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Posted on January 12, 2016

Socializing Your New Puppy

Socializing Your New Puppy

Meet Le Le, an adorable, 13-week, Labrador retriever.  Le Le’s guardians had us over to help train their brand new puppy and wanted to know what they could do to help her socialize with her new family and environment. 

Like so many new puppy parents, Le Le’s have heard about the importance of socializing a new puppy.  They wanted to know: what is socialization, how do you do it, and why is it so important?

During our visit we explained that socialization for a new puppy involves three things: (1) positive experiences meeting new people, places and things, (2) learning to be comfortable with human touch and body handling and (3) learning how to interact with other dogs. 

At Zen Dog Training we specialize in early-intervention training and encourage our clients to pay careful attention to socializing their dogs. In fact, the time you spend socializing your dog between 8 and 14 weeks of age to a great extent will define your dog’s personality for life!

Technically speaking the socialization period is the time when a puppy is the most impressionable and therefore an essential time to bond and train.  After the socialization period ends (around the 14th week) your dog’s personality is more set. However, if you have an older dog or puppy -- there is no need to worry -- dogs are always learning so you can still socialize an older dog!

If you are able to influence the first few months of your dog’s life (between 2-6 months), you should spend a lot of time teaching your dog to be social with people, kids, cars, traffic, dogs, other animals, touch and new experiences.  This means using lots of treats and patience to slowly introduce your dog to new people, places, and things.

Puppy socialization with other puppies is important too! Enrolling your puppy in a group puppy class that allows puppies to free-play is essential. Puppies learn how to be social by playing and interacting with other dogs.  Puppy group classes are ideal if they allow lots of play and are held in a clean, supervised environment like the classes at Zen Dog Training!

During our visit, we talked about their future lifestyle when socializing Le Le.  Since they were interested in having children, we gave them extra homework to expose Le Le to positive experiences with young children. Just by asking parents on walks if they could introduce their puppy to the kids is a great start.

Setting up playdates with friends who have kids or just hanging out in the parks and letting interested kids say hi to Le Le also helps. Doing extra socialization today, will give Le Le what she needs to be a well adjusted, accepting “big sister” in the future.  

To learn more about socializing your new puppy, get access to our socialization checklist or view our extensive video tutorials, visit us at zendogtraining.net.

Posted on December 15, 2015

Check-in’s teach your dog to look to you for guidence.

Check-in’s teach your dog to look to you for guidence.

Mutual awareness is an important part of you and your dogs relationship – it is the essence of inter-species communication. With the right training plan, you can improve how you communicate with your dog by teaching your dog to “check-in” with you.

What is a Check-in?

At a very young age, puppies learn how to check in with their mother by making eye contact. You will notice that your dog will often offer you the behavior of eye contact, that natural behavior is called “checking-in”.

In your home, puppies and newly-adopted dogs are frequently under foot and getting in the way. Often what is actually happening is that your dog is trying to check-in with you.

Your dog is looking to you for approval and guidance. If you do not reinforce the check-in your dog may no longer look to you for guidance.

Reward the behavior

The check-in acknowledges you as the decision maker in the relationship. However it also opens up communication. Imagine your dog learning to look to you and say, “I’m feeling uncomfortable about something” or “Did you hear that too?” Knowing when your dog is nervous gives you the opportunity to assess the situation, practice some training exercises and set your dog up for success.

When your dog offers a check-in you should reward them. By responding, you are strengthening the bonds of trust between the two of you. Your dog will learn to trust you for guidance in a stressful situation.

Later you can give your dog more freedom without worrying they may get distracted by the environment and consequently make bad decisions.

See: How to Teach your dog to Check-in for more on this subtle but powerful training method. For more Zen Dog Training visit our website!

Posted on December 3, 2015

Teach your Dog to Heel

Teach your Dog to Heel

How to teach your dog to “Heel” on either side during walks


Why Heel?

This is an Ask Strategy. It teaches your dog that good things happen when they walk next to you. A heel command can help distract a nervous or reactive dog from getting worked up.

