Nothing In Life Is Free

We’ve all heard how the humans should be the “alpha” in the pack and have heard people say that we’ve got to “show them who’s boss!” Unfortunately, what too many people mean when they say that is that you should use confrontational and sometimes even violent methods to make this point. Our experience has been that Samoyeds don’t do well with these particular methods. Luckily, there are much more positive ways to get the idea across.

The easiest way to show your dog that you are in charge is to realize that in dog-speak, the alpha dog controls the resources. You can transmit this idea by using the concept that Nothing in Life is Free (NILIF). The basic idea of NILIF is that when your dog wants something, he should earn it. Earning whatever it is doesn’t have to be difficult, but nothing should be given for free.

For instance, does your dog come over and bat at you or nudge your arm because he wants to be petted? When this happens, most of us absent-mindedly simply pet the dog. However, in that case, your dog is choosing what he wants and demanding it when he wants it. Giving him what he wants unconditionally tells him that he gets to decide what you do. To change this dynamic, ask him to sit or lie down (or any other behavior he knows) before petting him. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t get petted right then because he didn’t do what you asked in order to earn what he wants.

Another easy place to use NILIF is when your dog wants to go out. Before opening the door to let him out or attaching his leash to his collar, tell him to sit. When you open the door, tell him to stay or wait until you give him permission to go outside. Not only will this help him see you as the leader of the pack, it could potentially safe his life or save him from harm by preventing him from bolting out an open door.

Hunger is a primary drive in all animals, so using feeding time to reinforce your position as leader is another easy opportunity that presents itself quite frequently. Does your dog bark, jump around, and otherwise demand his dinner? While enthusiasm is wonderful, you don’t want him to think that he is controlling you. While you prepare his food, it’s ok that he be enthusiastic, but ask him to sit before placing the bowl of food on the floor for him. If he sits right away, GREAT! Tell him “good dog!” and give him his dinner. If he doesn’t, don’t repeat the command or even say anything at all. Instead, put the bowl of food up on the counter or on top of the refrigerator or anywhere else he can’t get at it and simply walk away. Come back in 5 minutes and try it again. At first, your dog will be very confused by this behavior. (The look on his face will be priceless the first time you do this!!) However, it won’t take him too long to figure out the rules of this new game, and soon you’ll find out just how quickly and how prettily he can sit.

Using NILIF will help you find ways to include training into your regular, every day schedule. It will also help you establish that you are in charge without being violent or confrontational in any manner.

by Ellen Engle, MidAtlantic Samoyed Rescue
(Reprinted with permission. No reproductions of this article allowed without author permission.)

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