Many people offer up the NILF advice, but does it work and what the heck is it?  NILF - Nothing in life for free.  The concept is simple, the implementation is often much more difficult. Basically NILF means that your dog is not going to make any decisions concerning you. Does your dog stare longingly at a cookie jar and you quickly jump up and reward them? Do you pet your dog when they demandingly nudge your arm? Are you quick to respond to your dog’s demands to throw the ball once it is dropped at your feet? If your answers are yes, yes, and yes then things are going to change.

When a dog demands a behavior; whether it is a well meaning demand or an aggressive immediate demand; the result is the same if you comply. Your dog is running the show and this can quickly become your life, in the hands or should I say paws of your dog? Dogs are either leaders or followers; you don't want your dog as the boss of the house, no matter how cute they are. If you fail to be your dog’s leader then you become a follower and your dog makes the rules.

Often I will watch a dog and guardian interact as the dog slowly manipulates the guardian. When I see this behavior and enlighten the guardian they are typically shocked to find out what is going on. They hadn’t realized that they were acting as their dog’s servant. Giving your dog control of the decisions can turn bad very quickly. So how do you take back control of your life?

Simply by making and enforcing rules in your home. You will not give your dog affection when they are nudging for it; you will pet your dog when you decide to pet your dog. Your dog will eat when you decide, go out when you say so, play ball when you decide it is time to play and receive a cookie when you say so. By implementing these simple rules you take the lead; you can be the boss of your own life once again.
No more handing out food for free; your dog has to work for food. A simple sit for a meal is easy but a rule nonetheless. They want to play ball? They will have to wait until you are in the mood and initiate a game. Pack members who are not the leader; do not make any rules. You would never see a lower pack member demand attention from an Alpha Wolf. If and when the Alpha wolf feels like giving attention, that is when the lower pack members receive their attention and not before.

Making the rules takes only one thing away from your dog; and that is control. They will still receive attention, treats, playing, walking and mealtime but when you say; not when they demand them from you. The one thing to be aware of is that implementing NILF on a dog that is accustom to getting what they demand typically results in the behavior becoming worse before it gets better.

When a simple stare at the cookie cupboard usually resulted in a cookie; now all of a sudden it does not. This may cause your dog to stare longer and even start to bark. But hold strong and do not give in; it will soon start to diminish. And any attention can be good for a dog, even bad attention will be taken as attention; so ignoring is on the menu for most demanding attention seeking behaviors.

A behavior that is not rewarded in ANY way will soon disappear.  A behavior that results in a reinforcement, being food, praise, a ball will be offered again.  This will be turning around before you know it. 

Happy Friday  ;)


  1. My latest rescue, Trevor, has become a real challenge. In the last 20 + years of rescue I've never dealt with a dog who is aggressive toward it's guardian. My Kirby is a fearful boy and has lashed out a couple times at Trevor for no apparent reason I saw. I know dogs have their reasons and we don't always see the cause. However, just the other night I told Trevor not to lay in one spot (too close to Kirby)and Trevor threatened me. Luckily I had been working with the "sit for everything" with him and he listened. But he had that attack look that occurred a couple weeks before that did result in a bite (on me !). He is about 7 years old and was left tied to a dog house as a guard dog on a farm for most of his life. It's as if a switch gets flipped, very scary. I am alpha of my pack and will work with him unless he becomes too dangerous. I hope and pray that with training and love he'll forget his "survival"ways and respect me.

  2. NILF is a great tool. I've used it with my dogs whether permanent or foster. I even used it on my cats which might explain why they acted more like dogs than cats LOL.


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