Zak George, Cesar Millan, Vladae the Dog Wizard.

November 2, 2011 at 9:12 am 11 comments

I had never heard of  Zak George before nor seen his shows even though he has been around for years… *There are Superfetch episodes on instant netflix!

Wow, I really like this guy.

I was chatting with a good friend several weeks ago about Boogie’s training. My friend has a dog that has “resource guarding issues” (barking and snapping at people) and he was sharing with me how hard he found it to give his dog collar corrections as he had been taught to do. I gave my friend a copy of the BAT book and not too eloquently explained to him the difference between the Positive Reinforcement method of changing behavior vs and the old school Corrections approach.  I didn’t do as good a job as Zak George does in the video above.  I really like the way he speaks very eloquently and passionately about his Positive Reinforcement approach.

According to Zak George, in conventional dog training (eg, Cesar Millan), the emphasis is on letting a dog know when he is doing the WRONG THING.  In Zak George’s  style of modern dog training  the emphasis is on letting a dog know when he is doing the RIGHT THING. He notes that this difference in emphasis may seem like a very subtle trivial thing but is in fact a huge paradigm shift in the way we think and relate to dogs.

He also makes a distinction between TEACHING and TRAINING.  He says that in “teaching tricks” he is stimulating the dog’s mind and body and cultivating a relationship with his dogs. The teacher-student relationship is a bonding experience (and yes I can totally relate to this) and the tricks thing is not simply a form of frivolous entertainment. By contrast, a lot of conventional dog training is about making the dog submit to the will of the human – which he says is arrogant and wrong.

And I think he hits the nail on the head here. It’s not so much the correctional tools that are a problem, but the head space from which these methods have developed.

I read “Cesar’s Rules” not so long ago, and interestingly, Cesar Millan refuses to call himself a “dog trainer”  and prefers the term  “Pack Leader” or “Rehabilitator” because I guess he wants to elevate himself above the type of trainers who teach tricks, but he is using conventional dog training methods that have been around for decades AND issuccessfully changing behavior in dogs, which really does make him a dog trainer even though he doesn’t like that job description.

This snapshot is from the Kindle version of  “Cesar’s Rules”:

In this article by Susan Garrett – Punishment: Pros and Cons– she says that aversive punishment works, and while dogs may not seem troubled by it it is usually because there are lots of good things happening at the same time. The problem is that there is fallout and the anxiety may express itself in other ways.

The truth is, a very skilled trainer that has brilliant timing can produce a seemingly happy working dog while using some pretty massive doses of violent positive punishment. One key to this puzzle is that the reinforcement the dog receives from the work is also massively high. This is why large amounts of physical pain may be accepted by some dogs chasing ducks on the pond in comparison to the same dog working in the obedience ring.

I am sure Cesar must use a lot of positive reinforcement in real life (off screen)  but unfortunately, in his public manifesto he still puts all the emphasis on physical punishment and making dogs “calm-submissive” as opposed to teaching dogs to make good choices on their own.

Scarily enough, there is another very conventional dog trainer guy who might soon get his own TV show – “Vladae, The Russian Dog Wizard”!!!  

*See petition to Animal Planet.

There is some very disturbing crazy stuff on his blog:

Down Stay – Do a 30 minute down stay, twice a day. This will reinforce your role as the Alpha leader.

Elevating Status – Don’t allow your dog on the furniture or on your bed. If you allow your dog to be on the same level as you, you are elevating his status and lowering yours. This is clearly not the way to establish yourself as the Alpha Leader.

Yeah I have heard this one before. I don’t like this guy.

Boogie is sleeping in my bed, dammit.

Entry filed under: Articles, links, Reads.

Trying out a couple of new doggie products Atopica Cyclosporine capsules: Has anyone used this?

11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lucy The Wonder Dog  |  November 8, 2011 at 2:25 am

    “Bo Obama’s blog” in your side bar is not in fact Bo’s blog, or anyone else’s. You might want to remove that.

    • 2. lili  |  November 8, 2011 at 2:44 am

      Thanks, Lucy the Wonder Dog. Last time I checked (which was a long time ago), it WAS Bo Obama’s blog.

  • 3. Ajax  |  November 10, 2013 at 5:38 am

    Love this post! The world needs more positive approaches–not just for dogs, but for people, too! Thank you for doing your part to spread the good word about reinforcing replacement behaviors, rather than just punishing inappropriate behaviors. Think about it this way–if a dog (or a person) is doing something, it’s for a reason. If you give incentives to stop (by punishing undesired behavior), then the behavior IS likely to stop. But the need the behavior fulfilled is still going unmet. So what is the dog (or person) to do instead? If you aren’t actively teaching a replacement, then there is nothing else good for them to do. So if your dog is jumping, punishing the jumping will stop the jumping, but it won’t teach him any better way to say hi. And as humans, we usually deliver punishment b/c we’re angry. That’s something to think about. Do we really want our dogs to “obey” because they are afraid of what we will do to them?

