Since I moved into my foster home, I have been learning about Nothing In Life Is Free (NILIF,) which is not a training method, but a way for humans and dogs to live together with clearly defined leadership roles. In my previous home, none of the humans took the alpha role, so I thought it was up to me. I didn’t really want to be the leader, but someone had to do it, even though I felt very anxious about all the responsibility. Now my foster humans are letting me know that they are the leaders, so I can relax and enjoy being a puppy again.
Here is how it works: first I have to know at least one command, like sit or down, and a release command, like okay, which means I am free to do as I please. I learned a few commands from my former mom, so my foster parents didn’t have to go through that step.
Then all I have to do is follow whatever directions my foster parents give anytime I want something. Before they put down my food dish, they ask me to sit. When I do, they give me the dish, say okay, and I get to eat. If I don’t, they put my food dish out of reach for ten minutes, then come back and try again. They haven’t had to do that yet, though, because I’m always happy to show off how quickly I can sit. Sometimes I sit before they ask, but then they make me lay down to make sure I’m paying attention to them instead of just acting automatically.
If I carry a toy over to them or nudge their hands for petting, they ask me to sit, down, or heel before playing with me or petting me. That does not mean I get any less play, treats, or pets. It just means I have to work to earn those things just like my humans have to work to earn the things they like.NILIF is a nonconfrontational way to show dominant dogs they’re no longer in charge, and it helps anxious dogs build confidence as they come to understand what their people want. In multiple dog households, all the dogs follow the people’s lead, so they are less likely to fight amongst themselves. It’s also a good way to incorporate training practice into every day activities.