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More on Millan: Guest Blog by Jolanta Benal

The thing about being a dog trainer and behavior consultant who works hard, and continues to work hard, learning as much about the science of dogs as I can—about how they grow, develop, and learn; about their communication and interaction with humans and nonhumans—the thing about studying the science and then having a discussion with a Cesar Millan fan, is that you feel as I imagine a paleontologist feels having a discussion with a creationist. The sense that the other party is living in an alternative reality is a little disorienting. How the heck does someone get to be an expert on a species when he has made no scientific study of it whatever? How does it happen that other people accept his claim to expertise? I don’t mean the fellow has to have a degree, I just mean it would be nice if he gave the impression of having read and understood, say, James Serpell, Karen Overall, Steven Lindsay, or Patricia McConnell. Given his truly weird ideas about dog social behavior, he could use a look at Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, and Roger Abrantes, too.

Here are my qualifications for talking about Cesar Millan’s methods: I have watched several episodes of his show, and I read the interview in the Times last Sunday. Some fan of his is going to post and say I’m insufficiently familiar with the man’s oeuvre, but sorry, I didn’t have to eat the whole salad to know that large parts of it were very, very bad.

Here are the things I do like: Yes, it’s important for dogs to get adequate exercise—most of them don’t. Yes, the suburban backyard is a jail cell for a dog. Yes, it’s good to act calm around a fearful dog. And yes, everyone living in a household has to know what the rules are for that household, and that includes the dogs.

Also, the one really good thing Millan does, as someone who works with dog behavior on TV, is get across the message that behavior can be changed. I cringe when a client asks me about Millan’s methods, but maybe that client wouldn’t have called a behavior counselor if he hadn’t seen CM on TV.

But that’s it. Apart from what I’ve cited above, Millan, as a behavior expert, seems to be a member of the Flat Earth Society.

That Times interview. Does Millan know that dogs probably evolved as semi-solitary scavengers in the vicinity of human settlements? “In the natural dog world, the dog is always behind the pack leader.” Oh pull-eaze! The closest thing to the “natural dog world” today, if prevailing scientific theory is correct, is probably a Third World village, and you can see for yourself in any such place that the dogs travel kinda sorta together but often alone, in a very loose way, basically focusing on whatever piece of garbage they can find to eat. I don’t know where he got that “90 miles a day” thing, either. These are skinny dogs hanging around the dump, or the tourist restaurant; it would be astonishing if they traveled 20 miles a day, let alone 90. To what purpose? They can’t afford that kind of energy expenditure, for pete’s sake.

And am I really supposed to believe that when my dogs and I are taking the same boring last-pee-before-bedtime walk around the block that we take every single night, and they walk ahead of me, it’s because they’re staging a palace coup, not because they … um … know exactly where we’re all going? We’re on a country hike, my dog-who-loves-to-swim realizes we’re getting near the creek and pelts ahead of me to jump in. Whoops, was that my pack leadership going by? Or was he just excited about getting in the water?

Science isn’t the only thing missing here—a little common sense might come in handy too.

As for the TV show—I’ll just talk about one episode:  the Great Dane afraid of shiny floors. Yes, Millan succeeded in getting the dog to walk tractably on shiny linoleum floors, and he did it by inducing what’s called learned helplessness. He dragged the dog onto the linoleum and kept him there. The dog's efforts to escape did not work, and the dog gave up. That is learned helplessness. It’s not the same thing as being comfortable and relaxed. At the end, the Dane’s tail is down, his head is down, and he is drooling profusely. For those who have eyes to see, he’s a picture of fear and misery.

Sadly, his guardian had had the right idea:  she was laying down carpet runner for the dog to walk on. I would have started exactly the same way, and when he was comfortable walking down the hall, left a little gap of linoleum, small enough so he could step over it. And slowly the gap would have grown. I would have put Musher’s Wax on the dog’s paws so as to be sure he had traction: remember, he was afraid of shiny floors because he’d taken a bad spill on one. The hallway would be a place of fun with his guardian and chicken treats.

I’m sure this would have taken longer than Millan’s method, but at the end the dog would have been walking happily and confidently, not hanging his head and drooling.

And that’s the trouble with Cesar Millan. He’s got a hammer—the dominance idea—and he thinks everything he sees is a nail. He’s constantly forcing what needs to be gentled along. And it’s all very well overpowering dogs when you work out every day and have a Y chromosome on board, but what is my five-foot female client with two little kids supposed to do? What about the elderly man with a brand-new hip? What if you are a man who works out every day but you don’t enjoy physical confrontation as a way of life? What are you supposed to do then?

Call a clicker trainer.

