Review of ZAK GEORGE’S DOG TRAINING REVOLUTION: THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO RAISING THE PERFECT PET WITH LOVE by ZAK GEORGE, with DINA ROTH PORT
I hadn’t heard of Zak George before borrowing this book from the library. (I’m now given to understand he’s a popular YouTube star, with his videos focusing on dog training.) I’m reading several books on raising and training dogs, as I plan to adopt my own soon. While I’m an experienced trainer myself, I treat dog ownership as a sacred responsibility and am doing all the brushing up I can.
Though I may not have heard of him, I love George’s training approach, and thus loved his book, too. He and I are of the same mind regarding dog training, specifically that we emphasize positive training. While methods have been steadily moving towards that direction, years back when I was actually working as a dog trainer my positive approach was very “against the stream.” The idea behind positive training is that a dog is a companion, so you want to build a strong bond of trust and understanding, with which you can teach your expectations. By contrast, there’s dominance theory, which is increasingly—thankfully, in my opinion—falling out of fashion. As George discusses, dominance theory is based on misinformation about wolf pack behavior and the misguided notion that dogs, domesticated millennia ago, are the same as wild wolves. Dominance theory pushes concepts like alpha and submission, and focuses more on punishment and control, which—most reputable trainers will tell you—actually only creates more behavioral issues.
I particularly love that George encourages speaking to your dog in full sentences. They understand more than most owners realize. And, no, encouraging these conversations isn’t an insistence that dogs entirely follow every word of your meaning, but they do recognize trends. George even suggests saying, “I’m going to show you something new today,” every time you introduce a new command or trick. Sure, the dog won’t have a clue what that means the first time you say it, but they are smart enough to notice the pattern that whenever you say that, you then teach them something new right after. Anyone whose dog runs for cover at the word “vet,” no matter how the word’s buried in a sentence, knows how much connection dogs can make between certain words and certain situations.
I also nodded along in ardent appreciation at George’s insistence that there are no “bad” breeds. Aggressive dogs are aggressive because of their training—or in many cases, lack thereof. Some breeds have reputations as aggressive…which then means people who want aggressive dogs are more likely to adopt them…and then train them to be aggressive…which reinforces the perception that certain breeds are more aggressive.
While George’s book is much slimmer than most of the other dog guides I’ve read, frankly I thought his was packed with the most useful information. He demonstrates that you don’t need to be long-winded to teach dog training and he condenses clear instructions for teaching specific common commands and behaviors within a few paragraphs or less each.
I agree so strongly with George’s advice; I found this a refreshing and validating read, especially given how many dominance theory books have been around for decades. Let the dog training revolution continue!