Lori Holmberg, M.A.

 Nothing In Life Is Free is a program to get your dog to be more responsive to you and to teach him that all good things in life come through you. The basis of this program is simple: Your dog must obey a command from you before he receives anything he wants.

This includes food, treats, toys, petting, play, going in and out and walks. Some dogs need this added structure to their lives because they are unresponsive or slow to respond to people or because they use inappropriate ways to try to get what they want, such as jumping up on you to get attention.

This could be because the dog is fearful or because he has learned that he doesn’t have to respond to you or that he can get what he wants in his own way.

Sometimes we use Nothing In Life Is Free with dogs that are dominantly aggressive, that is they use aggression to get what they want from people.  Not all dogs that are pushy or obnoxious are dominantly aggressive.

Using Nothing in Life is Free


     First, you need to teach your dog some basic obedience commands such as sit, down, stay, and wait. You can also teach your dog some tricks such as shake, roll over and bow.  Use tasty treats, play or petting as rewards for doing the commands or tricks.

You want to make it worth his while to pay attention to you and do what you want. Once he can do the commands or tricks very reliably, you can wean him off the treats, play or petting and only use praise.  

     Once your dog knows these commands well, that is, he can do the commands readily ten times in a row, you can use them in Nothing In Life Is Free. For example, your dog should sit and wait before he gets his dinner or goes outside for a walk. He should sit and stay while you put his leash on. Or lie down and roll over before he gets his belly scratched. You could have him bow before you throw a ball for him or shake before you pet him.

     It is very important that you be very consistent in giving your dog the command or request for trick every time he wants something or you want him to do something for you.

If you are not consistent, he will be inconsistent in his responses and may begin to ignore you. Once you have given a command or request for a trick, do not give your dog what he wants until he does what you want.

If he refuses to obey your command, ignore him or walk away, then in a few seconds repeat the command. 

If he still refuses to obey the command, remember to be patient, eventually he will obey your command to get what he wants. Finally, avoid repeating the command such as saying “sit, sit, sit.” This only teaches your dog to ignore the first two sits. Instead, say sit one time and wait for your dog to obey or walk away and try again later.  

Nothing In Life Is Free will be harder for you than your dog because you must remember to request something from him every time he wants something. If you need a reminder, take a sheet of paper and write NILIF on it, then tape it to your dog’s collar where you can easily see it every time you look at your dog. 

Teaching your dog Nothing In Life Is Free can help him to be more responsive to you and to be happy to do things for you. 

It can also help your dog to relax as he learns that he can look to you for what to do in new and different situations rather than having to make his own decisions.