Listening for Life
by Lisa Lafferty
for your dog to be a good companion for life, he
needs to know the rules. As a matter of fact,
if he doesn't know the rules, he's likely to be
restless and stressed. Dogs thrive on routine
and on knowing what is expected. In order to be truly
obedient and willing, your dog must have lots of
practice. This article shows you how to
develop rules, reinforce general listening, and
PRACTICING each new skill in
such a way that you will barely notice you are
practicing! The results will astonish you.
Commonly called "Nothing in Life is Free," this
program is so utterly simple, so logical, and so
easy for the dog to understand, that even your
children can help train. Very small puppies
started on this program, and older dogs that you
have owned for years or that you adopt, are able to
successfully become wonderful pets using this
Do you have problems with your dog?
Doesn't listen, runs away and won't
allow himself to be caught, constantly seeks attention, always
excited and can't calm down easily, barks to make you listen, digs,
chews, grabs stuff and plays keep-away, behaves aggressively, acts
"jealous" when couples try to hug or kiss or when another dog tries
to interact with "his" person, grumbles or growls when jostled...
If so, you need Listening for Life. Some
call it Nothing in Life is
Free. No matter what you call it, here's what it is.
It's a simple, very fun, gentle program that integrates basic
obedience and basic listening into your dog's daily routine, and
YOUR daily routine. It's not time-consuming. It's about
doing LITTLE things that make a surprisingly huge difference in the
This program teaches your dog that in
order to get the things he wants, he has to listen; not to his
impulses, but to you. The program makes daily control
exercises a part of life, no big deal, and even pleasant! This
means that when you *need* control you are more likely to have it.
It's a way to add more mental stimulation to
your dog's day as well.
The program is *not* about deprivation. Your dog can still have everything he wants.
However, your dog needs to work for what he gets for his own
well-being. This is not unpleasant for your dog, as he will be
getting more attention and clarity in his life, and will be more
relaxed and happy as a result. It's not the "Doggy Boot Camp"
that some people call it...it's fun and easy for both you and your
There are two basic
stages to Nothing in Life is free. The first stage is very
outlined and supervised. The dog will be near you and working
for almost everything for a short while. The
second stage (life maintenance) is making the dog work for a few
things each day.
For puppies, new
dogs, or dogs that are showing unwanted behaviors, the first stage
should be followed for a period of two weeks to a month. This
allows the dog to understand what is going on with no confusion.
It sets the parameters. Although the program usually produces
drastic results in just a few days or a week, do not abandon or
reduce the program! The dog will quickly forget these habits
unless you practice with him for a good length of time. It’s a big
change…give him (and you!) time to get used to the new routine.
dog on a twice-a-day feeding routine. Do not allow
food to sit on the floor for more than 10 minutes! Do
*not* restrict access to water dishes--these can stay on the
Pick up all
the toys except for a couple of chew bones.
positive reinforcement, teach a few simple behaviors such
as sit, down, or shake-a-paw.
dog knows these commands, begin asking your dog to perform
these behaviors prior to getting the things he wants.
It is important that your dog is doing it *when asked* and
not just by offering you the behaviors. If your dog
offers a behavior, praise him, but then ask him for a
different one to show him it's you that is in control of the
situation. It is also important that you *direct* the
dog to the thing he wants after he has performed his "work"
so that he understands even more clearly.
Dog wants this
Dog does this on
You do this
|Greet you when you
get home from work
Down-stay while you remove outer clothing
invite him into your space for hugs and lovin'
|Play with a stuffed
the toy down the hall with some happy "yippee" yells
|Get on couch
|Go for walk
and is still
|Go out the door
him to go out door
|Get into car
him to get into car
him to his food dish
different behaviors between each throw
|Sniff a hedge
him to the hedge so he can read his PeeMail
|Greet a guest
to greet visitor
If your dog does not comply
with the command you have given, simply walk away or
withdraw the item he wants. Try again in a few
You might get "Paris Hilton"
behavior at some point. Some dogs are quite compliant
with the program for the first day or so, then realize that
they are losing control and begin trying very hard to "get
around" the program. Your dog may be waiting excitedly
at the door to go out, hear your "sit" command, and walk
away in apparent disgust as if to say "well, if I have to
pay for it, forget it, I didn't want it that badly.
Screw off, you and that damn door." If this happens,
shrug your shoulders and walk away as well. Your
"Paris Hilton" will probably be staring at your back in
disbelief! Eventually he will come around as he
realizes that NOTHING, no NOTHING, in Life is Free.
If your dog does a "Paris
Hilton" and walks away, make sure that he does not proceed
to another fun activity. Place him on leash for a few
moments and sit down on the couch or something.
Dogs that resist the program
the most are usually the dogs that need the program the
After about one month of this, most
dogs are happy, eager participants in the Nothing in Life is Free
program. They have learned who is in control of the couch,
doors, food, toys, and other fun things. They have also
learned that by looking to *you* for direction, fun things happen!
You probably will have noticed that
when you ask the dog for obedience behaviors, he is less likely to
blow you off. You probably will see the dog is more relaxed in
general, because of all the "work" he has done that satisfied his
need for daily mental activity. You might see that your very
shy dog is more confident, because now he knows that he's not in
charge of looking after everything. Dogs that grumble when
jostled usually will have stopped within the first week.
It's now time to slowly start reducing
the Nothing in Life is Free program bit by bit. Do this over a
period of about another month, gradually reducing the amount of
things you ask him to do.
Ask the dog to perform a behavior at
least 5-10 times a day, rewarding him with access to the things he
wants when he complies.
Dogs should always have to do some sort
of behavior for any type of food. Food is the most valuable
resource on the planet for a dog, and also the most easy to control.
Ask for a sit-stay and then direct the dog to his food for life.
Other ways to easily keep Listening for Life operating are to continue to always ask for behaviors
when putting on the leash, going out doors, or greeting visitors.