May 11, 2006 | Permalink

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Comments

Lisa I will agree with you about putting a choke chain on a small dog since their necks are very fragile. I think a big problem is many people interpret his show the wrong way, they don't remember that he is working with dogs with extreme behavior problems. They apply all the wrong skills to their puppy I do firmly believe in positive reinforcement training, but again for dogs who are highly agressive cesar's method seems the route to go. What gets me so worked up is that people keep on critisizing a man who thouroughly loves dogs (I do understand that it is out of concern for the animal's welfare)He grew up around dogs he wanted to be the most famous trainer, but he realized he had a special gift for communicating with dogs and that he could rehabilitate them. I am done with these cesar millan posts as everybody obviously has their own opinion on what is and isn't right.

Posted by: cassie | Jul 29, 2006 10:12:38 PM

sacdogtrainer has just described most of my classes. I have to undo what people do to their dog's thinking his methods are genius. Alot of us who work as positive reinforcement trainers watch his show like most people watch horror movies. "No don't go in the barn..."
We are like, "Look at the way that dog is crouching..no don't...I can't watch.."
The signs some of these dog shows are signs of possibly creating a whole other behavior problem.
When someone in my class has a lab puppy they insist on walking in such a tight heel that the dog's paws are barely touching the ground because he saw it on the show, I have to explain to him that Ceasar trains the dogs on a short leash because they have behavior issues..and even then some of the methods are a little outdated. The problem is for some reason people can't process the fact that A) we are not seeing the FAILED clients of his. B)People are trying these things on puppies because they saw this guy do it. Why do I have to spell it out for people? This guy is making me work twice as hard in my classes because instead of training clean slates I have to spend 20 minutes explaining to my class why we don't do it "Ceasar's Way",because we don't need to.
And for the record I do explain alot about ethology to my classes, and about how to better communicate with their dogs. We discuss a little about dominance but I warn them to never do the BS alpha rolls and scruff shakes. I tell them stories about how I was shown to do that on an aggressive dog and it backfired.
Then I tell them to read Patricia McConnel's books because I have learned a ton from her books and she also covers hbow to work with stubborn dogs and all the like. She is terrific...she should have a show.

Posted by: Lisa | Jul 26, 2006 10:27:05 PM

I just had to talk some woman out of putting a choke chain on her fearful Maltese. He is fearful when walking and pulls back so she wanted to buy a choke because she saw how Ceasar does it. I calmly through clenched jaw had to explain how dangerous it is to put a choke on a small dog. I also asked her if she thought forcing the dog might actually make his anxiety worse? Did she think she was making the walk enjoyable or a sheer torture for a dog who clearly has anxiety.
I explained to her that it might help to slowly acclimate the dog to walking farther. If he is fearful when he gets to the end of the block to make it happy, distract him with play, happy voice, even a few treats. Then maybe the next day coax him a few feet with a super treat like cheese. Every day try to help him go a little farther. This way he gets over his anxiety and chooses to take a few extra steps. Plus he will enjoy walking with his human mother and learn to trust her. She said, "Wow, thats the exact opposite of what the Whisperer teaches."
I helped her pick out a harness instead of choke, I advised her to buy a leash instead of walking him on a retractable which just makes control harder. Hopefully I will see her again and hear that my techniques worked. And the next sxtudent in my training class who challenges my positive reinforcement walking lessons with "Ceasar does it this way..." is going to have some beef liver and brown rice treats shoved down their throat. ;)

Posted by: Lisa | Jul 26, 2006 10:02:47 PM

Well, I found the May/June issue of bark at my local pet store and bought it and the review is definitely extremely biased and also I wonder if Pat miller actually read the book or at least the cover. The first paragraph says"almost every dog-TRAINING book has something to offer the discerning reader ..." She gets the first sentence WRONG for goodness sake, Cesar's way is NOT a Dog-TRAINING book. How many times have people stressed that Cesar Millan does not train dogs he rehabillitates dogs with extreme behavior problems. She goes on to say "If you're looking for significant help training your dog look elsewhere." I agree with her because the book won't help you teach your dog to sit or heel or to lay-down or to come to you, the book cover says " The Natural Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting common dog problems" It doesn't say the natural everyday guide on how to train your dog! Towards the end of the review she says "How many dog owners can spend six hours a day exercising their dogs..." Cesar does not say to exercise your dog six hours a day he recommends an hour in the morning and a half hour at night that definitely is not six hours. I could understand if everybody was bashing cesar if he TRAINED dogs and he was using his techniques, But again he isn't training these dogs he is REHABILITATING these dogs, who have extreme obsessions, aggresion or fear. Who ever said that dogs are not pack animals? Why is then that dogs get seperation anxiety, Because they are seperated from their pack and their survival depends on being in a pack, Why do dogs gulp down food as if it's their last meal They never know they might have a bad winter- an instinct they still have from their wolves ancestors. I don't know if anyone will read this as this topic is a bit old but I felt the need to post.

