From the mail bag: Allie asks: Just wondering. What do you think of Jon Katz? As a person, a writer, and now a trainer?

Dear Allie, I can’t comment on Katz as a person; I’ve never met the man. And I know all too well how it can be hazardous to draw conclusions about someone who writes about pieces of his or her life. As a reader, it’s easy to think you know the whole person, when you really only know the small portrait they’ve painted.

I’ve read a couple of Katz’s books; he can tell a good story. Though I find some of the topics he writes about, and the way in which he writes about them maddening. For instance, I found the tone of The New Work of Dogs somewhat condescending and judgmental. As for Katz on Dogs; while he makes some valid points, in his own way it seems he’s working at setting back the understanding of dogs and their emotional intelligence as much as Cesar Millan is setting back much of the progress in dog training. (Don’t either of these guys read the abundant scientific studies, never mind observe their own dogs?!) Needless to say, he often loses me when he strays from story-telling about his dogs. Though, most recently, I was very saddened to hear about the death of his dog, Orson.

And my thoughts on Katz as a legitimate dog trainer? I know he’s come a long way from his chain-throwing days, and he’s spent a tremendous amount of time educating himself, but that’s not the same as someone who has the hands-on experience of having worked with dozens and dozens of dogs. No matter how many people he’s talked to, he’s basically only trained his own dogs. That, to me, does not an expert trainer make. For instance, on a recent NPR radio show, his advice to a caller with a dog who had a submissive peeing problem was to restrict its water intake! Yikes!

So, my opinion, for what it’s worth– Katz as a dog story teller? Yay. Katz as a professional dog trainer? Nay. At least not until he gets a lot more real-life knowledge and experience.