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Posted on April 12, 2016

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

Meet Jake. He is a sweet, fearful, precious Portuguese Water dog with a
few insecurities.

During the first week that they had this little guy, Alex and Nelly experienced
Jake chewing his way out of his first crate!  Granted, this crate was soft walled
(made of nylon and heavy duty mesh), however, they discovered that Jake would
do whatever it took to escape. He managed to chew his way through in no time at all!

HOME ALONE TRAINING - Training for Independence

Jake's parents, Alex and Nelly, were used to child rearing. They already had two
darling boys who adore their new puppy family member. They understood the
importance of management and purchased a sturdy wire crate to ensure there
would be no more escaping!  For a training plan, we emphasized that crate training should happen daily in very small increments. We recommended a crating schedule of 10x per day for 2-20 minute intervals.


While we were there during our visit, Jake was crated three times. His first go
around was a tad painful, as expected. He screeched and cried much like he did
every time his family crated him. We waited the noise out. We gave him “Watch It”
warnings twice. Then said, “Enough!” – the final warning - before covering the
entire crate with a blanket.

Jake stopped his high-pitched complaints almost immediately. He changed his
tune to a low growl. Nelly expressed some concern because this sound was
new. We assured her that this was a good thing and waited out Jake’s protests.

The key to these crate training exercises is to ALWAYS OUTLAST YOUR DOG’S PROTESTS. The worst thing you can do is to let them out during or while they are upset!  So we stayed in the room, to give Jake assurance, however we didn’t speak to
him and most importantly we didn’t give in. He growled for a while. Whimpered.
Then nothing...

The silence lasted for about two minutes. This was the perfect opportunity to
open the crate door! Jake had learned to self-soothe and to calm himself down.
We opened the crate door and didn’t make a big deal about it.  No celebrations.
We didn’t give him any attention. It was a “business as usual” attitude.

INCREASE CRATE TIME - Learning to Self-Soothe

We practiced three crate sessions during our visit. We explained that, at first,
people should stay in the room where Jake is crated.  By the third exit from his crate, Jake was peaceful and calm. He would enter his crate (we always tossed treats in for him) and we would remain in the room talking and keeping him company. When he settled down, he would be released.

[Note: Not every dog will learn so quickly. If you think your dog has severe
separation anxiety. Please contact a Zen Dog Trainer!]


Before long, they taught Jake to acclimate to being in the crate for longer and longer periods. Jake's perspective:
“I go into the crate...
I wait silently...
Eventually I get released...
But only when I am quiet and relaxed.”

It was a great start!  After our session they had their work cut out for them. They
had to get 10 crate experiences accomplished every day!  


Over time, Jake was gradually exposed to less and less company in his crate room.

His family was eventually able to leave the house.  E.g. A 30 minute
outing, a 45 minute outing, a 1 hr. outing, etc.

For more information on Crate Training for Independence or other
dog training topics, visit us at www.ZenDogTrainingOnline.com to view our extensive
collection of video tutorials.

In addition, you can check out our eBook:  How to Crate Train a dog in 2 Days

Posted on April 5, 2016

How to Teach Your Dog to Check-In

How to Teach Your Dog to Check-In


To teach your dog to check-in, start in a small, quiet room with a hungry dog and some treats your dog really likes. The idea is to be silent and wait for your dog to do the work, so just sit in a chair and ignore your dog.

After 1-2 minutes -- get up from the chair and notice if your dog looks at you, as if to say “where are you going?” If they look at you say “Yes!” and reward with a treat.

By treating when they pay attention to you, you are rewarding your dog for looking at you and encouraging a “Check-in.”

Do several repetitions in a 10 minute training session. Ignore your dog and wait for them to check-in with you. After they catch on to the game, you probably won’t need to get up out of the chair.

Remember, when they check-in with you by giving you eye contact, say “Yes!” and give them a treat.

