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Nothing in Life is Free

A dog is a pack animal who understands leadership and rank. The essence of the "nothing in life is free" is to cultivate your dog's dependence, respect, and reliance on you, and thus establish your leadership and influence in the household. This is achieved by having your dog earn every valued resource (food, toys, treats, games, petting, etc.) by following a command.

To begin, your dog must understand a few basic commands such as "come', "sit", "stay', and "down". Once you are sure your dog understands what the basic commands mean, you should see a speedy response. In the beginning, if your dog does not obey on the first command, he should be ignored for at least 5 minutes and not be given a second chance with an additional command. Do not turn a request for a particular behavior into a battle by trying to make your dog obey. Also if your dog sits before you issue the command, that’s nice, but not sufficient for a reward. In this instance you should ask for another response and reward the correct execution of the command.

Your dog can have anything he wants if he is prepared to work for it. The point is to teach leadership and respect, not to deprive your dog of resources and enjoyable experiences. The program works best when your dog is willing to work and you are able to reward him often for good work. You should constantly remind yourself to ask your dog to work for his resources rather than indulging him. Too often dogs only receive attention when they are misbehaving, so if you catch “Spike” sitting quietly while you’re preparing his meal, ask him to “shake” and give him an emotional reward, hugs, kisses, whatever works for the two of you.

Since food is such a valued commodity, it is imperative to make your dog realize that you control this asset. Your dog must earn all food (including treats) from you by responding positively to a command. Your dog may hold out for awhile before he will obey a command to receive food, but most dogs fold early on. Prepare your dog's food, walk over to where you will feed him and with the bowl in your hands, give a command. If your dog does not respond, walk away with the food and put it out of sight. Leave the kitchen and do not try again for at least 10 minutes. While this may be time consuming in the first few days, most dogs will learn quickly when there is food involved.

Petting, and the acknowledgment that goes with it, is a powerful reward for most dogs and as such should be rationed in the same way as food. Petting of any kind and at any time must be on your terms. You must not submit to your dog's demands for petting. Ask that your dog says "please" to be petted by sitting in response to a command. Petting sessions should be brief enough to leave the dog wanting more but not so long as to be annoying (to either of you). When in doubt less is more. You can always start another petting session after asking for another command a few minutes later.

Having toys is a privilege for which dogs must work for. You should pick up all highly enjoyable toys and store them in an assigned drawer out of your dog’s sight. Supply a toy only after the dog obeys a command. Prior to leaving the house maybe have Spike sit, shake left, shake right, down, then give him an enrichment toy to enjoy while you’re gone. Young active dogs that are still intent on chewing often need to have something in their mouth almost at all times, so have an enrichment toy available to them, but make sure they earn it first.

Finally, consistent training is essential. In order for your dog to be motivated, everyone in the family must follow the thinking behind Nothing in Life is Free. It is a good idea to have the primary caretaker train your dog first, and then the training should be generalized to all members of the family, including children over the age of six. Too often only one person in the family trains the dog sending unclear messages to poor old Spike.