Posted by: cassie | Jul 25, 2006 11:17:54 AM

I know this is posting is very old but as a person who has trained, rescued and fostered pit bulls taken from fighting rings Id like to you to try something and tell me how it turns out...go ahead, click your little clicker at a red zone pit bull that was bred to fight and see what happens to you. To make it even better, try walking up to one with a treat in your hand and then demand that it does something you tell it to before he gets it. I was also a USAF military dog handler and I also have personal experience with rotties, dobermans, german shepards and english bulldogs (personal pet) so maybe clicker training is good for training but if you have a dominant 'bully-breed' and you try throwing a bit of kibble or clicking a snapple top at him, dont be suprised when he doesnt stop what he's doing.

In my opinion, clicker training and reward based training works great when you have a run of the mill family pet that you want to teach to sit or stay or other basic commands but if you havent got the 'pack leader' mentality and you approach a dog bred to fight and literally kill other animals in anything other than a 'calm, assertive' manner, you are going to be in big trouble. I've seen the show many times and not once have seen him abuse any dog in anyway. The main problem is that I dont think half of the people who talk about 'alpha rolling' their dogs know what an alpha roll is. An alpha roll is when you roll your dog on its back and hold him by the throat. A dominant Red-zone fighting dog would think the human is trying to kill him and that would cause a him to fight back, most likely until someone is dead. Seeing that Cesar is not dead, I believe that is proof enough that he does not use that technique. The technique he does when the taps the dog on the neck is not a squeeze or a choke, it is a light touch on the neck as a mother would do to a puppy to correct its actions. You cant just use 'love and affection' only to train a dog bred and raised up to fight, it simply will not work. Its a big part of it, yes but if you think that alone will cut it, youre kidding yourself.

In all, I just want to say that whatever method people use to train their animals has to be according with the animal itself. In the words of the all time TV classic 'Diff'rent Strokes', "what might be right for you, may not be right for some." As all dogs are different there is no one-size fits all technique for dog training/rehabilitation and please dont try to make people believe that there is.

Posted by: Smokey | Jul 22, 2006 12:05:04 AM

I don't know about which training method is better, who is the best person to trust, if my dad can beat up your dad. What I do know is that I have learned a lot from watching Cesar's show. And everything I learned was about myself and what I needed to do to be a better human for my dog companion. I used to be someone who would get easily frustrated. I had a hard time letting things go and living in the present. I was sort of lost in my own mind. But when I started watching Cesar's show, and then having read his book, I realized I needed to change. I began to find peace and calm in my life, because I learned that if I wanted to have a rewarding, fulfilling relationship with my dog, I needed to be at peace with myself. I needed to let myself off the hook and realize that it's ok to screw up every now and then. That mistakes and bad things are going to happen. But you learn from them and move on, not sit and dwell on them as my former self would do. And when I realized that I had to do this for my dog's sake, my life was transformed. I am a very different person than I was just 8 months ago. And it was what I learned from Cesar that triggered this transformation.

I understand that these are personal problems that have nothing to do with dog training or dog behavior. But I am a better person today than I used to be. And that is not just in my relationship with my dog. It is in my relationships with everyone. And this is what I believe is the greatest lesson of his show. It's not about the dogs. It's about personal growth. And I believe that he has helped many people overcome their own issues in order to be the best humans they can be.

Posted by: SK | Jul 10, 2006 7:36:41 PM

I've watched "The Dog Whisperer" with interest and decided to do a bit of research on dog training methods which led me to these blog discussions. I see numerous mentions of a flawed study of the [non]pack behavior of wolves that is often cited in dominance based training. I came across this article:

http://www.bogartsdaddy.com/bouvier/Training/alpha-roll_no.htm

The article advocates against the alpha-roll and debunks most of the wolf study. But it also cites dog pack studies that do suggest a heirarchy with a pack leader. Now how this translates to dog-human relationships I cannot say. But the article concludes, among other points, "Using physical force of any kind reduces your 'rank.' Only middle-ranked animals insecure in their place squabble." To my untrained eye, Millan's methods of asserting dominance are not done through force, but a through projecting the self confidence of a leader and a slight nip of the leash or hand that communicates to the dog "this behavior is unacceptable", and seem to be in accordance with the aforementioned article. (I have not personally seen Millan perform an alpha-roll. Has he?)

One more question: I have watched the rock-biting episode (Punkin I believe) where Millan repeatedly challenges the dog with rocks while preventing him from biting them through negative reinforcement. As a concrete example to satisfy my curiosity, how would a situation such as this be handled by other training methods? Are these the types of things one will learn by reading the often suggested "Culture Clash", "The Other End of the Leash", and others? I ask out of concern for a dog with a similar problem of obsessively licking anyone who has recently applied hand lotion or sunscreen.

