Training Tidbit for March: You can try this at home!
Nothing in Life is Free (or, how to be the smarter species)
What is it?
Nothing in Life is Free is a dog training program that uses the everyday things that your dog likes or wants, to reinforce a behavior such as “sit.” Whenever you’re about to deliver something your dog wants (opening crate door, going outside, coming inside, dinner, throw a toy, getting in the car, getting out of the car, leash on, leash off, pets, etc.), ask him for a “sit” first. Pretty soon your dog will be offering “sits” to ask for what he wants.
Why use it?
Because it’s easy, as long as you’re smarter than your dog (most of the time is OK), because it requires no training equipment, and because it reinforces the behavior you want throughout the day (instead of only when you’re “training” or have treats in your pocket – and your dog knows it!)
Consider a Nothing for Free Program if you have:
A shy, anxious, or under-confident dog. We all find our little rituals comforting; your pet is no exception. Anxious dogs feel safer when they can predict “what comes next,” and NILIF is an easy thing for your dog to always expect and rely on. It’s a little routine for you to practice (A follows B which follows C). Over time, it also teaches him a way of asking for what he wants (by sitting), thus empowering him to control his environment, which releases stress and frustration (“please may I have a scratch? Could I come up on the couch with you?” etc.).
If you have a pushy, possessive, or over-confident dog. You may not realize it, but YOU hold the key to everything your dog wants. Until dogs gain the ability to open cans, scoop kibble, clip leashes on and off of themselves, drive the car, scratch their own bellies, work doorknobs, and throw their own toys, they are going to need a human to help them. That’s where NILIF comes in. Practicing “Nothing in Life is Free” gently and effectively communicates to your dog that you are the leader because you control all the resources, and that he must abide by your rules to get what he wants. Ask your dog to “sit” before you give him what he wants. Once you’ve given the command, don’t give your dog what he wants until he does what you want. If he refuses to perform the command, don’t give in. Be patient and remember that eventually he will have to obey your command to get what he wants.
If you have a bored or underemployed dog. Have a herding dog but no stock? A gun dog but don’t hunt? Here you go – an easy, convenient way to work off a little extra mental energy and keep your dog “thinking” throughout the day.
If you don’t feel like carrying a carrot or a big stick all the time. Regardless of your chosen training method, if you don’t want to carry your treats or your choke chain or your cattle prod or whatever around to get your dog to obey, you can use the environment of “real life” to reinforce what you want your dog to do. In your dog’s brain, I imagine it goes something like this: “well … the human has asked me to do something, and usually when she gives me a command, something REALLY COOL follows, so I’d better do it to see what I get this time!” You are reinforcing good behavior with real-life rewards, meaning that 1) your dog is always ready and willing to listen when you say something and 2) the treat or (imminent punishment) doesn’t need to be present for your dog to obey.
Try it! It’ll probably take a week or so to get into the swing of things, but once you do it you’ll like it, and so will your dog!
Have an idea for a training Tidbit? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you!