Behavioral Training in Dogs
NOTHING IN LIFE IS FREE
Nothing In Life is Free (NILIF) is a program that we use to help teach dogs how to be better
prepared to live in a human society. NILIF will help improve your dog’s behavior and teach him to learn to
trust and accept people as his leaders. The advantages of using NILIF are that it is a technique that all
people, regardless of age, size, or personality-type can do; it is non-confrontational, therefore it never puts
the people or dogs involved at risk; and it helps build a dog’s confidence by providing clear rules and
enjoyable outcomes for good behavior. Having your dog consistently follow your commands at home, in
low stress situations makes it easier for him to follow commands when he is distracted, anxious or may be
aggressive. NILIF uses only positive, reward based training to teach these valuable lessons.
Situations Where NILIF is Recommended:
Aggression to family members- NILIF requires that your dog works for everything he wants. This is a safe
and non-confrontational way for the people in the household to establish control over the valuable
resources in the house (e.g. food, toys, attention from favorite people). Whoever controls the resources is
automatically the leader.
Aggression to other people or dogs- NILIF helps establish that you are the leader by requiring your dog to
always be prepared to follow your commands to get something he wants.
Fearful dogs- NILIF makes your dog’s life more predictable and offers him lots of chances to earn good
things; this can help lower his anxiety. It also teaches him to trust you as a leader; this can help build his
confidence and provide a sense of security.
Pushy, rude but normal dogs- NILIF teaches dogs good manners. Many dogs learn how to get the things
they want, like petting, food, being played with or getting treats by being affectionate, but pushy. They paw
at people, jump on people, push their way into a situation or even bark and whine to get attention. NILIF is
like teaching a child to say, “Please” and “Thank You”.
The Rules of NILIF
1. Your dog must “work” for all the “good things” in life
Work = obey a command the dog knows well.
Commands you may want to use include the basics like: sit, down and stay or you may choose to have
your dog do some more complicated tricks like: shake hands, rollover, wave or play dead. Anything you
can teach your dog is fair game. If your dog does not already know commands well you must teach him a
few commands/tricks before you begin NILIF. Use only positive reinforcement methods to teach
Good things = anything your dog wants or likes.
This includes, but is not limited to: being fed, getting treats, being petted, being greeted, having his leash
put on, having his leash taken off, having doors opened to come inside or go outside, being invited up on
furniture, being played with, being brushed, being spoken too, having his belly rubbed, having a ball thrown
to fetch, going in or out of the car, and greeting a guest.
2. Pushy, demanding behavior is ignored.
Pushy, demanding behavior = anything your dog does to get your attention and “make” you
do something for him.
This includes, but is not limited to: whining, pawing, nudging, mouthing, jumping on, staring at, and barking
Ignored = no attention AT ALL.
Scolding, saying “NO”, pushing the dog away or giving a command are all forms of attention. Instead, you
should turn your back on your dog or even walk away. Wait until he is leaving you alone to give him the
opportunity to earn something good.
3. Give the command only once.
Once = if your dog does not do what you want him to do, then you don’t do what he wants you
If he doesn’t obey, walk away, turn your back on him or just ignore him. In a minute or so give him another
chance to earn something good.
4. Everyone in the household and anyone who interacts with your dog on a regular basis
must follow the NILIF rules.
Everyone = spouses, significant others, dog walkers, neighbors who drop by every day,
and, especially, children.
Dogs often view children as either playmates or lower-ranking members of the “pack”. NILIF teaches dogs
to view children as leaders, just like the grown-ups in the family.
5. Be patient, especially in the beginning.
It may take your dog a little while before he realizes that he really, truly has to work for the things he wants.
After all, up until this point everything in life was free!
An Example of NILIF in Action:
It’s your first day of using NILIF and you’re ready to take Fido for a walk. You pick up his leash and he
comes running over to you. You tell him, “Fido, sit.” Fido is so excited that instead of sitting he runs
around you wiggling and wagging his tail and jumping at the leash in your hand. You don’t repeat the
command, scold him or push him away when he jumps up. You just calmly put the leash down and walk
away. In a minute, you walk back to the leash and pick it up again. Again, Fido runs over and is too
excited to listen to your command. You repeat this procedure (get the leash, give the command, Fido is too
excited so you walk away) 10 times before Fido finally sits. When he sits you clip on the leash praise him
and take him for a nice long walk.
The next day when it’s Fido’s walk time it takes 6 tries before he sits to have his leash put on. By the end
of the first week of NILIF Fido is sitting automatically when you pick up his leash!
Reference: UCDavis Veterinary Medical School Behavior Department