How Much In Life Should Be Free?

Plenty In Life Is Free by Kathy Sdao
My Review

So I’ve been reading this book the last couple of days. And my review is not, yet, totally complete, as I haven’t read the whole book yet. I bought it from Dog Wise, the Kindle version, and I’m about 32% finished now. So far I’m really enjoying it.

Any dog behavior books I read anymore, I read from an obedience perspective. Since obedience is my joy and my nemesis at the same time. I love training for obedience, and it’s been difficult to figure out how to motivate the dogs to work for extended periods without treats.

Anyway, in this book, Kathy Sdao basically analyzes the Nothing In Life Is Free (NILIF) dog training program that so many dog trainers promote today. I have never followed the NILIF plan. One reason is because I’m lazy, and it would take a strong consistency I lack in my home environment. But mostly I don’t follow NILIF because really I just enjoy being with my dogs and doling out random treats and loves just to make them happy. And to make me happy. I have heard, time and again, that perhaps my daily behavior with my dogs affects my obedience training negatively. But really, I don’t care enough to change. While I do want Jet to qualify someday in obedience, I still want a fun happy relationship with him in my every day life. And our agility is going really well, so I’m glad we have success in agility. Agility is my favorite anyway.

Of course I really like to read books that support my training perspective style, or lack thereof, since Kathy is arguing against the NILIF training method.

Kathy Sdao argues against NILIF because, at the beginning of the book, she basically says that an emotional bond between two creatures should be free with love and interaction, and not dependent upon one of them doing something for attention. As the NILIF program does say that for the dog to get any attention, food, or anything at all, he has to do something first. No hugs without a sit. And if no sit, then the person walks away and there are no hugs or attention. Kathy says this can really break down a relationship, both in humans with humans, and humans with dogs. She states that such a relationship is actually rather passive aggressive on the human’s part. She also says that one point of positive dog training is so the dog feels like he is in control of his environment, as that builds confidence and trust. His actions matter, and get him things he wants and needs. But with NILIF, if the dog asks for attention, and you don’t give it (or only with conditions), then that could be telling the dog that he, actually, has no control over his environment after all.

She gives lots of examples in the book, and she talks about having a good genuine bond with our dogs, which I enjoy very much. That is why I have dogs in the first place. I want the bond, the companionship. The training is secondary. Hopefully I’ll be able to get those obedience legs with the relationship I already have with my dogs. Hopefully, the relationship I have with my dogs actually will increase the probability of qualifying legs. I guess I’ll find out over the years.

Kathy Sdao also talks about how sometimes people hear ideas and just automatically adopt them, without really giving them much thought. She talks about ‘sticky’ ideas and why the permeate society more than others. I think it’s always good to think about what we are doing and why, instead of just subscribing to the training program of someone else automatically. I think, in the dog training world, there are a ton of practices that people follow ‘just because,’ and they do need to be examined by each person to see how they really fit our own training and our own lives.

So perhaps Plenty in Life Is Free, or should be free, to both dogs and humans. I sure hope so. I get way too much enjoyment out of seeing my dogs get excited and happy Just Because of things that are Free.

7 thoughts on “How Much In Life Should Be Free?”

  1. I really want to read that book!  I’m not a fan of NILF but I do think parts of it are certainly useful for helping to get a dog past the “i don’t do something unless I see a treat!” type of attitude (and poor training!).  

  2. wow, I think as soon as I finish this comment I will have to go and buy that book, I have been looking at it…..great review. I think as with so many things the NILF philosophy has some things that make sense when incorporated into life, but not taken to the extreme 😉 and for instance just looking for opportuntities to make life more fun and use rewards that are really in life, I think using it like that is cool esp when done in a playful manner that enhances the relationship, but to go where some people go with extreme deprivation that is just not worth it in my opinion, I would rather do pretty good, have a dog pretty well behaved and not be stressing about it.

  3. I am well into the book now…And so glad you talked about it, I am enjoying it and love books that make you think/question!

  4. Good point about being free. I am a pro dog walker, and I am happy for people to walk their own dogs, but you know 99% of people (and thats generous) dont do this each day. I went to a community dog training school and they were great and really cheap. There are ways around giving your dog what they need .. you just have to love them enough and commit.

  5. Stumbled over your blog and recognized Levi from his breeder’s website years ago! Anyway, it’s soooo nice to see a other person training and competing with collies. 🙂

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