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Using The NILF Training Approach For Your Newfoundland

What is NILIF Training?

NILIF stands for Nothing in Life is Free.

It’s a positive dog training approach that asks the dog to do something before getting something.

It’s kind of like asking them to say please and when used properly it can make life a lot easier for dogs and their people.

NILF might not be the right training program for some people and their Newfs but it was definitely a game-changer for us when Sherman and Leroy began having issues. 

Training Your Newfoundland Using The NILF dog traning approach

Why I used the NILIF Training Approach

We had an issue with Sherman and Leroy getting along together several years ago.

After speaking to a trainer to try and figure out what the issue was, it pointed to be an issue with Sherman resource guarding me. 

We had rules in our house but I was pretty laid back with them so we initiated the NILIF approach to try and restore order. 

It wasn’t so much of me trying to be the alpha, which is what NILIF is based on,  but more about setting boundaries.

While Sherman was the one doing the resource guarding, Leroy was the one that was creating the issue because he was pushy.

Leroy is the type of dog that is always in your face front and center. 

He has no respect for personal space and he’s demanding. 

It’s who he is.

Sherman is much more reserved and doesn’t like anyone in his space.

I have one laid back Newfie and one headstrong, pushy Newfie which can mess up the dynamics in the house if someone doesn’t set some boundaries.

NILF training was the perfect way for me to do this.

Why NILF For a Newfoundland?

While I’m not a professional dog trainer by any means I am familiar with the Newfoundland breed

I think that NILIF works well with this breed because in general Newfs don’t respond well to harsh training methods but do respond well to positive training experiences.

Newfies can be stubborn but they also tend to shut down if they’re yelled at or punished. 

A Newfie that shuts down and is not responsive to their family is a sad Newfie that may form bad habits or even turn aggressive. 

Newfies are working dogs

Newfies are working dogs by nature so asking them to perform a task where they have to work to get what they want is helping them to keep that working drive going.

Newfoundlands want to please their owners so if you ask them to do something they will almost always happily oblige!

NILIF teaches dogs good manners.

Many Newfies learn how to get the things they want such as food or playtime by being pushy. 

In a Newf’s mind, they think that they are little dogs trapped in a big body.

They paw at people, jump on people, push their way into a situation or even bark and whine to get attention because they don’t think that you can see him. 

While this can be cute, it can also be dangerous due to the size and power of a Newfoundland. 

Most of us have taken a paw to the face and it hurts. 

Some of us have been jumped up or had our legs taken out by a pushy Newfie. 

It happens. It’s part of life with a Newfie but lessening those occurrences is key for everyone’s safety.

What is one of the reasons why Newfie’s end up in adoption? Because they grow into big dogs that haven’t been trained properly, they have no manners and owners can’t handle them. 

NILIF makes life more predictable

NILIF makes your dog’s life more predictable and offers him lots of chances to earn good things which can help lower his anxiety.

It also teaches him to trust you as a leader; this can help build his confidence and provide a sense of security.

If you don’t think your Newf needs a leader than that’s a problem. 

NILIF can easily be customized to fit your specific training needs. 

It’s not a firm “You have to do this specific thing”, you adjust it to work how you need it to work in your dog’s life. 

Some people do like the NILIF training approach because it’s based on the alpha training method which can sometimes be interpreted as mistreatment. 

I don’t necessarily agree with this because when done correctly, NILF is not forceful and does not include punishment.

To me, it’s more teaching your dog manners and giving them some sort of order to their lives. 

It’s also an ongoing training activity.

NILIF can be used for dogs of any age

As long as your dog knows basic commands NILIF can be used for all life stages, puppies, teenagers, adults and even with senior Newfs.

Do Newfoundland Dogs Really Need To Be Trained?


So many Newfie’s end up in rescue surrendered by their owner because the owners couldn’t handle them.

They are big, smart, love to work and grow super fast. 

If they are not trained they can become aggressive and unruly.

Training a Newfoundland should start from the first day they are in your home and should be ongoing throughout their life.

Tips For Using NILIF Training With Your Newfoundland

Pick what things you want to use NILIF with. 

If you have a very pushy dog than you’ll want to use NILIF for everything that your dog wants.

If you’re using it for resource guarding then you might want it to use it when feeding, when playing with their favorite toy, when it’s treat time or even when they want to be petted especially if you’re the resource like I was. 

Get everyone on board

Everyone in your family and people that have contact with your dog such as the dog walker) needs to be using NILIF.

NILIF works best when it’s used consistently. If one person in the house is asking your dog and paw before they eat but someone else isn’t, this will lead to confusion for the dog.

Use the command only once. 

Give the command to your dog only once.

If they don’t respond then walk away and try again in a few minutes. 

Be patient and allow yourself extra time.

It can be frustrating at first but this is new to your dog so be patient and allow extra time.

You might have to walk away 6 times one day but the next day it may be one less and by the end of a week you might not be walking away at all.

Your Newfie is smart, he’ll eventually catch on!

Keep using it

Nothing In Life is Free doesn’t replace training your dog to prevent specific unwanted behaviors but it can work in conjunction with those. 

For example, If your dog is barker NILIF isn’t teaching your dog not to bark but it is teaching your dog that barking at you will not get him dinner faster so it will start weeding out the thought that barking gets him something that he wants. 

NILIF might not be for you and your Newf

Many people are not fans with the Nothing in Life is Free method because they think it’s cruel. 

Some people feel that their dog shouldn’t have to work for food or affection or play.

In my opinion, they shouldn’t demand it.

You’re not depriving your dog of food, play or affection you’re just not letting them demand it.

But if that’s not your cup of tea you could check out the “Say Please”, “No Free Lunch”, or “Learn to Earn”  method of training. 

It’s basically the same approach just under a nice name. 




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