Saturday, December 15, 2012


If you are part of any dog forums online you will at some point heard of 'Nothing in Life is Free' or 'No Free Lunch'.

When I heard about NILIF the article I read tried to say that you should teach your dog to wait for you to exit a doorway first because if the dog came out first the dog would think it was dominant or in charge. I believe when a dog pushes out the doorway ahead of you, the dog is thinking "Heck yeah! We're leaving! I'm so excited I must push past you!" Using the nothing in life is free policy, you teach your dog to 'wait', you put them in a sit, and exit the doorway first. I feel mostly this teaches the dog impulse control, that it isn't all about them and what they want to do - more about what you want them to do.

I read an article that talked about wolves in the wild. It talked about how a wolf might have a rabbit, another wolf comes along, rolling around belly up acting all shy and submissive. The wolf with the rabbit pays no mind and the wolf slinking closer steals the rabbit and takes off!! Dogs are much like their wild relatives - they are opportunists and will take advantage of a good opportunity.

I do think there are some cases of dominant behavior. If your dog stands over you while you lay in bed and is growling every moment you move, I would view that as dominant behavior. I would say that is a pretty rare instance that a dog displays that kind of behavior, but I have heard of it happening.

For the most part I feel like our dogs are not out to control our lives or boss us around, mostly it's a matter of teaching them how to interact properly with us by teaching them some manners and showing them what we expect from them.

NILIF is a great way to lay out some ground rules for life in your house. NILIF basics would be;

- Having your dog sit and wait for you to give the okay before it eats its food.
- Having your dog sit and wait while you exit a doorway, and exiting after you give the okay.
- Doing tricks or following commands for treats.
- Making your dog sit or down before throwing a toy or engaging in play with a toy.
- Being invited onto the couch or bed, not jumping up without permission.

I don't practice NILIF religiously in my house. For the most part, my dogs respect my space and know where they belong in the house. On occasion if someone starts being rude/unruley I will bring the NILIF back out, bring them back to square one. I think the best part about NILIF is it teaches your dog patience, and also teaches them to look to you when they want something. Instead of just taking over the couch - they are asking if it is okay.


  1. This makes so much sense! Thank you for writing it.

    Yoshi's behavior in the kitchen (in my very biased opinion lol) is really great for a twelve week old puppy. He has to do what I want before he gets what he wants, and gets loads of positive reinforcement for doing the right thing on his own, and so he caught onto those good manners lightning fast.

    My theory with the door thing is similar to yours. I don't enforce very consistent door rules so I probably confuse the shit out of them. Need to work on this! Bindi knows she can't rush the door but on the way in sometimes she tries to nudge me out of the way and forge ahead. I'm so used to her nudging me for different reasons that I tend to tune it out when she does it for the wrong reason.

    Furniture we are hopeless, I shamelessly allow my dogs on every bit of the furniture whenever they want. But I get to decide where they lay on it, and if I'm not comfortable or they're in my way, they move. If they are acting up they get a blanket or bed set up for them on the floor and get to lay by themselves.

    Many people have told me over the years not to allow them on the furniture or bed at all, that I'll regret it, but I never have. To me there is nothing more comforting than having my dogs with me close.

    However, when we go to other people's houses we sometimes have problems because she jumps all over all of their furniture too, and gets whiny about having to lay on a plain floor without any bedding. So I probably need to look at modifying this rule and enforcing more time on a plain floor with no bedding.

    My theory is that as long as they respect me and my stuff we're good to go. If not, watch out because I will get control! Thanks for your take on it!

  2. I don't think it's wrong to let your dogs on the furniture UNLESS your dogs are constantly challenging you. Like the dog is growling when you tell it to get off, or the dog is a resource guarder etc. I think in those instances furniture privileges should be taken away - and most likely never given back.

    My dogs have gone places with me that they can sleep in my bed, or be on the couch. We only have two recliners in the front room so they don't really transfer it back to home when we come home - maybe due to the lack of comfy furniture.

    I guess my theory is, as long as you can get them back OFF of the furniture, it really doesn't matter. I think if you have a good relationship with your dog, being on the bed/couch doesn't tell them they are equal, just that you are allowing them to be up there.

    You've raised a dog before, Bindi. I know it's hard not to second guess yourself because Yoshi is a different dog, but I do think you have to trust yourself.

    1. I do need to stop second guessing myself, but it's something I automatically do and am not even aware of it half the time. Sometimes I have the ability to say, okay, you know how to do this - just STOP IT. lol!

  3. I agree with the furniture thing. Toby is currently on a furniture time-out because it got to the point that one spot on the couch was HIS and if we sat on it, he would just sit there and stare at us and whine until we moved. Eventually it just got to the point that I decided he needed to take a break from being up here at all. I made him a nice comfy bed on the floor and he's not allowed up right now. He still tries, but we just tell him no and he eventually gives up. Not before a big long extinction behavior though.

    1. See - that's really what I think NILIF is good for. Those moments when the dog is basically taking advantage of an opportunity too much, being too pushy, or being too rude. It can be done in a way that you aren't 'punishing' them, just changing the routine a bit.

      Isn't it hilarious though how they catch on? "B b b but.. it's my couch." *sniff* hehe poor Toby!

    2. Bindi does that if we ask her to stay off. She whines and pleads and creeps towards it, then puts her chin on it, then before you know it if you don't pay attention she's right back up there. Usually I end up tying her up to something where she can't get near the cough, but still see it, and then she knows she's screwed and accepts her fate. LOL

    3. Haha, Toby does the same thing! He'll rest his head on it. And then he puts the front half of his body up there. And if you don't make him get down then he'll stay just like that for a few minutes before trying to sneak a hind leg up. The first night we stopped letting him on the couch we covered it with drawing boards. He ended up jumping in OUR bed in the middle of night. Now he just gets locked in his room where he has two beds to choose between. Haha