Updated: May 11th, 2022
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There is no shortage of books on the market promising to unlock the secret of training your dog so you end up with a happy, healthy pup who never pees inside, chews your shoes, or does anything else you would rather they didn’t. It can be hard to know which of the many volumes to pay attention to, especially if you don’t have much experience with dog training.
If you’re not sure what the best book is for training your pup, you’re in the right place! Although it’s been around for a few years now, we still think Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution: The Complete Guide to Raising the Perfect Pet with Love is absolutely worth reading.
Just like us here at Totally Goldens, Zak George is a strong advocate of positive reinforcement training to teach your dog various commands and to perform certain tasks.
Notably, he also goes against the advice of many trainers to treat your dog like a member of a wolf pack and suggests that you instead consider them a member of the family (which is what most of us do anyway).
Read on for our complete review of the book, including an overview of George’s methodology and a closer look at the contents to help you decide whether to put this one on your reading list.
Who Is Zak George?
Zak George is an American dog trainer who has come to prominence thanks to his popular YouTube channel. He has been on YouTube producing quality content since the platform’s early days and is one of the definers of the genre.
In addition, he’s had a few shows about dogs and dog training on some of the major network channels, including SuperFetch and Who Let The Dogs Out? He’s also been featured on many Animal Planet specials.
Above all, George is an advocate of using positive reinforcement to train dogs and to avoid punishment or physical aversion when training your pooch. He claims to combine a scientific understanding of dog behavior with a 21st-century ethical mindset. He calls his approach relationship-based and suggests that we treat our pups like members of a family rather than members of a wolf pack. After all, dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years.
Zak George published his book Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution with Penguin Random House in 2016. It is the number one best-selling dog training book on Amazon.
He currently lives in New Orleans with his girlfriend Bree and their dogs Venus, Supernova, Alpha Centauri, Indy, and their cat Angela.
Zak George’s Methodology: Positive Reinforcement
George focuses on the idea of using positive reinforcement training to show dogs what they should be doing rather than punishment or aversion techniques to show them what they shouldn’t be doing.
The logic of how this works on a dog’s psyche is actually something we can see in human behavioral patterns when it comes to habits.
Habits aren’t just things that we do again and again and therefore become accustomed to doing. Habits work because performing the act has become associated with some kind of reward. Therefore, we are triggered to do the act in certain circumstances because our brain subconsciously predicts the reward. This is why certain substances are so addictive, such as cigarettes, since nicotine delivers a pretty big reward.
As human beings, we can use the same logic to create new habits. If we start to reward ourselves for actions that we would like to cultivate, our brains soon come to associate that action with reward. As a result, our brains will be motivated to complete that action again due to the anticipation of the reward, even after we stop explicitly giving ourselves the reward.
For example, at first, we might reward ourselves with a piece of chocolate every time we complete a new task, like meditating. But even when we stop rewarding ourselves with the chocolate, we will still be motivated to meditate because our brain subconsciously remembers the reward and associates it with the action.
The methodology that George follows assumes that dogs’ brains work in a very similar way. Say a command, such as “sit,” and show what your dog to do. When they comply, give them a reward. This will teach them that the word “sit” is a trigger for the activity of sitting, and that if they perform the act of sitting, they can expect a reward. The subconscious memory of the reward will continue to motivate them to act appropriately, even when you stop rewarding them with a treat.
Zak George’s Methodology: See Your Dog As Family
The other significant philosophy that George follows is that you should always treat your dog like a loved member of your family.
This is a reaction to a current trend in dog training that suggests that you should dominate your dog and establish yourself as the alpha. This is linked to the idea that dogs are related to wolves, which are naturally pack animals.
However, while this particular technique might have your dog doing what you want quickly, it can also make your dog a little afraid of you, which can trigger other unwanted behaviors. For example, rather than not peeing in the house, which is the desired outcome, your dog might just find times and places in the house to pee where you can’t see them because they are afraid of you.
Also, under the right circumstances, dogs will challenge their alpha, which can be a very difficult experience to manage.
George suggests treating your dog more like a beloved child rather than as a beta to your alpha to teach them obedience. This training method fosters love rather than fear and relies on an eagerness to please over the fear of repercussions.
Contents Of Zak George’s Book: Dog Training Revolution
While this book is a pretty quick read, it covers a lot of territory.
The first chapter, Decisions, Decisions, takes you through the process of choosing the right dog for you. It helps you look at your lifestyle and find dog breeds that are likely to make a good match for you. This ensures you and your dog have the best possible chance of developing a good relationship.
Chapter two, Before Your Dog Comes Home, takes you through what you need to do to prepare your home for your dog. You often need to “dog-proof” your house in a similar way to babyproofing. It also takes you through all the kit that you will need to care for your dog in the first few months.
Welcome to the Family is the title of chapter three and looks at introducing your dog into your home, to family members, including children, and other animals. It shows you how to quickly teach your dog that your home is their home.
Chapter four is Dog Training Revolutions and is the theory section that takes you through the principles that are the foundation of George’s overall approach to dog training.
The fifth chapter, House Training 101, teaches you the five basic training rules that you need to get your dog doing their business in the right place and at the right time as quickly as possible. This is one of the biggest struggles for many new pet parents.
Chapter six, Basic Training, takes you through the best approach for all the other essential training your dog will need. The chapter also teaches the principles of positive reinforcement training and how you can use it to teach your dog pretty much anything.
How to Troubleshoot the Most Common Behavioral Problems is chapter seven, and it is mainly a deep dive into some of the most common challenges that dog parents face. Topics covered include barking, chewing, leash pulling, biting, aggression, and jumping up.
Chapter eight is In Sickness and in Health and takes you through the things to consider to maintain your dog’s health. This includes how to get the most out of your vet visits and what & how much to feed your dog to ensure that they thrive.
The final chapter, Time for Fun, moves beyond the necessary to the enjoyable. It looks at things like teaching your dog cool tricks, the best way to travel with your dog, and activities that you can use to stimulate your pup and deepen your bond.
Just like every human being, every dog is different, so training your dog is not an exact science. Fortunately, though, there are tried and tested methods out there that you can learn from others with experience.
Zak George is one of those experienced voices. He has a lot of experience with dogs and also clearly loves dogs and wants what is best for them as well as you.
In short, his philosophy when it comes to dog training can be summed up as follows:
- Treat your dog as a family member and an equal rather than establishing an alpha/beta hierarchy
- Use positive reinforcement instead of harsh punishments
- Do not instill fear in your dog during training
His book is a fairly thorough guide full of advice for how to train, care for, and bond with your dog. All of his advice is based on creating a loving connection between you and your pup and using positive reinforcement to show dogs what is required of them rather than punishment to instill fear and stop certain behaviors.
Have you read Zak George’s book? What did you think of it? Share your thoughts with the community in the comments section below.