your golden when playing too rough!
      They could use the same word/command you use such as NO or STOP… You know,
      your kids are also part of the same pack, but they are “above” you dog, they have to act
      as a “master” and control the dog as much as you adults.

      Good luck.

    12. Avatar Cynthia says:

      Susi, I could not agree with Ben’s comment more!! Golden Retriever’s are terrific pets but it’s important that your children learn the same parenting/command skills. Plus, if your pup is staked in the yard and the kids are playing in front of him, it’s kinda rude. especially if they haven’t trained the pup in time increments to ‘watch.’ they could learn to interact for periods of time and then also be crated or brought inside, or whatever. It sounds as though you want everyone out of the house, but with no rules

    13. Avatar joanne says:

      hi i have a very old cross breed crossed between a bull mastiff/staff and i introduced a puppy which is also a cross between a jack russel and a bichion frise and they have been best friends until the puppy turned 1 and now the staff just has to see her and he goes for her even in his cage he still growls at her. she now seems to still want to be friends but only when i am there i am worried now that its an everyday fight the minute they see each other but he has only hurt her once which i know is bad enough but is this a warning sign/

      • Avatar Marko says:

        Severe growling like that seems like a warning sign to me…
        Please feel free to post this on our forum for a better variety of answers yo YOUR specific issue.
        Good luck!

    14. Avatar Mary says:

      We have a 9 year old flat coat and a 5 year golden doodle the doodle has just started (in the last 5 months) jumping and nipping. Does she need a refresher on manners? Our 6 year old granddaughter is getting afraid of her. The flat coat has always been the boss, are the roles changing?

    15. Avatar Charmaine says:

      Hi i have a female husky aged 16 months she is lovely but latey she has started to growl and bear her teeth to myself and my son and we dont know why can any body help me to get her stop doind this as other wise i am going to have to get rid of her and i really dont want to as i and my family love please help! :)

    16. Avatar Ben says:

      I would suggest you to start by paying attention about when your husky behave that way.

      There might have been a certain change in the general ambience, maybe you started to give more attention to someone else and less to her for example. however, you should not let her do it and you should show some authority, be the one in charge, calm assertive.

      Once you put the finger on the cause, it will help considerably and you’ll be able to chage her mind about it.

      Hope it help.

      Marko will have a better/good idea i’m sure!

    17. Avatar Imilce says:

      Ok, I’m having a slight problem. I have a soon to be 9 month old pitbull. I’ve had him since he 10 weeks old. He’s never shown any kind of aggression till recently. He is NOT neutered. I didn’t want to neuter him because I wanted to breed him BUT it’s not that big of a deal either. In wondering if I neuter him will that solve the aggression problem. I’ve always pet him while he’s ate even as a puppy so he gets use to someone messing with him as opposed to being uncomfortable. Lately he’s been growling with his hairs raised up showing me teeth especially if I made him something really good. And the thing is Im not petting him whole he’s eating. I’m either placing his bowl of water down or just standing too close. I love my dog and I know I’m very guilty with spoiling him but it’s difficult to even know where to begin my wrongs. My dog obeys me more then my husband. He’s very aggressive towards him when were together. He doesn’t let him sit too close too close to me if not he starts tryin to get in between an starts acting rowdy on top of us or trying to chew on him. Even in bed he will sleep in the middle. And other men that get too close to me he starts acting a little aggressive. Women, babies, and kids he’s great with. He’s really not a problem dog it’s that recently he’s been a little more aggressive then I’d like. He has snipped my husband and when I went to grab him he bit me but once he did he stopped. He knows when he’s done wrong but I hate that he does it. He does work for his treats. He listens well. I honestly wouldn’t know where to start to fix this problem. Would neutering him help him or make it worse?

      • Avatar Marko says:

        My advice…neuter the dog and get group obedience classes for the aggression IMMEDIATELY.
        This is not a slight problem in any way shape or form but it’s totally solvable…you can right your wrongs by getting some group obedience training from a referred trainer from someone you trust. There, they will teach you how to be in control of your dog – given that your dog is already getting aggressive…you want a pro.
        For a better back and forth please feel free to post this on our forum.
        Good luck!