Posted by: Pat Mahoney | Jul 7, 2006 7:58:39 AM

First of all many people are getting things completely confused, many people are talking about clicker training, positive reinforcement what someone has already said is that cesar does not train dogs! If and when you watch the show cesar says I train people and REHABILITATE dogs, you definitley couldn't rehabilate an extremely aggresive dog using cliker training because as far as I know that method is mainly for teaching commands, well you could probably distract a fearful dog in an situation with food, I doubt that you could do the same with a dog who is intent on going after whatever. While I first use positive reinforcement to train my dogs cesar's methods help a lot on things that I wouldn't be able to teach without food. If you've read his book you know he says he never works against mother nature, face it dogs have instincts and they do include living in a pack which contains hierarchy. Just watching dogs at dog parks and you can tell the dominant ones from the submissive ones alot of the dogs there are trying to figure out who is and isn't in charge. Many people think cesar's method is cruel or old but, it is changing many animals and peoples lives and a leash pop can't hurt to much at all do remember that dogs have fur and thick skin around their neck to protect them in scuffles that might take place in a feral dog pack.

My relative has a dog that comes and stays in the backyard during the day. He was going to be handed over to another realtive as they couldn't really keep him. She called a trainer who was trained under cesar millan to come help with many of his issues, like biting your arm when you grab his collar and if you don't let go immeadiately, when you do let go he jumps after your arms and tries to bite them. Unfortunately, another person who lives on the property wouldn't allow a dog psychologist to come because he doesn't belive in that stuff, so now the dog will be living a in two feet wide and 50 feet long dog run, for three months and then living in a tiny backyard for the rest of his life. Now I'm going to try to find a local rescue who'll take this extremely hyper dog, and convince the owners to let him go to the rescue. That all I have to say and I definitely back cesar up.

Posted by: cassie | Jun 30, 2006 5:56:49 PM

I love the show. Couple things for ya. 1st: Although the only "natural" packs may be in 3rd world countries lets take a step back and think about all the innate abilities that animals have even when taken out of their "natural enviroment." HMMM.... Think of a few? Maybe, just maybe, the pack leader thing is ingrained in the dogs. Drrr...
Every show I've watched has been fantabulous.

Posted by: Ashlie | Jun 17, 2006 6:50:44 PM

Whew!! I don't get NG channel but bought CM's vid--what a waste of bucks to watch a slick self-aggrandizing pop psych guy make money without a shred of knowledge about how "dogs" really work. Dominance theory is so long acknowledged as incorrect--for wolves as well as dogs--that it is a real embarrassment to watch. My dogs--therapy dogs, in agility and coursing--Coren's "dumb" breed (NOT) the Afghan Hound, have all been trained using R+ methods and are fab! CM's methods would create really ticked off dogs with mine. My dogs do NOT consider me a member of their pack and their hierarchy is headed by the strong but benevolent Izik whose leadership is shown by his tolerance and generosity. He has no need to show off his position--he simply IS. I spend a lot of time disabusing owners who think they need to "take a hold" of their dogs cuz CM does it". What a log of damage he does! The only things I like are the emphasis on exercise and the necessity to train.

Posted by: MJ Moss, WhattaPup Training | Jun 1, 2006 12:56:50 PM

"I think you are missing the boat here... try actually WATCHING the show...

Cesar trains PEOPLE to understand their dogs and to communicate non-verbally with them in a way the dog understands."

I have watched the show regularly. I have seen dogs exhibiting signs of stress, signs which the average dog owner and even other dog trainers are unable to spot.

I have watched him push dogs beyond their threshold. How many times has he been bitten?

I have watched him set dogs up to get attacked at his training facility.

I have watched him string a dog off the ground by its collar and yank a fearful dog into the swimming pool. I have watched him use fear, force and flooding to suppress problem behaviors (operative word is suppress, not fix).

Cesar is not unique in "training people" to understand their dogs. There are literally thousands of dog trainers who educate owners every single day. And we have to re-educate owners who have been attempting his methods with no success, or at great cost to their dog's behavior.

Posted by: sacdogtrainer | May 31, 2006 7:49:23 PM

i've owned a dog for only 6 years. he's my first, a very smart and feisty chi i adopted when he was a year old. some of cesar's methods have helped me deal with his pesky behaviors. some have simply made me feel more confident. it's a whole lot easier to slip a looped leash over his head than it is to snap a collar on him. i can actually shut him up when he sees another dog approach. i can "sh" him with an upheld finger, done once.

i can't, however, completely stop his sneaky peeing in the house. i notice that cesar has never dealt that with that particular issue. i suspect that he never will. he wouldn't be able to get instant results, i'm sure.

the dog's other uncalm, unsubmissive behaviors, like standing guard on his chair at the window, barking at anything ont he street that moves, or greeting people at the door by doing a little dance on his hind legs--so what? like my son says, without this teensy dog's big attitude, it's just not as much fun.

Posted by: ariel | May 31, 2006 12:15:03 PM

I have been fighting cesar-mania for the past year. I always ask, "Yes, but what did you actually learn by watching him?" Having Oprah endorse him has only increaed the mania.