Goal of Heel: 

Teach your dog to walk next to you on command. Great for getting your dog to focus during scary or overly stimulating situations -- when you see the cigarette butt, or “Scary” person approaching, ask your dog to Touch Your Hand, to focus his attention on you instead of “that thing.”

How to:

  1. While on leash, turn your back to your dog.
  2. Put your right hand across your body and down to your left knee, with your palm facing back. Your palm should be facing your dog.
  3. Say your dog’s name and the word “Heel”
  4. When your dog Touches Your Hand, say “YES!”
  5. Take a few steps forward! (This is the part where they learn to Heel!)
  6. Now put your hand back down into the same position and give your dog a treat!


Helpful Tips:

Hide a treat under your thumb so your dog can smell but not see the treat.

Keep walking forward when treating. You want your dog to learn that moving forward with you is what gets him the treat.

This is a great game for fearful/shy dogs to pass by potentially tense situations or to distract overly curious dogs from picking up something gross off of the sidewalk.

Do not treat on the first hand touch. By treating on the second hand touch your dog learns to stay by your side (heel) and walk with you in order to receive a reward!

Change it up: Reactive and shy dogs should learn to switch sides and heel on the Left or the Right side on your command.



Bring treats with you on walks and ask your dog to Heel at your side and focus on you instead of anything else!  

Posted on September 17, 2015

Zen Dog Training Celebrates it’s 10th Anniversary

Zen Dog Training Celebrates it’s 10th Anniversary

Zen Dog Training is proud to announce that we have reached a milestone. In November, Zen Dog Training celebrates it’s 10th anniversary!

To celebrate this special event, everyone is invited to join us on Sunday, September 27th at Assembly Row Farmers Market from 10:30 am -2:30pm for a Client Appreciation Day. Come by our booth and say hi and grab free goodies and a free copy of our new Comic Book. We will even have a photo booth to capture the moment! Join us at the amphitheatre at 11 am and 1 pm for two (Free) 20 minute Interactive Demos .

We can’t thank you enough for all of your support, every one of you plays a very important role in the development of Zen Dog Training. It is for your enthusiasm, support and dedication that have brought us to this height!

We plan to keep providing you with nothing less than the best!

Posted on July 27, 2015

Help for the Shy or Fearful Dog

Help for the Shy or Fearful Dog

Meet Watson, a 17-month-old and his new buddy, 7-month-old Bruno.  Watson is a Zen Dog Puppy Kindergarten alum and despite his small size, he was a confident pup during classes.  It was good to see his confidence and socialization skills were still going strong!

Bruno, however, is quite a different story.  He was acting shy and fearful of almost everything -- except around his family and his buddy, Watson.  

Bruno’s guardians called Zen Dog Training to help manage Bruno’s fearful behaviors. When we met Bruno, he cowered as his harness was put on and yelped and squealed when we took him outside!  After observing Bruno, we offered a desensitization and counter-conditioning plan to help alleviate his fearful behaviors. 

For Bruno, the harness and outside walk at once was too overwhelming.  We suggested breaking things down into smaller, more manageable steps.

First, we suggested developing a positive association for Bruno with his harness while in the house.  To do this, the harness is slowly put on over his neck, and he is given high value treats for putting up with it. Slowly and systematically we put the harness on for longer periods as he got delicious treats!

Bruno soon began to enjoy himself and started to form a new, positive association with the harness.  Once comfortable, the harness is finally clipped on and worn around the house for increasing periods of time, all the while being offered more treats.

Next up, was the fear of going outside.  Using similar strategies as with the harness, we recommended taking Bruno to a small, relatively calm environment for gradually increasing amounts of time and again, offering lots of treats and “Coach Talk” to build Bruno’s confidence when outdoors.

Coach Talk is a phrase to describe the calm, reassuring things to say to a dog when experiencing signs of distress and fear.  Remember, when using coach talk, it is important to sound confident and reassuring, not sad or worried.

Applying these strategies, over time, with consistency and patience will ease Bruno’s fears and help him enjoy life with his new family.  For more information on shy and fearful dogs and other training topics, please visit www.ZenDogTrainingOnline.