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Blog posts from 2015

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.  

Posted on July 20, 2015

Using a Long Line to teach Coming When Called

Using a Long Line to teach Coming When Called

Once you have mastered “Recall” (Link’s ability to Come When Called) indoors – it is time to move outdoors. Lauren’s yard was not fully fenced in so we attached Link to his outdoor LONG LINE: a 50 foot lightweight cloth (or rope) leash.

Using a Long Line is a great intermediary step for off-leash training — if your dog decides to run off or test the rules, you can quickly and easily step on, or grab, the leash to regain control of the situation.

Long Line Tips:

  • Try to make the line as lightweight as possible. You want your dog to feel free and make his own decisions before he realizes that you can actually reach him from fifty feet away.
  • Hold the leash. Do not “reel” your dog back to you; just prevent him from going anywhere.
  • If your dog tries to “test the rules”, pick up the leash and walk backwards. This will turn your dog towards you. Call your dog again. Stop walking when they start coming towards you. Reward your dog when he arrives!

Coming When Called Training Steps:

  1. Once the indoor “Recall” (Coming When Called) is really solid, attach your dog’s outdoor LONG LINE to their harness or collar and head outside to a small yard or isolated outdoor space with little to no distractions.
  2. Repeat the Name Game exercise. Again, keeping it fun, using your HIGH VALUE treats and end on a good note!
  3. Take baby steps. Start on your front or back porch if you have to. Make sure to start with outdoor areas that are quiet and do not have a lot of distractions for your dog. (If he has learned to come when called in your kitchen, you can’t expect him to be able to do it at the dog park when he’s surrounded by a pack of buddies!)
  4. Very gradually increase the level of difficulty by training in outdoor environments where the added distractions are really easy to ignore at first. After several weeks of training, you can add in harder distractions like coming away from squirrels, birds, children, people and other dogs.

GOAL:  Your dog continues to learn that when you say his name, something yummy and wonderful is STILL going to happen! Once you can get your dog’s full attention by calling their name outside using your Long Line, then you’re ready to start training the Coming when Called without the leash.

To learn more about Coming when Called outside check out our video solution center Zen Dog Training Online!