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Blog posts by Elissa Carreras

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 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 4, 2015

Respectful Training for the Demanding Puppy

Respectful Training for the Demanding Puppy

Presenting Ziggy!  He is one, absolutely adorable, 12-week Irish Terrier/Poodle mix.  Ziggy is a bit timid, but demanding.  He wanted everything from his owner:  he ‘asked’ her to play with him, ‘asked’ her to let him go outside, or get his favorite toy – and because he’s so adorable he usually got what he wanted! 

While it is important to understand your dog’s wants and needs, fulfilling every one on his terms does little to build confidence and self-soothing skills.  In fact, being too accommodating to your dog can actually make him a needy, attention-demanding dog. 

At Zen Dog Training, we teach clients strategies to respond to their dog’s requests in a way that builds confidence AND establishes appropriate boundaries and limitations.  One strategy we use is called “Nothing for Free”; in short, once your dog has done something for you, then he can have what he wants. 

For example, Ziggy dropped his toy at his owner’s feet to signal he wanted to play NOW!  We suggested to first ask Ziggy to do a “sit” or “down”.  Once he has done what she asked, playtime can begin! 

Games where you teach your dog to do an extended “sit-stay” or a “long-down-stay”, go to another room and call your dog to you, will build obedience on your terms. Anything that delays the fulfillment of your dog’s request will build his coping skills and make you absolutely irresistible!  

Nothing for Free games are best practiced before doing things that your dog really enjoys, like waiting quietly before opening the door to go for a walk.  Just having your dog do a down-stay before meals or before jumping up for a snuggle-session on the couch is immensely helpful. 

With Zen Dog Training, Ziggy got what he wanted and needed -- on his owner’s terms!  Nothing for Free means your dog has to wait patiently and listen to you before he gets something he wants. You are trying to build the connection that after your dog pleases you he gets what he wants!

For more information on “Nothing for Free” and other Zen Dog Training strategies, please visit us at www.ZenDogTrainingOnline.com to view our extensive library of video tutorials.

Posted on June 8, 2015

Leash Walking Your Puppy

Leash Walking Your Puppy

Meet Riggins: a very handsome, 10-week, Rhodesian Ridgeback.  Riggins parents contacted Zen Dog Training at 10 weeks to insure good walking habits! As an adult, Riggins is projected to be over 100 lbs, so having command of the walk is essential!

The first step is to have the right tools. We recommend Riggins wear an Easy Walk Harness or any front-clip harness with a D-ring on the front attached. In addition, we suggested a 6ft leash (not a 4ft). The longer leash can be held at 4 feet and still give you extra space when you need it, e.g. meeting other dogs etc. 

Riggins guardians learned a game we call “My Walk”.  Your puppy is allowed to walk 4 to 6 ft in front of you, on either side of you, or even behind, as long as there is no tension on the leash. 

If your puppy pulls ahead, you make a sound of disgust “Ugh” and stop walking.  You offer no words, leash jerking or pulling your puppy back to you.  You remain calm, lean against the leash and wait four your pup to figure it out.

When your puppy moves back towards you, offer a cheery “Yes!” and continue the walk at brisk pace.  This game continues until your puppy learns that a nice, loose, J-shaped leash is how he keeps on moving!

If your puppy sits down or is really having trouble you can slowly back up, in effect pulling him back towards you. Again, as soon as the leash is loose say “Yes!” and reward him by quickly going forward again.

Walking with a “My Walk” attitude is more than just a dog who doesn’t pull on the leash; you create a positive bond between you and your dog. The goal is to allow your puppy to explore the world with you at its center.

For more information on leash walking and other dog training topics, please visit us online to view our selection of tutorials at www.ZenDogTrainingOnline.com.

Posted on November 10, 2014

Walking a Dog Who Wants to Chase Wildlife

Walking a Dog Who Wants to Chase Wildlife

Meet Snuggles!  She is a recently adopted, 7 year-old Husky and a retired sled dog.  Snuggles lives up to her name as she is the sweetest, snuggly girl ever!  She is a working dog and knows all about being part of a sled team, but is learning some of the basic commands a dog of leisure needs to know. 

Her owners contacted Zen Dog Training to help with Snuggles’ prey-drive. While on walks, she locks her sights on squirrels and bunnies, and lunges toward them -- often pulling her owner off balance in the process!  

One of the most important aspects of dog ownership is the ability to take enjoyable, safe walks. So, during our visit, we introduced a number of interrupt strategies and equipment that Snuggles’ owner can use to keep her walking and not thinking about chasing. 

The first step is switching Snuggles to a front-clip harness. Harnesses like the Easy Walk by Premier or the Sensation that attach in the front give the handler more control. We also recommend they always use a 6-foot lead as more length will make it easier to keep the leash loose.   

On walks, when Snuggles displays signs of hunting behavior (intense staring, ears perked up and pointed forward, body weight shifted forward, leaning/pulling against the lead and/or raised hackles) Snuggles’ owner was taught to interrupt her using a “Body-Turn”. 

To do a Body Turn, first signal that you want the behavior to stop by saying “Eh, Eh!” or other guttural “No” noise and gently (but swiftly) pull your dog so that they break eye contact with whatever they are locked on or lunging toward.

The trick is to pick a side of the body and simultaneously pull the hands to the body while using the core and leg muscles to step back.  This smooth motion shouldn’t startle or scare your dog but will turn them 180 degrees around; breaking eye-contact with the “prey.” Once interrupted, her handler can ask her to focus with a command like “Let’s go!” and continue walking at a brisk pace. 

At first, it may take 3-5 interrupts (per episode) before Snuggles understands that we want her to stop this behavior. However, with calm and consistent application, Snuggles will learn that chasing squirrels and bunnies only results in her being stopped and interrupted. 

For more information on interrupting unwanted behaviors on walks and other Zen Dog Training strategies, please visit us at www.ZenDogTrainingOnline.com to view our extensive library of video tutorials or contact us today!