Changing Environments

You want your dog to understand that checking-in with you will be recognized and rewarded. So practice this game in a larger room or other rooms of the house.

Play several times a day, for 5-10 minutes doing 20-30 check-in’s each time rewarding with treats.

Once they have figured out the game, you can practice in your day-to-day activities. When your dog isn’t expecting it, walk into the room and see if they will check-in with you automatically. If they do, say “Yes!” and reward them.

Taking it on the road

When you and your dog are ready, take the training on a walk.  Put a leash on and walk your dog towards the door as if you were going outside. Before opening the door, stop and wait for your dog to offer a check-in. As soon as your dog offers the check-in, praise them and give them the reward of opening the door!

Note:  If after 10 seconds your dog has not offered a check-in, make a noise to interrupt their focus and try again.

Life Rewards

Playing games like this is called a “Life Reward,” you give your dog something they want after they do something for you. Instead of always relying on treats, you can reward by opening the door and letting your dog outside, or even have them check-in with you before letting them off-leash at an enclosed park. To make sure it works, make sure your dog really likes the reward you plan to give them.

Advanced Training

When you teach your dog to check-in with you, it’s like teaching them to say “May I?” They learn that you are the leader who let’s them get things they like if they first check-in with you.

Of course, you will not always be able to grant your dog’s request. In these situations, still honor the check-in with lots of praise and a substitute reward like a treat. 

Remember training is a two way street!  To be successful both human and canine must participate. You are expecting a lot out of your dog, so stay focused and pay close attention to your dog and the environment. If you are distracted and you miss the check-in the behavior might extinguish itself. In other words, your dog may stop looking to you for guidance and direction.  

Posted on March 7, 2016

A New Leash On Life

A New Leash On Life

Meet Toby, a one-year-old Golden Doodle.  Toby is a total peach of a pup.  Except when he sees other dogs on leash!

His parents, Rahul and Puja, called Zen Dog Training because Toby had become leash reactive.  An exuberant and enthusiastic dog off-leash, on-leash Toby was exhibiting rude behavior by barking, jumping, and lunging at other dogs!

Leash Lessons:

Before we started the process of training him we wanted to make sure everyone knew how to do an Emergency U-Turn (an Interruption Technique) so they could get him out of trouble when he was barking excessively on leash at other dogs.

Our practice session started slowly. Instead of starting with actual dogs (a high-level distraction), we first practiced with other milder things that set Toby off to barking, a.k.a. low-level distractions.

For Toby, birds in the neighbor’s hedges provided us with plenty of opportunities to interrupt his excitable lunging. We walked around outside making sure Toby was on a loose leash so he could feel free to have a natural response.

Toby spotted a bird in one of the bushes and began to bark. We used that opportunity to do the U-Turn.  A “U-Turn” is a quick 180-degree turn of your dog’s head away from whatever he is looking at plus quickly walking away to create distance from whatever is upsetting him.

How to do a U-Turn:

  • Say “Eh- Eh” in a calm but serious voice.
  • Bring the leash into your core (hips) and turn around 180 degrees (pivoting your body in the opposite direction).
  • Start walking the other way to move your dog’s focus 100% away from the distraction. 

It is essential that you break your dog’s eye contact with whatever has them worked up as you walk away or across the street. 

Benefits of using a U-Turn:

  1. U-Turns are an important technique for people with larger or heavier dogs.
  2. Instead of trying to use your arms and shoulders to tighten up on the leash, you turn 180-degrees away from unwanted behaviors using your whole body.
  3. Using your entire body - not just your arms and shoulders - during a U-Turn is important, especially in situations where your dog is overwhelmed.
  4. Learning to use your body’s core strength sends a clearer message of steady movement to your dog.  You AND your dog will feel more grounded and confident as you move safely away.

Rahul and Puja quickly learned this Emergency U-Turn technique.  They became comfortable managing Toby’s lower level reactions.  Now they can slowly start working on helping Toby to feel calmer upon seeing other dogs on leash.


