Thank you for signing up for a class with Alpha Dog! We can’t wait to start working with you and your best friend. Please call (508) 989-5859 or email Christina@alphadogk9.com if you have any questions or concerns.
Please read through these two articles before and after coming to class.
Nothing in Life is Free, or NILIF
NILIF is remarkable because it’s effective for all dogs. A shy, timid dog becomes more relaxed knowing that he has nothing to worry about; his owner is in charge of all things. A dog that’s pushing too hard to become the leader learns that his life is more fun without being in charge. It’s equally successful with dogs that fall between the extremes. The program is not difficult to put into effect and it’s not time consuming if the dog already knows a few basic commands. These exercises provide your dog with structure, boundaries and direction they need to be happy in our human world. “Freedom” to do whatever they like is not natural in the canine world. To them, such “freedom” means that no one is in charge. This can frighten and confuse your dog, leading to hyperactivity, barking, chewing, over dependence, and possibly, aggression. Showing your dog that you’re the leader doesn’t need to consist of always physically dominating the dog. Most dogs are perfectly happy to submit to a leader and can gain confidence and a sense of security from having someone to follow.
How is this done? By asking them to defer and wait for everything, establishing rules and hierarchies. This behavior is calming, and is easy for the dog to do. It teaches the dog to pay attention to your signals and provides a way to quickly control your dog’s reactions.
Attention on Demand
The program begins by eliminating attention on demand. When your dog comes to you and demands attention by nudging your hand, ignore him. Don’t tell him no, don’t push him away, just ignore him. This has worked for him before, so don’t be surprised if he tries harder for a while. This is called and extinction burst, and it’s normal. When he figures out that it no longer works, he’ll stop. When you give your dog attention on demand, you’re telling him that he has higher status than you. Timid dogs become become stressed by this, and may become clingy. They’re never sure when you’ll be in charge, so they can’t relax. What if something scary happens, like strangers in the house? Who will handle that? The timid dog that is demanding attention can be on edge a lot of the time because he has more responsibility than he can handle.
Some dogs see their ability to demand attention as a confirmation that they are in chage, then become difficult to handle when told to SIT or DOWN or some other command. It is not thier leadership that stresses them out, it’s the lack of consistency. They may not actually be leadership material, but having no one in charge is a bigger problem.
You have the power!
As the leader, you have control of all things wonderful in the dog’s life. This is the backbone of the NILIF program. You control all of the resources: playing, food, attention, walks, going in and out the door, car rides, etc. Everything that your dog wants comes from you. If he’s been getting all these things for “free”, why should he respect your leadership or ownership of these things?
To implement the NILIF program you simply have to have your dog earn his use of your resources. He’s hungry? No problem, he simply has to sit before his bowl is put down. Most people start this from the time thier pup is very young, so keep it going!! Dog wants to play fetch? Great! He has to down before you throw the ball. Want to go for a walk or a ride? Sit for your leash, sit and stay to get out the door. Sit and stay and wait to be released to get into or out of the car, even if the door is wide open! He will need time to adjust to the new order, but most dogs love having a pack leader!
You will need to pay attention to things that you may not have noticed before–if you feed your dog from your plate, do you just toss him a green bean? No more. Now he needs to earn it. Teach him to go to his place on command (you will learn this in class)–free run of the house is now something that you control. NILIF should not be a long, drawn out process. All you need to do is enforce a simple command before allowing him to access what he wants. Dinner, for example, should be a two or three second encounter that consists of saying sit, bowl down, then your release word, then good dog!
Attention and Play
Now that your dog is no longer calling the shots, you will need to make sure that you provide him with extra attention and play time. Call him to you, have him sit, then lavish attention and affection on him. (NILIF doesn’t mean that you withhold attention and affection, just that you are initiating the interactions.) Have him get his favorite toy and play for a while. The difference is that you are the one initiating play! He’s going to depend on you more now, to get what he needs. What your dog needs most is quality time with you. If your dog’s obedience is great, take a fun class doing something that your dog is good at!
Hand feed at random times, crate for rest times, attach training sessions to play sessions so your dog learns to obey when excited. Stop playing before the dog is sick of it, play hide and seek in the house, exhaust your dog twice a day. No dog parks!
This program will augment your training program! Call us with questions, any time.
Developing a plan to reduce stress around your dog
First, train your dog. If your dog learns how to ignore other dogs, your likelihood of getting into a fight is cut in half.
Second, learn to be assertive when telling others to not approach your dog with theirs.
If you’re not sure that your dog can handle an interaction, please do not guess! Remember that you are your dog’s protector. If your dog gets into a fight, it’s likely YOUR FAULT. If you know that your dog dislikes certain dogs, avoid them. Simple.
When you see someone approaching you and your dog with a dog or a child or just looking like there may be an encounter, and your dog is for whatever reason, not ready there are many options open to you. You can turn 180 degrees and walk the other way. You can walk up someone’s driveway or take a side street. You can put your hand up in the universal sign for STOP and tell the person that your dog is NOT FRIENDLY and then get as far out of thier way as possible. Even when you have the obnoxious person who insists on petting the dog because “I’m great with dogs”. It’s your job to insist right back that they stay away from your dog–even if that means waking away from whatever you’re doing. Remember that these actions do not constitute rudeness on your part. You can smile while you do these things. What you must not do, cannot do, is put your dog or a human at risk because you’re too polite or uncomfortable to tell people that your dog needs space.
This also means crating or segregating your dog for the safety of the house cleaner, UPS driver, mailman, lawn guys, kids, etc. Allowing the dog to jump all over people entering your home or on your doors increases the likelihood of increased aggressive behavior by patterning bad behaviors. Remember, all dogs bite.