The people who praise Cesar are the same people who haven't seen that Oprah has lost touch with reality. We believed in her when she was "one of us" but now she clearly believes she is "above" us; however, the masses have yet to catch up. If Oprah believes in Cesar, so will the masses as they seem to be unable to think for themselves.

Thank you all for the above comments as I now have alternate views from experienced dog handles/trainers to give to people who think Cesar is the answer to everything dog related.

Posted by: Josie | May 30, 2006 10:58:57 AM

Hey Cesar, some lawyer who teaches a "good manners" class for puppies in New York City thinks that your methods are unscientific. She seems to think that one learns more about handling animals from going to university or from reading books and journal articles than from growing up on a farm. No, I haven't seen her handle any red-zone pitbulls or rottweilers.

Posted by: Laurie Thomas | May 29, 2006 3:13:42 PM

I have issues with Cesar....big ones. his proclaimed outlook is basically correct. Owner needs to be Alpha when dealing with dogs. What he is suggesting you do to BE Alpha is very very wrong. He apparently has never studied wolf packs, which is where all the Alpha outlook comes from. He advocates choking, dragging (like that poor Dane) alpha rolls...how may of JPQ do you think could successfully pull off an alpha roll with a dominant/aggressive dog and keep their fingers? you might be able to do it to a Chihauhau, or a Dachsund..DONT try it with your German Shepherd or Doberman.....

and NONE of it is correct pack structure. The Alpha in a real wolf pack does NOT get involved in pack squabbles, unless he HAS to. He leads with a firm but gentle hand. The lower ranking wolves do physical punishment WHEN NECESSARY, which is rarely. If the Alpha has to punish, it usually means death or banishment of the animal in question....most of the squabbles TV shows with wolves fighting are posture, and thats it.They cant AFFORD to fight the entire pack is necessary for the survival of all.

He is using old training methods, long now recognized as not needed, and often cruel.
I am Alpha in my house, with two large dogs. I dont hit,strangle, hang or beat my dogs. They learned that I provide all the good things in their lives...food, walks, companionship, love, which is what a pack Alpha provides. Gee, how do I do that without dragging them across tile floors and hanging them by their collars til they obey? hmmmmm...maybe because I UNDERSTAND the way THEY think? Imagine that!

Posted by: katy | May 29, 2006 12:41:24 PM

"Get a grip, and WALK YOUR DOG! He'll behave better, sleep better, and you might even lose some weight."

The problem with comments like this is that they assume that all dog behavior problems can be solved with one simple solution. However, there are numerous behavior problems that can be aggravated and worsened by going for walks, where the dog is allowed to practice problem behaviors (making them stronger) or becomes overstimulated on a daily basis, elevating cortisol and adrenaline levels, increasing reactive behaviors.

This is why "educateds," who have a greater understanding of not only the psychology of dog behavior, but the physiology, as well, speak out against the "good old common sense" approach to dealing with serious behavior problems.

Do more people need to provide their dogs with physical and mental stimulation? Absolutely! But for behavior problems, our common sense, typically based on how we deal with *human* behavior, is nonsense when it comes to dogs.

Posted by: Lisa | May 27, 2006 9:44:13 AM

i'm just an average dog owner, and i used to be a big cesar fan myself. i think it's wonderful that cesar's show and books are inspiring and empowering dog owners to seek/practice obedience training and show leadership to their dogs.

i definately think cesar has some very good messages for dog owners, but honestly, i think a lot of the dominance related stuff is over indulgent and easily misunderstood or misapplied.

just the other day, an owner of an 8 week old puppy posted on a chat board asking for help with his "strong-willed" pup. the owner was trying to follow cesar's WAY and teach his pup that he is the pack leader, and he took the 8 week old puppy on a leashed run, but the puppy pulled ahead several times, and the pup's overall struggles and protests against the leash was frustrating.

certainly, i can see how this kind of application of cesar's methods would be good for the dog services business, but i think it's sad.

while cesar's tough love methods seem to get the desired results for many people, there is a sense of forced submission, helplessness, and shutting down of the dogs seen on his show. achieving a "calm, submissive" state from the dog is the goal, right? the more i think about this, the more i see of human arrogance and dog oppression within the human to dog relationship. cesar calls it "projecting calm assertive energy." does that projection also include neck jabs and alpha rolls?

i'm not saying that cesar is abusive to dogs or that he is a bad trainer. cesar's methods have been used for years and years by many dog trainers and people alike, including myself. i think cesar is extremely gifted in his ability to communicate with dogs and people alike, and he gets results. however, his methods are out dated given all the research and case studies of recent times.

for me personally, i would like to see more examples of how people can strenghten their relationship with their dogs, where repect is given, not taken.

yes, there are many pets who's owners give them too much freedom and not enough boundries, but there is a difference between being a leader and being a tyrant.

