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Blog posts by Rachel Martin

Posted on September 6, 2016

Set Up For Success

Set Up For Success

Meet Koda, this 4 year old little fireball is a Jack Russell/Chihuahua
mix adopted 6 months ago.

Koda's family, 2 parents and 2 teenage daughters, had already seen
Koda bite several people before calling Zen Dog Training for help.
The bites were not severe however his biting was definitely a problem
that needed fixing!  Even worse, a majority of the bites were
happening to friends and visitors inside their own home.

We immediately got to work on setting up the right home environment
for Koda’s success. Management tools are absolutely essential when
creating a training plan for a dog with aggression issues.

A few important training tools:

  • 6’ Drag Line (indoor leash that drag’s behind your dog)
  • Collar
  • Tethers (tying your dog to the couch, radiator, etc...)

We recommended using a drag line, a leash that drags behind Koda
when visitors or friends are in the house. Koda’s family learned how to interrupt his inclination to nip and bite by ALWAYS keeping a leash attached to his
collar INSIDE the house.  

Quickly they realized how useful the drag line was, especially when
he tried to nip at us during the visit. Having him on the leash inside
the house, allowed Koda’s owners to immediately remove him when
he got nervous and gave them more time to interrupt aggressive

We also suggested that Koda be tethered to the couch or kitchen
table during higher stress times like when someone rang the doorbell,
or was entering the house.

Tethering should only be used when someone is home!
An ideal time would be when visitors arrive, or when kids and their friends play
inside.  Using the tether allowed Koda’s people and friends to have the
freedom to safely move around the house, while simultaneously
managing and restricting his movement.

Finally, treats are important tool in these situations since Koda was
fearful, and nervous when new people enter the house.

Giving Koda treats when visitors arrived (a counter-conditioning
technique) encourages relaxed body language. Treats plus gentle
persistence, can help him understand that new people in the home
are welcome are not a threat.

Training Koda not to bark or bite visitors can only be achieved with
the right tools and environment. Training needs to happen in
situations where everyone is safe and relaxed. Now that the right
environment was in place we could start working on actually changing
his reactive tendencies.

To learn more about Management Tools, and other solutions for
having a reactive dog, check out Zen Dog Training Online.


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 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 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!

Posted on June 16, 2015

Total Recall - PART I

Total Recall - PART I

Meet Link, a 4 year old handsome and charming mixed breed. Link’s mom, Lauren, is moving to the UK and was looking for some off-leash tips and training for Link before they move.

With an adult dog, the best way to teach off-leash control and Coming When Called (a.k.a. Recall) is to start easy and in small places. Practice sessions should happen in a small room of the house (like the kitchen or a bedroom). 

The goal is to teach your dog that if you say their name, when they come to you, they get something delicious!


Start INDOORS first and play The Name Game:

  1. Wait until your dog is looking away from you.
  2. Say your dog’s name.
  3. The INSTANT your dog turns to look at you say, “Yes!” and reward them with praise and treats when they come. 


Make sure your dog comes ALL THE WAY to you so you can grab their collar. You can achieve this by holding the treat close to your leg when you call your dog.

You are grabbing the collar to ensure your dog learns to come close enough to be held, but also, to teach your dog that being touched on the collar is a good thing! 

It is helpful to use HIGH VALUE (special rewards) treats/food that your dog doesn’t get at any other time, e.g. SMALL pieces of chicken breast, cooked chicken livers, cheese, hot dogs, bacon, sausages, turkey...

Try not to overdo the length of each training session. Repeat The Name Game exercise 5 to 10 times in a row.  Then quit and take a break or play with your dog for a while. Practice this exercise every day.  Keep it FUN and FAST!

Gradually Increase Difficulty:

Once the Coming When Called is very reliable in one room, slowly begin to introduce new rooms and involve other people while playing The Name Game.

  • Practice throughout the house, i.e. the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, in every bedroom and, if you have them, in the attic or basement.
  • Try playing with two or more family members, i.e. “Doggy Ping-Pong” – your dog is bouncing back and forth from person to person!

Gradually Increase Distractions:

Once the Coming When Called is very reliable in every room of the house and with other people, gradually add distractions to each room: 

  • Throw their favorite toys around the room and see if you can get them to leave a toy to come to you. 
  • Have a family member enter the room and call your dog away from them. 
  • Practice calling your dog while she is chewing a bully stick, or self-grooming, or sleeping, etc.

Once you can get your dog’s full attention by calling their name inside, then you’re ready to start training outside.

To learn more about Coming When Called check out Zen Dog Training Online!