    18. Avatar Elaine says:

      Hi I have 4 dogs 3are Lhasa x and 1 Lhasa aged 1-4 years they all used to get on really well eat sleep walks and play together we have just moved and they were ok but just lately 2of them have started fighting not hurt each other as we get them apart then put them in there crates to cool down and they bark at each other for a while I was told to put them in different rooms but since done that the next they started fighting again it’s happened a few times so now we are living with them two separated two in one room two in another it’s getting hard work as try and let three play at time then two and changing in different rooms so they have a change I’ve been told there are fighting to be top dog they said I should let the two get together and fight it out then if start getting bad throw water over them I’m in a right muddle I dearant let them go together as I don’t want any of them to get hurt I love my dogs loads I’m a bit soft with them and people say I treat them all like babies and that I should be top dog the Lhasa she has now got to the stage if I’m in a different room she keeps barking and don’t stop for four night I stayed up with her as all she done was bark and not given in I now been sleeping on couch with two of them to keep the Lhasa quiet can you please help me as I don’t want to get rid but I can’t live like this I’m going crazy and it not fear they are getting seperated thanks elaine

      • Avatar m says:

        Elaine you should buy an invisible fence and make them stay on each side.let them eat sleep and bark for a few days there.after whilst they are still on each side,you should switch their beds so the could get used to the scent of each other and think that they are could even switch the dogs.hope this helped!

    19. Avatar kim archer says:

      We rescued a small black mix when she was about 8 mo old . Someone dumped her in our subdivision. We have two there dogs a 4 yo female lab/visa mix and another 4yo vizla. Any way on 2 occasions she has gone after children in our subdivision in there yards after she has gotten out of the house . We just ordered an invisible fence and collar so this won’t happen again . Any suggestions as to fix this behavior ?

      • Avatar Marko says:

        This is a complex situation and when it involves kids it needs to be dealt with asap.
        I encourage you to post this on our forum where members can ask you questions directly. Invisible fences are by no means a 100% solution.
        Good luck!

    20. Avatar JC says:

      I have a pit (mix?) That has started to ignore the come command. I let him out for a bit in the morning and afternoon but keep him in the bedroom when I’m not home for safety and roommates. When outside he’ll come up
      15 ft of the door or so and last down looking at me, sometimes ruling over to show his belly. Walking away gives him what he wants so I’m at a loss on correction.

      • Avatar m says:

        Whenever your pit comes to you/walk your way you should say come gently and then praise him and give him a treat.then he’ll get used to it.then begin doing it on the leash.let the leash next to your foot with the pitt dragging it.then say come and if he doesn’t tug the leash to you dragging him to you.give him a treat and then keep on repeating.eventually he will get used to it

    21. Avatar m says:

      I’m thinking to bring a dog in the house.I wish for a which tzu but some people say they are aggressive but I know how to housebreak dogs.which is the best small dog for me,the which tzu or the yorkie?

    22. Avatar helen says:

      i have a ten week old spaniel puppy who starts to lick you but then it turns to nips or biteshe will dive on our feet and bite them or if we play with him with a toy he grabs our hands not the toy.we have tried yelping to no effect and now i say no stern and loud which he does back off but he backs off to bark at do we stop this and will it get worse.he also knows when we are trying to pick him up to crate him so jumps to one side and runs to avoid this even tho he will come on recall if we have a treat.the only command he knows so far is to sit.

    23. Avatar TRISH49 says:

      I have two jack russell’s and the youngest 9 month old has attacked the older dog. We have separated them for the last two days keeping them in different houses.
      We tried to bring them out for a walk, but as soon as they seen each other they started growling and snarling. I had to buy two mussels for them to were just to transport them somewhere as they keep doing these attacks on each other. I don’ t want to give one away – i don’t know how I would make that decision but I need help.

      • Avatar Marko says:

        You need help from a professional trainer that comes referred from someone you trust. They see these issues all the time and to me you need one to one to help solve this.
        good luck.

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