Posted by: luke from georgia | May 27, 2006 6:31:43 AM

In response to some of the comments:

>>Has anybody considered that there is more than one acceptable way to train a dog?

Absolutely. However, there are also UNacceptable ways to train a dog, and Cesar uses some of them.

>>All this focus on self control, and personal empowerment, is what makes the show so revolutionary...

Actually, it does not make him revolutionary or unique in any way. In 1986, Myrna Milani, DVM, wrote "The Body Language and Emotion of Dogs," which focused on the effects of our emotions/relationship on our dogs' behavior. As a trainer, this is the FIRST thing that I focus on with owners, and have been long before Cesar was televised.

>>I have no knowledge of what happened to the dog in the lawsuit....From what I have read, Cesar Milan wasn't there at the time.

I am having a really hard time understanding why Cesar's absence is relevant to this issue. If one of my employees injured a dog during the course of training it, I would be ultimately responsible. It is my business and my employee, who I trained to handle dogs. "I wasn't there" isn't going to release me of any liability.

>>What I haven't seen is perhaps an acknowledgement that there may be some jealousy about Cesar making it *this* big in the industry.

Perhaps because the criticism does not come from jealousy, but a significant concern over the welfare of the dogs that suffer because of these methods.

Another concern is that he portrays himself as the last hope for these dogs (although little appear to have had ANY prior training). If his methods don't work for these dogs, if THE Dog Whisperer, the last hope for dogs, couldn't help them with his dominance-based methods, then what?

>>Many dogs that are rescued from shelters have "issues" and people are told by well educated trainers to have the dogs put down because the problem is not able to be fixed.

This is a very generalized statement that makes a LOT of assumptions. In fact, I know of very few trainers who make the recommendation for euthanasia so easily.

Studies show that people remember 10% of what they hear and 35% of what they see. So if Cesar talks about the importance of leadership, but DEMONSTRATES rough handling, what are dog owners and viewers more likely to remember.

I don't subscribe to only one training method. I know from experience that one type of training does not fit every dog. However, I do know that training, whether R+, clicker, or any other, does not have to involve force or fear to be successful. If you don't have to use force to address behavior problems, why do it? Because it makes for better television than desensitization and counter-conditioning.

Excellent post Jolanta. Glad to see more professionals speaking out.

Posted by: sacdogtrainer | May 26, 2006 10:29:39 PM

Has anybody considered that there is more than one acceptable way to train a dog? And for that person and that dog that particular method works. Maybe we should worry more about taking what we see in CM's methods and other people's methods and find out what works best for us and each specific dog we "train"? It certainly accomplishes more than wasting our time bashing what we disapprove of.
Everyone brings their unique gifts, views, and strengths as well as their weaknesses when we work with our animals. Sometimes we find out after years of doing things a certain way that there are different and/or better ways to accomplish the same things. There's nothing wrong with that. Cesar has a unique education with dogs, unique views and methods that work for him and who's to say that he is not continually learning and may update or refine his methods in the future? Don't we get more out of being positive than being negative?

Posted by: Wendi Cope | May 25, 2006 9:47:33 PM

"Amen to that. It's about time that people woke up and smelled the coffee so to speak, and begin to learn about Cesar for who he really is - a man with good intentions, but going about it all the wrong way, with all of the wrong methods (and lacking the formal education)."

It doesn't matter what the argument, there will always be the high-horse educated to dismiss a good old common sense guy with more wisdom. It's the same institution that produced so many doctors that don't listen, over-prescribe medication, and fail to promote prevention.

People tend to overcomplicate the majority of their challenges, whether it be at work, on the golf course, or in their drama-filled relationships.

Get a grip, and WALK YOUR DOG! He'll behave better, sleep better, and you might even lose some weight. Heck, take your wife and maybe you can talk to her in person instead of on the cell phone!

Posted by: jabirdaz | May 25, 2006 3:32:30 PM

I must say, it's a bit disappointing to see how easily people believe what they see on TV. What exactly is it that makes one believe that watching him work with a dog for a half hour to an hour is actually FIXING the dog's problem? It's too bad that what the audience doesn't see are the trainers who then have to deal with the dogs and their REAL problems after the filming ends at other facilities. Because he doesn't "solve" problems, maybe for one or two dogs it works, but it is said and known that there are trainers out there picking up the mess that Millan left off after he filmed. Be careful what you see on TV - it's not all as it appears.

Secondly, for anyone who says that reward-based training does not work, I'm sorry to say you have done it incorrectly then. And that is not to offend, but that is sheer truth. Operant conditioning (the scientific term for clicker training) works the same way on all animals, no matter the species. Dolphins, birds, rats, cougars. Dogs are no different. There are not "some dogs who don't respond to reward training", and "some who do". There are people who know how to use the science, and there are people who don't. And that's what it comes down to, incorrect use of the science, incorrectly trying to use the training method, it's not a problem with the training method. I have not yet seen in my experience a dog that did not respond to clicker training when it was done properly. Even dogs who are fearful of the clicker itself come around and do miracles. And in the end, it has nothing to do with "dominance" or "calm, assertive energy", or other outdated ideas. It has to do with the laws of learning, based on decades and decades of research across hundreds of species of animals. Plain and simple.

