One of the wonderful things about the internet is that you can easily access content from anyone in the world.
However, this makes it difficult to wade through the content online: Anyone can put up flashy, well-edited videos to sell their services. This can make it tricky for new dog owners to know who to trust.
Today we’re continuing our examination of some of the big names in online dog training with another trainer: Zak George.
Zak runs a popular YouTube channel and is the author of The Dog Training Revolution.
But the question is: Are Zak George’s training videos helpful and should you start implementing his advice when training your own dog?
We’ll explain all of this and more below!
A bit about me — I’m a certified dog behavior consultant (CDBC), meaning my area of expertise lies in working with dogs with serious behavior concerns, such as aggression, anxiety, fear, phobias, reactivity, and obsessions (though I certainly do lots of basic manners training as well).
So, I’ll use my experience and training to help provide some analysis of Zak’s methods, philosophy, and overall approach to dog training.
With all that said, let’s jump right in!
Key Takeaways: A Certified Dog Behavior Consultant’s Review of Zak George
- Zak George is a popular YouTube personality who offers a variety of videos and two books. Almost all of Zak George’s content is completely free and his books are quite affordable. Zak reportedly supports himself with Patreon donations and advertising revenue.
- Despite claims to the contrary, Zak’s methodology is neither new nor revolutionary. I am a huge proponent of methods similar to Zak George’s, but I am constantly irritated at his claims that what he’s offering is new or groundbreaking.
- Zak George’s videos may prove helpful for many owners, but they are not suited for more challenging behavioral needs. This is a problem endemic for every single dog behavior advice site online, including this one. Reading articles on a topic is a great start, but most serious behavior issues will require one-on-one support to troubleshoot.
Zak George: The Basics
Zak George is an energetic, fresh-faced YouTuber with roughly 3.5 million subscribers.
He is a proponent of positive reinforcement training methods (just like I am), with hundreds of videos available for free on YouTube. He is also the author of an introductory book for new dog owners and has hosted several Animal Planet shows.
Zak George has a rather frenetic energy and reportedly supports himself with ads, which can put off viewers. He clearly is very focused on marketing, with lots of emphasis on new and exciting angles to training that aren’t actually that new or different.
The style of his videos is very clickbaity, with titles including:
- The worst thing that ever happened in my dog training career
- Will they fight? Introducing a NEW dog to my dog
- What I do when they get TOO ROUGH
- My First 24 HOURS with the WILDEST, UNTRAINED DOG I’ve Ever Lived With.
There’s nothing wrong with this inherently, but may set off alarm bells of clickbait that can be off-putting.
Zak George does not appear to have any specific education, training, certifications, or credentials related to dog training. While this is not an industry requirement, I personally prefer to see trainers – especially high-profile ones with a huge reach – dedicate their time to education.
The fact that Zak George doesn’t even mention education on his “about me” page on his site is disappointing, to say the least.
While I don’t have many quibbles with George’s training methods or tips, it would be nice to see a record of who he’s learned from, who inspires him, and who has evaluated him on a professional level.
This is especially true because he repeatedly claims to be “groundbreaking” when in fact he follows the successes and methods of many trainer-authors who came before him, including Karen Pryor, Patricia McConnell, Suzanne Clothier, Jean Donaldson, and many more.
Instead, Zak’s bio focuses on the media successes and accolades he’s earned. While impressive, I am much more concerned with how and where he’s gained his experience. Zak’s website is very marketing-heavy and slick without much substance.
Like many other popular online trainers, Zak George’s content focuses on common and basic dog training advice rather than diving into serious behavior problems.
Zak George’s Training Philosophy
Zak George is a positive reinforcement dog trainer. He cares deeply about clear communication and a strong bond between dogs and their people.
In a Modern Dog Blog article promoting his book, Zak wrote:
“Real teaching is about communication, not domination. We need to treat our dogs with respect and promote a strong, loving bond with them through positive reinforcement, not punishment. As I demonstrate in every video on my YouTube channel, we need to teach our dogs to think for themselves and behave a certain way because they want to, not because we are forcing them to do so.”
Zak also promotes taking time to understand the individual dog, focusing on things like learning history, genetics, and the context of the behaviors exhibited rather than simply commanding and controlling the dogs.
I couldn’t agree more.
What Does Zak George Offer?
Zak George primarily offers free dog training videos.
He focuses on basic skills, tricks, and common pet behavior problems. He does not focus much on severe behavior problems like phobias or aggression but highlights dog-dog communication that includes scuffles, leash reactivity, and other common problems.