For more information about doing Leash Interruptions, go to Zen Dog Training Online and click on “Leash Lessons”.

Posted on February 29, 2016

Zen Dog Training is looking for new trainers

If you are interested in a rewarding and lucrative career as a dog training professional, then you should consider becoming a Zen Dog Trainer.

Join our team and you will learn the most advanced training methods in the industry! Zen Dog Trainers get their own bio page and are highlighted on our website, our blog and social media. Trainers have exclusive access to all the training plans, games, and solutions to use with clients on visits and during group classes. 

We will teach you the secrets of Zen Dog Training. A systematic-approach to teaching people and their dogs that was developed over the last decade by training thousands of dogs and their owners!  

In addition to learning our training system, everything you need to run your own business is taken care of for you. We'll help you find new clients, track sales and leads, and charge the ideal price for your time.

Our efficient approach means your clients are automatically followed up with, so you can spend more time training dogs and less time running your business.

Love what you do

Zen Dog Training is a rewarding career. Our trainers love working with people and dogs. They get to spend every day meeting new people and helping them better communicate and understand their pets. It is incredibly rewarding when you help a family with their dog and make a life-long impact in the relationship they have with their pet.

Zen Dog Training is unique. We need enthusiastic, self-motivated, individuals who want to become full-time dog trainers. Trainers who work 30-40 hours a week, can expect to earn between $40-60,000 a year. In fact, many Zen Dog Trainers have made $25-30,000 in their first year!

What does it mean to become a Zen Dog Trainer?

Zen Dog Training is not a franchise. Our trainers run their own business and are paid directly by their own clients.   

Zen Dog Training provides trainer education with a mentorship program where new trainers study and work directly with Gordon Fontaine. Trainers learn our unique training system that includes client drills and exercises and training plans for In-Home Visits and Group Classes. 

Our trainers have access to all our print-ready, logical, and fun training plans and comics to leave behind after a visit or give out during puppy classes. In addition, they get unlimited access to our Video Solution Center with over 100 training video’s that support the Zen Dog Training methods.

Trainers are highlighted on our website with their own profile page, testimonials, and blog posts. In addition, marketing is already taken care of, business cards, flyers, and brochures are designed and customized for each trainer.  

The best job in the world

I started Zen Dog Training in 2005 after graduating from the SF SPCA Dog Training Academy in San Francisco, CA. I had moved to Boston and earned an MBA from Boston College, and after 10 years working in the high-tech and bio-tech industries I realized that a desk job, no matter how high-paying was not for me!

Growing up with dogs, I have a deep love for animals and living dog-less in the city I felt something in my life was missing.  At the time, I was volunteering at Angell in their animal behavior program and realized there was a huge need for personalized dog training.  I decided to become a dog trainer.

I was accepted into the SF SPCA Dog Training Academy and studied with Jean Donaldson and Janis Bradley in this highly-selective program known as the “Harvard of Dog Training”.  I was attracted to the academy because of their world-class reputation and focus on the science of dog learning, positive-reinforcement, and critical thinking.

Becoming a dog trainer has been so rewarding! People from all walks of life, from doctors, lawyers, and scientists, to parents, students, and everyday people seek my advice on how to have a better relationship with their dogs.

Be your own boss

Zen Dog Trainers get their own unique territory and are positioned to become the local dog training expert. Trainers get marketing support and help with promotion to build a reputation as the go-to dog trainer in their area.

Being self-employed has many advantages! You can set your own hours and are entitled to tax deductions when you use your car, cell phone, and computer for your business. We even have a system for helping you track your time, expenses and income so can professionally run your business and keep more of the money you earn.

Contact Zen Dog Training

Please email us at training@zendogtraining.net with your name, address, phone number and a few paragraphs about why you are interested in becoming a Zen Dog Trainer.

We are looking forward to hearing from you!

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.