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Even old dogs can learn new tricks



Published: Wed, January 28, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Frazier Moore

NEW YORK — Zak George is a big dog in the world of dog trainers. And he could soon get even bigger, thanks to a TV series that cable’s Animal Planet has in the works.

Tentatively titled “Fetch Me a Beer,” the new show will invite dog owners to propose tricks that George can help them teach their pets.

Can a dog play baseball or pinball? Serve as “wingman” to help her dateless owner meet women? Square dance? Or, in the case of a bulldog named Rufus in the pilot episode, fetch a brew from the fridge for his master, Evan, who’s relaxing on the sofa?

Almost any task or stunt seems possible when a pooch gets the right step-by-step instruction and encouragement.

But at the moment of truth, will the dog-and-human duo be able to demonstrate the trick?

A 30-year-old Atlanta native, George glimpsed the learning capacity of canines in his border collie Venus when she was a pup.

“But I realized that if I was going to bring out her potential, I was going to need to dedicate a lot more time to her,” he recalls. That was five years ago. He ditched the job he had had since his teens — selling real estate — and switched to full-time dog training.

“That was a step backward in many people’s eyes,” George acknowledges. “But it didn’t take long to bring them around.”

Since then, George and Venus have won numerous competitions, made TV guest appearances (including “Late Show With David Letterman”), and won fans on a popular YouTube site.

Now his show is in production, with initial casting calls seeking owners who have tricks in mind for their dogs in Boston and South Florida.

The 20-episode series is scheduled to premiere in July.


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