Disclosure: I received a free physical copy of the book from the author. All opinions are my own and from the heart!
Kindness. Something that the world needs so desperately right now.
I firmly believe that kindness begins in the most intimate of environments. How we are with ourselves. Our spouses. Our neighbors. Our children. And, perhaps the most telling, our pets.
How it all began
When I adopted Bailey 4 years ago, as you well know, I got a little ball of big fear. Fear that ran so deep it soon became clear to me there's a long road ahead of us. People in my life, with good intentions, had their own ideas of how I should be raising Bailey.
"Speak more firmly with her."
"Yank the leash back and say NO!" "
Just let her bark, who cares!"
But in the depths of my heart I knew that this is not how I wanted to raise my baby. And so the search for better, kinder methods of raising a dog began.
I don't remember which video of Zak's was the first one I came across, nor do I remember how I came across it. But I do remember binge-watching all of his other videos in one night. Replaying the crucial moments over and over again, writing down important things, feeling incredibly motivated to work with my pup. What really drew me in was not only Zak's methods of force-free training, but the love that he was radiating.
He is beaming with love, happiness and excitement when he is working with dogs and you know what? That was new to me.
When I watched other people train their dogs, they were very authoritarian, sharp and psychical. When I myself was training Bailey, I used to be incredibly nervous. I only focused on my main goal (for Bailey to stop hysterically barking at everything) and completely disregarded her emotions or the fact that training was supposed to be fun! Then I saw Zak's enthusiasm and it forever changed me. I realized then and there that, even though I was using positive reinforcement, I wasn't getting results because my bond with Bailey was damaged due to my own attitude towards training.
I subscribed to Zak's channel, naturally, and have been following his videos ever since. My interest in positive reinforcement and dog adoption grew into 4 years of adopting rescues and confidently, enjoyably helping them overcome their past anxieties. This life, being the mother of rescues, has led me to many, many +R resources and I keep finding new ones. But I will never stop keeping up with Zak's youtube videos.
When in doubt, I know I can always rely on his videos. I can always return to the basics, always look at things from a different point of view. I can always look to him and that enables me to be Bailey's safety net, anchor and safe space.
When I heard about his book, I knew I needed to read it and share his wisdom with you all! I feel it in my heart that this is the knowledge that needs to be shared, needs to be visible, needs to reach as many people as it possibly can. I feel a responsibility to do my part. So here is my review of Zak's incredible book!
The Dog Training rEvolution
From the moment you first open the book, you know that this is not your typical dog training book. You don't feel alienated from the author. If anything, it is clear from the very first lines that he gets you. He is one of us, the hardworking dog parents who love our furbabies beyond belief and just strive to be better for them every single day. You feel understood, heard and above all, not judged.
This is a book that gives you confidence as well as reassures you when you make mistakes and urges you, in the most positive way, to simply learn from them.
What I've noticed is that Zak uses the same tone of communication in his book as he does in his training - he is clear, direct, kind, sympathetic and a lot of fun.
Throughout the book, he emphasizes the importance of prevention, which is something you'll hardly ever see in other dog training books. It is such an important part of dog training and yet so many dog owners fail to realize that. His methods focus on preventing the unwanted behavior from happening as opposed to waiting for it to happen and then correcting that behavior in a very negative, physical way. Where I'm from, positive reinforcement is still a fairly new concept and I think a lot of people struggle with it because they don't invest into prevention. Instead, they leave their dog to his vices until he develops a whole lot of behavioral problems that are, at that point, harder to change.
I really want to point out that if you have any issues with your dog, there's always a big chance that they could have been (or could still be) prevented. So dive into Zak's book and notice how he carefully guides you through the necessary prevention by giving you actual examples that you get to implement straight away.
Another thing that stood out to me was him talking about the importance of a bond. Like I said, I learned this one the hard way, through personal experience. But I also learned that bond is something that keeps growing and evolving. I love how my bond with my individual dogs keeps changing and deepening.
My dog training philosophy is this: Training your dog is all about COMMUNICATION and BUILDING A BOND. Once that’s established, other things align as well!
To be completely honest with you, there aren't many widely known dog trainers who would either share that philosophy or dare to speak publicly about it. But Zak does! Every time he mentions the bond in his book my heart does a little happy dance! I am overjoyed that this knowledge is finally reaching people and if you're not using the bond as a foundation of your training, then you need this book and you need it NOW!
This is why it's called the dog training rEvolution! This dog training philosophy is revolutionary indeed! And luckily, because of people like Zak, our relationship with dogs has an opportunity to evolve. Just like any relationship, it needs trust, communication and safety. Zak likes to draw parallels with raising children or being in a relationship with other humans. He breaks down the barriers that stood so long between humans and their animal companions.
He puts a mirror in front of us and urges us to see that our dog's emotions aren't that different from our own, after all. He makes it clear that owning a dog is not something that you can emotionally detach yourself from. In fact, it is precisely your emotions that will help you be a better dog parent. If you tune into those, the rest should come easy!
Now that you know Zak's philosophy I also want to tell you a bit more about how his book is structured.
It's a journey every single dog parent goes through. It starts with the moment when you decide this is it: you're getting a dog! But before you actually get the dog, there's a whole lot of things to figure out (the dog's breed, rescue/buy, your financial situation etc). Zak really dives into all of these fundamental things every dog-parent-to-be (no matter how experienced) wonders about at some point. He then guides you through the necessary preparations before your pooch of choice arrives home and once he's finally home with you, Zak's book takes you on a journey from welcoming the pup to explaining the basic training principles you need to know.
Armed with this book, you will make a badass of a dog parent - that, I can tell you!
What I appreciate so much about the book is that it also covers a little heavier subjects: common behavioral issues and taking care of your dog's health. As both of these topics are very personal to me, I perhaps enjoyed those two chapters of the book the most. Simply because it finally made me feel seen, heard and appreciated.
I know, I know, I hate to be that dog mom, but it's the truth! Upon adopting Chilly I borrowed around 7 Border Collie books from the library and they taught me nothing. They weren't helpful at all and I had to seek Border Collie resources elsewhere (god bless the internet). But this book really makes everyone feel included - whether you have a rescue or a purebred, an angel or a little devil, a confident pooch or a traumatized bug like my Bailey. Zak is inclusive and that's very important to me.
His book ends on a high note: with fun tricks and activities you can do with your dog. That is perhaps one of the most exhilarating parts about being a dog owner, no? Getting to do fun things together and bonding through them!
Whether you read through this book in one go (like I did) or just pick chapters relevant to you (like I will in the future), it will not only leave you richer with information, but also full of enthusiasm and drive for strengthening the relationship with your dog and helping him thrive!
Make sure you have a highlighter at hand! ;)
My darling sister is already lined up to read this book. I can't wait to pass it onto her and then discuss what we've both learned and how we will implement our knowledge into our daily life with our precious rescues.
I want you to do the same. If you haven't yet, I want you to read this book, then come back and tell me how it shaped you as a dog parent. Tell me some of your insights. Tell me how it touched you. Let us all grow together.
Let us continue this movement, that Zak has started, in our lives and in all of our communities, wherever in the world we may be!
I also want you to support Zak by:
Subscribing to his YOUTUBE channel (and clear an afternoon because you'll want to binge these videos).
Liking his FACEBOOK page.
Support him on PATREON.
Heart his precious dogs on INSTAGRAM.
And read his tweets on TWITTER.
Last but not least, I would like to thank Zak for sending me this book and for unselfishly sharing his knowledge all these years! You really are making the world better, one dog owner at a time.<3
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