Should You Use “Nothing in Life Is Free” with Your Dog?

Learn how to use not only treats but any everyday interaction to teach your dog good manners.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
6-minute read
Episode #52

How to Use “Say Please” for Behavior Repair

“Say Please” also comes in handy for repair work. Maybe you’ve got that out-of-control adolescent dog and you’re giving the hairy eyeball to the neighbor whose young ’un is walking so politely on leash.  Or your dog never learned to tolerate frustration. He’s the dog who doesn’t just ask for ear scritches with the head-on-thigh trick – he demands them. Or he’ll start mouthing you when you end a game of Tug. “Whaddaya mean, ‘We’re done playing?’ We are not! No no no no no! We are not!” For these dogs, who could really use some structure, an abrupt change in the household rules can knock them for a loop. Set everybody up for success by going slow. Ask for a few easy manners behaviors every day and build up the “Say Please” habit a little at a time.

How to Use NILIF/“Say Please” in Behavior Modification

Frustration intolerance brings us to the word-of-caution piece of this article. Some version of NILIF or “Say Please” enters into many or most behavior modification plans, including behavior mod for aggression. If you’re dealing with frustration intolerance that shades into outright aggression, consult a good behavior professional before proceeding. Same goes if you just want to develop better manners or a better relationship with your dog, but her response to a “Say Please” program turns out to worry you in any way. “Say Please” isn’t harsh or confrontational. If your dog reacts to it by threatening you, get help pronto.

For most of us, though, “Say Please” is an easy, pleasant way to incorporate teaching and learning into everyday life with our dogs, to help a new dog learn the ropes, or to bring up a shy dog’s confidence. You don’t need to live “Say Please” 24/7 to see benefits, by any means--start by applying it consistently to just a few situations. As you get better at noticing which of your dog’s behaviors pay off for her, it will become natural and easy to provide those payoffs in exchange for behaviors you like. Congratulations: you’re a dog trainer.

I welcome your comments and questions – call 206-600-5661, or email dogtrainer@quickanddirtytips.com. And you can talk to me on Facebook, where, amazingly enough, I’m The Dog Trainer. That’s it for this week – thanks for reading.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).