So while you may feed into the myth of dominance if you really wish, please don't try to blame the training method when you can't get it to work. Because the science doesn't lie.

Kim MacMillan

Posted by: Kim MacMillan | May 25, 2006 7:07:05 AM

I'm very new to the controversy about Millan, having seen him for the first time two days ago on Oprah; this is also my first post on this blog. But I have to weigh in to say that what I learned in about 20 minutes of watching Millan deal with one barker and one aggressor has totally transformed the relationship my husband and I have with our mini-dachshund.

First, let me mention that we've tried clicker training and other treat-reward methods, with only very limited success. I've lived with doxies my whole life and can vouch for the fact that they'll do anything for a treat - which unfortunately means that they'll obey just long enough to get the treat, then they'll go back to misbehaving so that you have to give them another treat! (Check out how many fat doxies there are!!)

Our little female is the most highly-strung doxie I've owned: hyper-alert, quick to bark, headstrong, able to resist any amount of verbal correction or time-out or other punishment (we've never used physical force on her, except a few tries at "scruff shakes" when she's been especially bad, which have resulted in growls and snaps).

So, you get the picture. Mealtimes (hers, not ours) have always been especially hellish, since she whines and lets out that high-pitched doxie bark throughout the time it takes me to mix up her food (she's on a raw meat diet, which she's thriving on - she's slender, glossy, and very healthy). Monday evening, after watching Millan on TV, before feeding her I quietly stood in front of her and just looked into her eyes; she stopped barking and whining, got very still, then walked to her blanket and lay down. Needless to say, I was astounded! I then proceeded to fix her food; she started to whine a couple of times, but each time I went over and just stood looking down at her, she stopped and put her head down on her paws. She then obeyed the command to "Stay" until I gestured her into her kennel, where she gets fed. My husband and I looked at each other with our jaws dropped. For the rest of the time we spent in the kitchen, where we watched TV while I fixed our dinner, she lay quietly on her blanket chewing a favorite toy, instead of obsessively licking the kitchen floor, a habit we've up to now been totally unable to cure her of.

So, to those trainers who are bashing Millan, I have to say that results count. I've only seen him once, and he certainly didn't behave cruelly to either of the dogs he was working with then, so I can't judge whether or not he ever goes too far in his discipline. But I can certainly say that his method of asserting dominance over your dog, quietly and without any tools except your own force of personality, DOES work - and that reward-based training DIDN'T work on our dog.

Posted by: doxiefan | May 24, 2006 10:05:39 AM

Hi Everyone,

Let me speak what I feel is the truth and try to illuminate you as to
what I think and why you all may be needlessly banging your heads
against the wall when it comes to Millan.

There is an article in the NY Times today, 23 May 2006, about Millan. If you
haven't seen it yet, go out and get the paper right away. Don't wait. Starbuck's still has some copies, I saw them there this
morning.

I want to try to explain something to everyone training dogs about competition that many trainers I've spoken with about Millan seem to be missing. This is not
about methods and it's not about how and who does what with dogs.

This guy Millan is raising the public awareness. That means more people will seek trainers. They can't all get him, but they can get us. This is good for business, much as I posted on another list a couple of weeks ago that Koehler was good for our profession regardless of what his
methods were. It is very frustrating to me that so many trainers miss this point from a business and competitive aspect and don't connect up these dots. This is in part why I am open to learning from ALL trainers using ALL methodologies although I myself use R+ techniques.

You can have a difference of opinion as to methods without the anger and attacks I have seen circulating about Millan. I am also sure attacking Millan is NOT good for our industry. You all are aware I'm sure that upon a time Weight Watchers was a novel and outrageous idea. Many doctors and nutrition experts disagreed and continue to disagree today with this method of weight loss. However, we now have a huge, HUGE industry and many other diet plans, exercise programs, etc., that people buy into and that help people. On a personal note, starting on Jenny Craig last year I lost almost 30 lbs. and have kept it off and went from almost 140 at 5'1" to 110 and a size four! Other diets didn't work for me because I was thin all my life and only started putting on weight four years ago, and had to learn the right way to eat again, especially approaching 40. Don't tell me it doesn't work, and don't tell me that Weight Watchers didn't do Jenny Craig a favor - do you get my point and analogy?? Cesar too is doing us a favor. Connect the dots, trainers!