In terms of audience targeting, Zak focuses heavily on new dog owners and those who haven’t had a new dog in a while.
Zak George offers several video playlists of training a new dog from start to finish. I love the emphasis on real setbacks and timelines with new dogs and the variety of breeds depicted. He clearly has taken on some tricky dogs that required significant training and shows the setbacks experienced.
Zak George is the author of the book Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution, an introductory book for new dog owners covering dog ownership from A to Z: selecting a dog, initial training including housetraining, common behavior issues like jumping and pulling on the leash, health tips, traveling tips, and tricks.
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Overall, the book is quite good, but it isn’t exactly revolutionary compared to many other modern dog training advice books we’ve highlighted in the past.
Some readers may also be disappointed that the book is so broad.
Since it doesn’t focus exclusively on training, it may not give as much detail as desired. Many readers skipped entire chunks of the book, since selecting a dog was irrelevant by the time they bought the book and they’d rather get veterinary advice from their vet than a YouTube star’s dog training book.
He also wrote Zak George’s Guide to a Well-Behaved Dog, another introductory book focused more on common behavior issues such as chewing, barking, aggression, begging, thunderstorm phobias, and separation anxiety.
Given his lack of credentials, I would be slightly more cautious of taking Zak’s advice on more serious issues like aggression and phobias.
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Zak George has also appeared on a variety of television shows where viewers can get more information on his approach.
In short, accessing Zak George for free or cheap is extremely easy. His oodles of free videos, a free course, and two relatively cheap books lowers the financial burden for new dog owners.
What Do Dog Owners Think about Zak George?
Overall, opinions from those who’ve taken Zak George’s courses are quite warm.
However, on the r/dogtraining subreddit, several users expressed frustration at the high number of ads on his YouTube channel.
Of course, it’s only fair to point out that free YouTube channels have to make money somehow: Ads seem to be how Zak George keeps his content free.
One commenter on r/dogtraining wrote:
“One thing I really like about Zac George is that he’ll really explain the pros, cons, possible and common mistakes, why the dog is doing what it is, how to redirect, different things you can try if one doesn’t work… I feel it’s a lot more than just “here’s how to teach sit”, but more “here’s how to start understanding your dog”.”
Several other commenters give Zak George a lot of credit for helping them shape their dogs into canine good citizens and praise Zak for his clear communication.
Among professional dog trainer circles, there is some frustration that Zak George has branded himself as a “revolutionary” using training methodologies developed by other trainers and in use for years — or even decades — before he wrote his book.
That said, many trainers are still grateful that he is offering positive-reinforcement training tips in a free YouTube channel. Aside from his braggadocious marketing, most trainers I spoke to agreed that he’s helping move dog training in “the right direction.”
Zak George FAQs
Lots of owners seeking training advice have questions about Zak’s videos and overall approach. We’ll answer a few of the most common queries about him below!
What Kind of Training Does Zak George Use?
Zak primarily relies on positive-reinforcement to train dogs, and he places a strong emphasis on teaching owners why their dogs exhibit some problems. This has helped many owners better address their puppers’ challenges.
How Much Do Zak George’s Training Programs Cost?
Zak’s YouTube videos are currently free, and his book is available for less than twenty bucks.
Are There Coupons Available for Zak George’s Courses?
Zak’s YouTube videos are free, so coupons don’t really apply. We’re not aware of any coupons available for his printed books, although you may be able to download an audio version for free by signing up for Audible.
Does Zak George Offer a Guarantee?
Zak’s videos are available for free, so there’s no guarantee necessary. His books don’t appear to be backed by a guarantee.
Conclusion: Yay or Nay on Zak George?
At the end of the day, I can’t find much fault in Zak George’s advice.
I personally can’t stand his delivery style, but he’s popular and gives solid advice. He offers a wide variety of videos to really help new owners get off on the right paw with their dogs.
Honestly, I expected to find more fault with Zak George’s methods – I’m highly skeptical of YouTube dog trainers. But he does a good job of mostly focusing on his strengths with positive reinforcement methodology and basic training. His videos are well-produced and feature a variety of dogs.
Some commenters appear skeptical that George’s methods will work with a given breed or behavior issue, but I can happily say that his methods are sound and I use similar methods to work with thousands of shelter dogs and working dogs of all stripes.
Zak George’s free YouTube videos are an excellent place to start for dog training advice.