  • 4. juan  |  November 16, 2013 at 3:19 am

    I’m a dog trainer.. Cesar Millan was the inspiration to make me want to become a dog trainer, because I liked his philosophy and his sensitive and calm way to talk, one thing I think dog trainers are not doing (just guessing). But now I feel better when I apply the way of Zak George or Ian Dunbar.. I feel more capable to make dogs feel really better.. and that makes me feel really better.
    I’ve seen the difference between Cesar Millan and Zak George, using some techniques.. the last dog I touched like Cesar Millan.. felt fear and I could do what I wanted to do.. but because the dog felt fear.. and dogs are my friends, and my friends shouldn’t be afraid of me.
    The positive thing of that.. is that dogs live in PRESENT, so I can restart and train the dog in a very nice way.

    So… Cesar Millan is a good master when he talks, but not really with dogs. He’s not cruel or something like that.. he’s so wrong as many dog trainers around the world, because he is using techniques already in hands of dog trainers.

    Zak George is a very nice guy and really honest, his style is wonderful.. Most of the things are tricks, but this nice way to train dogs could be able to use for fearful- aggressive or any serious behaviour… mixed with other things, of course.

    This russian “dog wizard” is pretty much like Cesar Millan.. but this russian man is really paranoid about dominance!!

    And.. we should talk about Victoria Stillwell, the english young woman who is on TV (it’s me or the dog). I have to be more than honest… she’s pathetic. I can’t say anything good about her, she’s not cruel… but she has a good level of ignorance.

    I’m not arrogant … I’m honest.

    • 5. lili  |  November 28, 2013 at 4:21 am

      Thanks for commenting, Juan. Cesar Millan also inspired me to look into dog behavior and training. I used to be a huge fan of his show, read all his books etc. but the more I learn the more it bothers me that Cesar Millan doesn’t actually understand what the dogs are saying to him. He is wrong most of the time, he can’t tell the difference between fear-aggression and true dominance and the dog gets blamed. I don’t like that he is so attached to bullying dogs to make them shut down (“calm-submissive’) instead of fostering communication & learning. The guy is too much ego and more interested in making himself look powerful than in being truly sensitive to any dog’s needs. I haven’t actually watched Victoria Stilwell’s show but I like everything that she has written.

  • 6. Michael  |  November 28, 2013 at 12:27 am

    Seriously, today’s way of treating animals, kids, etc is why the world is going to hell. . .I won’t go on a parenting tangent, but as far as dogs go you have to realize that they are pack animals. In a pack there is no such thing as equals. There is loving dominance and loving submission. There are leaders and followers and a hierarchy. In the human home, the dog doesn’t want to be the head of the pack, the leader, the dominant one, but if you are not then he/she will be because that role, in the dog’s world, must be filled. You are forcing them into a role they don’t want and you don’t want them in. Being dominant over your dog, letting them have a healthy submission to you, is the best thing you can do for both your dog and your home environment. By putting your human “feel-good” spin on it, you are doing them a huge disservice.

    • 7. lili  |  November 28, 2013 at 4:10 am

      Michael, thanks for commenting. I know that the Pack Leader ‘must-dominate-your-dog’ approach to dog training is really huge in dog Pop psychology today thanks to television, but here are the facts: Yes, there are leaders and followers but dominance has nothing to do with this. Healthy relationships regardless of age/rank/species differences are defined by GOOD CLEAR TWO-WAY communication and flexibility, not a struggle for supremacy that is based on outdated theories.

  • 8. Sarah  |  December 17, 2013 at 10:58 pm

    Hey, I want to be a dog trainer when I’m older but I don’t know what subjects I have to do in grammar school?? I’ll probably have to do p.e. And biology but I’m not sure??? Please help zak George!!
    I love u zak George!!!!

  • 9. Molly Casey  |  August 10, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    Yet again another article defaming Cesar Milan just because they do not understand his methods. Pathetic and untruthful. Just because you do not understand something doesn’t make it wrong. That is such a dangerous human flaw, your ego cannot handle you not getting it. All that was said about Cesars methods in this article are blatant lies and designed to elevate your own methods. If you don’t know what you are talking about SHUT UP!!

    • 10. lili  |  August 10, 2016 at 11:42 pm

      Cesar Milan is like the Donald Trump of dog trainers. None of his information is up to date, based in science, or humane.

  • 11. SYK  |  June 2, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Thanks for the great post and I completely second you on your opinion of conventional dog training! I’ve been with dogs my whole life and I can honestly say that aggressive punishments do not go too far in the long run. On the other hand I have experienced myself what a great bonding experience it is to have my dogs communicate with me and behave, not because they’re afraid of punishments but because they understand what behavior is wanted. Hope more people feel that bonding experience and drop electric collar/asserting dominance non-sense!


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