Help for Hope

Thank you for your interest in the way of THE ZEN DOG, where there are no bad dogs. We know that time is of the essence for some of you and understand that you may even be in a dangerous situation with your dog. Our intention here is to give you some simple, safe suggestions to try with your dog(s) that can help show you what’s possible.

At THE ZEN DOG we know that the best way to change a dog’s behavior is to change one’s relationship with the dog. You’d be surprised how many dog owners say that they have great relationships with their dogs yet see no connection between their dogs’ behavior and their own. So until we get a chance to work together here’s what we recommend:

Practice Detachment. The 3 areas to focus on are Affection, Bed and Front Door. What does that look like?

Affection: Do not give your dog affection (verbal or physical) unless your dog is calm; calm meaning it looks ZEN (like it’s about to fall asleep). For the time being, do not give your dog treats. Science has shown that the reward system in a dog’s brain responds more to the recognition of and affection from its human than any other treat. Consider your affection to be the best treat your dog can have. This means that when and how you give affection will greatly influence your dog’s behavior, especially its ability to calm itself down.

Front Door: Do not engage with (make eye contact, speak to or touch) your dogs until they appear ZEN (like they are about to fall asleep). When your dog is ZEN, give it calm, simple verbal praise first before you touch it. You should only pet your dog if it remains calm. Think of this like a big game of ‘Red Light - Green Light’: Calm means “green”, anything other than ZEN means “red”. Remember, when and how you give affection will greatly influence your dog’s behavior, especially its ability to calm itself down.

Keep your dogs off the bed at all times: “Altitude is attitude”. Dogs do not need to be on human’s beds (medical conditions excepted, of course). Dogs end up on our beds because we want them there. Want- based relationships will lead to impulsivity in dogs, need-based relationships will lead to security. Notice that an insecure dog will often find a higher place to be (beds, couch, stairs, top of a landing, etc.) to establish rank, status or propriety. can you keep your dog off the bed?

  1. Contain or crate him/her in the bedroom at night so it can’t get on the bed.

  2. Allow your dog(s) to sleep freely in your bedroom with the understanding that every time they get

    on your bed you will a) politely ask them kindly to get off and b) be sure to praise them when they do. Do not bend on this. Your dog will be looking for you to give in, and if you do he/she will not forget it ;->

  3. Do a seven day reset: keep the bedroom door closed at all times so your dog(s) don’t have the opportunity to get on the bed. Choose another comfortable, secure place in the home for the dog(s) to sleep. After seven days you may allow your dog(s) to return to the bedroom, to have them sleep in/on a dedicated space (crate, pen, or a bed on the floor of the bedroom). After the seven day reset if your dog is still jumping on the bed a) politely ask them kindly to get off and b) be sure to praise them when they do. Do not bend on this. Your dog will be looking for you to give in, and if you do he/she will not forget it ;-> Stick with it. It will probably be easier for your dog than you think, and harder for you than you expected. If it helps, you should know that Matt once had three of his dogs on his bed. Once he changed they began to change.

Remember, there are no bad dogs, just humans who need help. THE ZEN DOG is here to help you!


For many people the 4th of July is a time to celebrate; family, friends and fireworks make the holiday. For many dogs and their owners the experience is quite different.

More dogs regularly run away from home, escape and are lost during this time than any other. The stress of the day’s activities, the chaos of crowds and the barrage of firecrackers are just too much for our best friends to bear. How we handle them, and ourselves, can make or break the holiday.

At THE ZEN DOG our goal is to help you be able to be in right relationship through all kinds of circumstances. The 4th poses a certain challenge; our dogs only have this experience maybe twice a year (the other being New Year’s Eve) so they don’t have the benefit of repeated exposures that could make the festivities more tolerable.

Based on our experience here are some tips that’ll help you and yours “paws when agitated”.

  1. ID STANDS FOR INDEPENDENCE DAY. Make sure your pups have current tags, IDs, licenses and microchips with accurate contact information. In the event your pal gets lost you’ll want to be reached as soon as possible, the window for finding a dog gets much smaller after the first 48 hrs. An alarming number of dogs are never returned to their loving homes because their owners could not be located.
  2. RESIST THE URGE TO PROTECT AND CORRECT. If you pity, coddle or baby your dog during this stressful time you may be reinforcing its state of anxiety. They will, in effect, be rewarded for feeling weak. Remember, they are safe with you, carry yourself that way and use your energy to communicate as much. And never punish a dog for being scared. This will not only cost you their trust it will reinforce their idea that bad things happen at times like these.
  3. MENTAL EXHAUSTION TRUMPS PHYSICAL EXHAUSTION. Make it a point to spend some quality time with your faithful before things get crazy. Physical exercise is a great way to lower a dog’s stress level. Be sure to combine that workout with brain work, otherwise you’ll have a tired dog who’ll bounce back more amped up than before. A good walk using THE ZEN DOG exercises (focus / pace / name + focus + praise) can exhaust your dog’s mind while reinforcing the bond that you’ll want when the poop hits the fan. During this time you can also use treats for tricks, or even practice recall work (in a safe, confined space, of course).
  4. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU WANT rather than what you don’t want. We encourage our clients to “work in the realm of the positive”. Energy is your principle means of communication; dogs will pick up your attitudes based on what you hold in your mind. We’ve seen a remarkable number of dogs become immediately less reactive by changing the way we react – or respond – to times like these. Some of this will seem like Jedi mind tricks. It is, we’re all about using the Force.
  5. NO ‘HOME ALONE’. Your dog is a part of your family. Maybe this year you’ll consider staying home with her to create the sense of safety or comfort that you would for any other family member. If you really do need to get out (which we all do at times) see if you can follow the suggestions above, limit your time away and crate your dog safely until you return. The crate should be draped on all sides except the front and placed in a cozy corner. When you return don’t make a fuss about letting him out. If she is freaking out and just can’t sit still long enough to be released then let her out but play it cool. Detachment is one of THE ZEN DOG Alpha Tools. Remember, “it’s no big deal”. However, if your dog has not been crate trained, DO NOT use this holiday to start.
  6. CALMING AIDS. Many vets recommend Melatonin and THE ZEN DOG's Health & Wellness consultant Stef DiOrio says: My go-to supplement is Just Food for Dogs' CALM. It is a combination of Valerian Root Extract (145mg), Passion Flower (145mg) and Magnesium. The ingredients are USDA certified human-grade. These three ingredients have a synergistic effect that can naturally and safely reduce stress and induce relaxation for isolated events (i.e.: vet visits, fireworks, car rides, strangers in the home) or over long periods of time.  You can't give too much, it's just about finding the right dosage for your dog’s level of anxiety or desired level of relaxation. (Increasing the initial/recommended dosage by a half capsule or full capsule(s) is 100% safe.

This year we look forward to spending the howliday with our dogs, and many of yours. Whatever you choose to do we hope you can enjoy the true freedom that comes with being in right relationship with all the ones you love.

Happy Indepawndence Day from all of us at THE ZEN DOG.