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Plenty in Life Is Free: Reflections on Dogs, Training and Finding Grace Paperback – February 27, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

This extraordinary book fills the gap between contemporary training technology and ethics. With indelible wit and wisdom, Sdao exposes the naked emperor of excessive control and replaces him with the keys to healthful behavior and lasting relationships. This book will improve more than a dog s life it will be required reading for the students in all my behavior classes. --Susan G. Friedman, Ph.D., Dept. of Psychology, Utah State University

Kathy Sdao is as wise, witty, warm, and adventurous on paper as she is on the lecture platform. This is a wonderful book about an issue deep and dear to all of us: how to learn to be thoughtful, kind, and generous to our dogs, to each other, and to ourselves, in a world that pressures us to be harsh, resistant, and controlling instead. --Karen Pryor, Author of Reaching the Animal Mind and Don't Shoot the Dog.

About the Author

Kathy Sdao is an Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist who has spent 26 years as a full-time animal trainer. She teaches about a dozen seminars annually, for trainers around the world. Kathy lives in Tacoma, Washington where she runs Bright Spot Dog Training and lives with her two dogs.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 124 pages
  • Publisher: Dogwise Publishing (February 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1617810649
  • ISBN-13: 978-1617810640
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.3 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #124,441 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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I'm not sure what made me pick up this book as I've never been an advocate of nor have I ever practiced NILF. As a pet dog owner, I do have an interest in training/dog behavior and as a human psychotherapist I have a background in learning theory and I was curious as to how a "professional" perceived the ubiquitous NILF. As anticipated it did feel a bit like "preaching to the choir" to me.

I was surprised by Sdao's incorporation of her spiritual beliefs and how this perspective informed her approach to dog training; however as a secular person I was not offended. On the contrary I was intrigued by her description of her Church which promoted "an unconditional Divine love" and preached a "radical social-order based on grace not merit". If I found a Church that espoused those beliefs and actually practiced what they preached - I might be converted.

I thought her chapter on alternatives to NILF was a nice addition for the typical dog owner. SMART x 50 seems to me like a good use of one's time and energy. I'm not sure how my own personal approach fit into her list of alternatives but I guess I would characterize it as "Lots and lots of things in life are free because life is good; however good behavior and good manners are expected and will be supported".

The intended audience for her book seems to be other dog trainers and I'm not sure she will succeed in changing any opinions. Dog training seems to be an area where people have very definitive opinions. I personally have no patience for dominance theory and listening to discussions about "being alpha" or "the pack leader" or "the dog knowing it's place" are like nails on a blackboard to me.
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Format: Paperback
Kathy's enthusiasm and energy show through in this wonderful book, breaking down and examining a technique that is commonly used by dog trainers. She provides a great, new perspective on the use of the protocol NILIF (Nothing In Life Is Free) and explains why it may not get you the results you expect when working with your dog. She is able to break down a new approach to building a strong, trusting relationship with your companions, one that can bring it to a higher level. This book will have a special place on my keep-forever shelf, and will be read again and again!
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I bought this based on the 5 star reviews, in retrospect, I wonder if most of them either know the author or have attended her seminars. I'm sure I would very much like Kathy Sdao in person and whole heartedly agree with her approach.

That said, I found it a somewhat belabored treatise having to explain what was wrong with "nothing in life is free" methodology from both an ethical and personal religious view point. In fact the religious references made me uncomfortable and I found myself skimming past them whenever they appeared. While I appreciate that her journey took her there and maybe she finds it impossible to separate . . . . I have no problem from a secular point of view finding ethical reasons not to be alpha or dominate my dog. Also as a newbie to dog training, I've always been taught the sort of positive clicker training approach and had never been introduced to the concept of "Nothing in Life is Free" as a training mantra until I read about it on dog forums. So a lot of time is spent carefully refuting and dissecting a concept that readers like myself probably don't need a refutation for, if that makes sense.

Perhaps a few more anecdotes would have spiced it up a bit for me, I loved the techniques she uses, but what I got out of it could have been greatly condensed--not so happy with the purchase overall compared to similar books along these lines.
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Format: Paperback
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Kathy! Finally, we have a clear and inspiring book that explains why we should not and do not need to exercise the kind of control that NILIF involves. Dogs can learn. Dogs can make good choices. It's simply up to us to teach them and to reward those choices. Pick up almost any book about positive-reinforcement-based or clicker training and you'll find NILIF in it: ask the dog for a behavior before giving the dog your attention. This is advocated as a "cure" for everything from unruly door behavior to poor impulse control to aggression. Be in charge, be the leader! Wrong! Modern science tells us that animals learn best when they are active, not passive, in the learning process. We simply create the environment in which the dog can be an active learner. This book should be read by every dog trainer, veterinarian, shelter worker, dog walker - in short, everyone who deals with dogs on a daily basis. And let's not forget the dog owner who has been suffering for a long time under the so-called "leadership" model with their dog. This book is a breath of fresh air.
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I've attended seminars by Kathy Sdao in the past on a variety of dog training topics so I knew I'd be interested in this book because she is such a dynamic, kind, knowledgeable trainer. I expected I'd like the book when I hear the title because I've never been enthusiastic about the "tough love" trend in dog training of making dogs earn your love.

However, even I was surprised by how much I loved, loved this book. Some of the passages are so beautifully written that I had to read them a few times. More than a dog training book, it's a bit of a memoir that weaves God's love together with our love back and forth with our dogs. And it's that love for our dogs that's missing in training approaches that set people against their pets.

Having a pet is something to delight in, I think, and I loved how Plenty in Life is Free gives permission to love our dogs AND to train our dogs -- these are not mutually exclusive! The training suggestions are super easy to fit into any schedule because it all starts with simply noticing what the dog is doing that you like -- I think the book says anything you find "cute or useful." In my classes, I add in, "not annoying you." If you are not annoyed with your dog at this moment, you can reinforce this and get more not-annoying behavior in the future!

As soon as I started reading my copy, I knew another friend would love it, too, so I gave it to her and had to wait for another one. It's a short book so I found myself reading it very slowly to make it last -- until I had to read it really fast because I didn't want to not know one minute longer. I still need to go back and read it again, normal speed, and take some notes. There's a lot to ponder here.
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