A tiny Dachschund puppy jumps on a full grown German Shepherd. A golden doodle drools all over a well-groomed Labrador. These dogs of all shapes and sizes join together at Paw Zone, a dog socialization business.
Diane Linstrom began this business to act as an alternative to doggie day care. Paw Zone’s goal is to redirect unwanted behaviors into positive play with other dogs. Linstrom focuses her motto of “I do not correct, I redirect” into her everyday life at Paw Zone. Linstrom says they help dogs with negative behaviors such as chewing on shoes and running through the house by expending much of their energy on site.
Linstrom’s work at Paw Zone reflects her personal values. She says unwanted behaviors in dogs are a product of boredom and lack of exercise. When training a puppy, she uses positive reinforcement, such as playing “the focus game,” where she encourages her dog to focus on her rather than a toy by giving the puppy a treat. But before she works with the dogs, she does an extensive behavioral assessment to make sure the dogs will interact well. She spends time with the dog, integrating other dogs to watch for signs of aggressiveness. Once accepted, the dogs romp and play without structure all day. “There are no toys…dogs become possessive, and it can become World War III over a toy,” says Linstrom. The dogs are allowed to correct each other with gentle bites, growling and aggressive stances when another dog pushes a boundary. Dog fights are quickly broken up by Paw Zone trainers. They pull the dog away from conflict by their hind leg.
Soleil, an 8-week-old Doberman puppy, jumps on the head of the much bigger Summer, who, at 18 months, could flatten the little puppy in an instant. But Summer, sprawled on the floor, nudges the puppy to play. Linstrom raised these two dogs with her personal values. These values go into action every day at Paw Zone, she says.
Linstrom is quick to say that Paw Zone is not a dog kennel or a doggie day care. Paw Zone offers a way for dogs to burn off their energy and prevent unwanted behavior, she says. At paw Zone, Linstrom says a shy dog can quickly become a social butterfly, and an excitable dog can become calmer.