Jon Katz, Dog Trainer or Trouble for Dogs

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.

5 thoughts on “Jon Katz, Dog Trainer or Trouble for Dogs”

  1. Does anybody have his fan address? I would like to send him a letter and maybe get an autograph. He really knows how to write about dogs.Thanks for answers if there will be any.

  2. Hi I wish I had Jon’s email address I would love to have a chat. Love his books, have shed a few tears and smiled a’lot in the reading.

    Eric Blake. Sydney Australia

  3. I’m so glad that I found your website. I have read almost all of Jon Katz’s books. I found them interesting, but I am seeking more information on how to best teach and take care of my dogs. I do agree with one of his premises; it takes a great deal of dedication and patience to train dogs — qualities not very valued in our culture.


  4. Hi Karen. Glad you found us too! :)

    I agree. It takes dedication and patience. And, I believe, one more quality–learning about and understanding the basic nature of dogs.

    One of the qualities I find annoying about Katz is that he’s so disdainful of what he perceives as anthropomorposizing, that I think he swings too far the other way. I believe it hinders his ability to really get into the mind of a dog and understand the world from the dog’s point of view.

    All the really good trainers I know are very good at doing this.

    Two books I’d recommend that eloquently address this subject are Bones Would Rain from the Sky: Deepening Our Relationships with Dogs by Suzanne Clothier, and The View from the Oak: The Private Worlds of Other Creatures by Herbert R. Kohl, Judith Kohl, and Roger Bayless

  5. Interesting… I’ve only read a few newspaper columns by him. I often wonder about the “snippets” of information that people can get on radio shows. Sadly, I think it takes more than a 5 minute call to really get to the root of any real problem… but this is America.. we want the five minute fix, the panacea, the magic bullet.. who wants to actually do any work? ~sigh~

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