Our Guiding Principles

Everything we do at Zigzag is based on 5 underlying beliefs which shape our modern, ethical & science based puppy programme. Click on the buttons below to find out more:

‘Alpha Dogs’ are not a thing

Dogs aren’t Wolves

zigzag pup jumping into a muddy puddle

All of the content within our Zigzag programmes is based on modern scientific study, and  built on the understanding that we work with dogs in a symbiotic relationship – not one hinged on dominance and hierarchy.

Years ago, studies of captive wolves led to some very wrong conclusions of how they behaved in terms of pack hierarchy. When that was translated to dogs, parallels were made that turned out to be quite unhelpful and damaging. Today, this has been heavily discredited by the scientific community and the scientist who did the original studies, David Mech.

Nevertheless, these ideas of pack structures and hierarchy still pass through to a lot of dog training texts and owner education. You can see it when words like alpha, leadership and dominance are thrown around – these are often used as a way of legitimising docility through coercive, dominance based methods. But here’s a revolutionary newsflash – dogs are not wolves, and we certainly aren’t either.  Same goes for the idea of an “alpha wolf” – that’s also a myth. So really, there’s no reason why adopting the same methods as wolves should work the same as dogs. 

It’s just like comparing apples to pears actually. So let’s leave dominance out of dog training completely. 

‘If you get the emotions right the behaviour will follow’ is a phrase we stand firmly behind. It’s rooted in ethological science (the objective study of animal behaviour) and makes complete sense when it comes to the bond and relationship between humans and dogs.

Dogs are not just intelligent, but they also have a broad range of emotions – just like humans.

If you want to change or prevent a certain behaviour, the best way to do it is by changing or preventing the emotion that drives it – in other words, the ‘why’. This must also be done in a humane way with compassion and understanding it turns into a positive experience for the dog.

Our programmes at Zigzag are designed to help you and your pup work together in harmony. We will help you understand the underlying emotions and feelings your pup is having by explaining the ‘why’ of things. By understanding the ‘why’ of your puppy’s development, creating a deep and lasting emotional bond together will be a lot easier to accomplish!

By coaching you on how to teach them what to do instead of what not to do, your dog will be well on their way to become the best they can be.

The Sentient Dog

Dogs have feelings too

zigzag pup having a fuss from owner

Praise vs Punishment

Reward-based training & Positive Reinforcement

zigzag pup sitting my owners feet

Because dogs are ‘sentient’ and feel many of the same emotions that we do, working with them in a way that keeps them happy and content will result in a much more successful way of teaching them how to cope and behave in a human world.

Reward Based Training makes the dog feel pleasure and joy versus fear. This builds a much stronger bond between the two of you; based on trust and cooperation.

Zigzag uses only positive training methods that work on a reward based system – meaning your puppy will always associate you and your training with lovely warm feelings. This will also help your puppy to learn quicker, and more successfully in the long term. In the end, we get glass half full dogs, not glass half empty. Happy days.

We use markers to show puppies when they’ve done the right thing. We also attach cue words to actions so they can understand what it is we want them to do (this doesn’t mean they understand English though, simply that they’re able to associate words with actions correctly!). This is the clearest way of communicating with our dogs, and doesn’t require any fancy or fiddly equipment – just your wonderful voice.

Dogs have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, and are genetically one of the most diverse species on today’s planet. There are over 220 recognised Pedigree breeds in the UK alone!

This means that through domestication and artificial selection, dogs behavioural motor patterns can be altered from its original ancestral pattern. In simple terms – every breed of dog is different! Not to mention the differences between dogs of the same breed…just like humans, they all have very different (yet lovely) personalities.

The Predatory Sequence Motor Pattern is hardwired in every breed of dog – it was essential to their survival and came about by evolution.

Here is the historical standard ‘predatory sequence’ motor pattern for canids – a hunting, killing and eating sequence:


But modern day dogs have evolved out of several pieces of this sequence; especially due to being bred to fulfill specific roles built by man. It’s a bit strange if we think about it. But ultimately, it’s because of this that all of our Zigzag programmes are designed for each individual breed.

This way, we can make sure you are working together on the right social and play skills, designed to get the best out of your puppy, and also guide you in giving them the best direction and attention in all the right places. Rather than simply helping you train your puppy to become ‘less like their inherent selves’ we will help you work together with them, for a future of easy promenades in the park, and gentle licks rather than bites.

Here’s an example of what a modern breed’s predatory sequence looks like with different breeds when they play so you see what we mean (sorry for the graphic descriptions, by the way):

Adapting training methods to different breeds (or Breed Individualism if we want a fancy term) is very important. If we give dogs an outlet to carry out the ‘job’ they were designed to do, they are much less likely to develop behavioural problems.

Fortunately (for everybody’s benefit), with today’s modern training methods we don’t need to take them hunting for birds, or allow them to kill rats. We’ll teach you how to have their breed specific needs satisfied in other, much calmer and friendlier ways.

Programme based on Breed, Age & Progress

Every Dog is Different

zigzag pup holding notepad in mouth

Lifeskills not just Tricks for a Happy & Confident Dog

Train a dog that can do it all

zigzag pup biting graduation cap

At Zigzag, our puppy programme is founded on providing the right environmental stimulus and social skill learning, during those critical first 16 weeks – this is a time of rapid brain development and what your puppy learns about the world during this period will influence their outlook for the rest of their lives.

The right kind of early learning will allow your puppy to develop much stronger social skills, and ensure all the right connections in the brain are developed fully before that window closes.

We break this down into simple easy-to-follow steps. They are all designed around this key development period; making sure that you give your pup the right type and amount of environmental and social stimulation – at exactly the right time. Nothing will get by them!

We go further than only focusing on teaching basic commands like ‘sit’ and ‘down’. We also teach them the social skills they need to connect well with other dogs and humans. Essentially, these social skills will be the one of the main drivers behind your pup living happily, and in a cooperative relationship with all other people and fellow dog friends around them.

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