Zak George, Cesar Millan, Vladae the Dog Wizard.
November 2, 2011 at 9:12 am
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.
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