This guy is great for your industry, start to read between the lines. He is telling the public about training and raising public
awareness. I can't tell you how many have clients called ME because they watched Cesar on National Geographic. I have to believe you have all gotten similar phone calls. I thank Cesar in my mind every time I get one of these calls. I can't wait until I can meet him in person and can thank him. Cesar helps put Jenny Craig, LOL, and other food on my table. He helps pay my gas bill, which is way more than it used to be. It is difficult for me to believe that as trainers we're all not aware of the business end and the bottom line, and that's something I hope to positively effect in some manner by believing as I do and saying what I'm saying.

Another point that we should all be aware of as dog trainers:
negative attention is attention. How many times have we said this to our training clients regarding their dogs? Therefore, the more letters you write about Millan to Oprah, NG, et al, the better for his ratings, and the more $$$$ Cesar makes. Cesar gets rich and stays on t.v. longer! WOW!

If you want to write a letter attacking his methods, do so if you have to, but there are thousands if not more already doing so and raising his ratings, and the discussions about Cesar go on endlessly
on just about every training list - do we really need them EVERYwhere?

But if you're going to write any letters, also acknowledge what he's doing for our industry in the letters. If you want to take away with one hand, give something with the other - something we all do with
our and our clients' dogs, too, don't we? Dog training as applied to REAL life, hah! If you want to take any wind out of Cesar's Sails, do it that way. If you want to put something into your patter to your clients when they bring up Cesar, say it that way. Frankly, I wish I was making the living that Cesar was making. I'd also like a
house in the Hollywood Hills, a large training facility, and to get paid for running four hours a day in nature with packs of dogs. What I haven't seen is perhaps an acknowledgement that there may be some jealousy about Cesar making it *this* big in the industry, but I tend
to believe there is, and I suspect I'll get hit pretty hard over this comment, so I'm ready for it but believe it needs to be said. I believe I see and intuit this from many trainers that slam Millan, and I think it's because, in part, that his methods are making him rich, rather than our R+ methods making him rich. Would you feel better if R+ methods were making him rich and famous? Think about it. Before you react to this post, take a day or two and think
about it, and be honest with yourselves about this whole post, not just this little itty bitty part of it.

I hope I don't see any more flaming or attacks on Cesar and his methods without some acknowledgement of what he's doing FOR our industry. I am hearing the same complaints over and over and over and I would like to see something new and some outside-the-box thinking about Cesar for a change, as it applies to OUR industry and
OUR making a living, as well as some connecting the dots on the subject, if you will.

The best way I feel we can remain in our industry, get the R+ word out, AND make a living as trainers and behaviour experts, is to continue to do what we do well and take from Cesar, in spit of himself, what he offers all of us - the ability to get more business than we got before he became so widely known, and get our word and methods out. For those opportunities, Hail Cesar.

Madeline Friedman, M.A.
Innovative Reality Dog Training & Behavior Consulting
'Highly effective, professional, reward based training and behavior
solutions designed for the REAL world.'
www.ny-njDogTrainer.com
Tel: 646-265-8743
Serving north and central NJ, NYC, and Staten Island

Posted by: Madeline S. Friedman | May 23, 2006 9:14:27 AM

The participants in this dialogue are missing the main points concerning Cesar Millan. First, his angle is that he 'trains people not dogs.' Second, he talks about 'empowering people to take control of themselves so that they can then influence their dog's behavior.'
All this focus on self control, and personal empowerment, is what makes the show so revolutionary, and mega-successful. He especially addresses women -- their posture, voice tones, and habits of mind. To discuss merely his training methods is to distract the public from the far bigger picture this man represents. On one of the most recent shows, Cesar tells the audiance, 'I hope there's a woman running the world before I die.' Many men have good will, and make supportive comments toward women, but few teach women essential skills with strong animals, while announcing on national TV that they hope it results in a revolution. The show is an enormous threat to the social status quo, and a delight to watch.
As to the secondary issue of dog behavior: When I was a child in the south, in the late forties and fifties, dogs were treated generally according to the principles of Cesar Millan. I never saw a dog whipped or beaten. All dogs were subordinate to humans, and though there were active children everywhere, I never once saw a dog jump on a child, rake a child with toenails, or interfere in any way with humans. I never saw a child panic around dogs of any size; we were all schooled in being calm, from babyhood. The immediate, unequivocal correction of what (for dogs) amounted to minor notions, such as a fear of shiny floors, or barking at appliances, was routine. We saw for ourselves that dogs were different from humans in many wonderful ways, and realized with some envy that the sense of safety they derived from our calm strength was probably why they had incarnated as dogs, and why, to escape the woeful confusion of being human, we children ejoyed playing at being dogs.
Dogs are pack animals. The disjointed, tormented packs in cities are disrupted purposely by authorities. In homes, many dogs swap dominance with each other while at play, or in one area or another, if they are equals. But in nature they tend to form packs, with calm, assertive leaders just as Cesar claims.
Cesar does not just demonstrate leadership toward aggressive animals, though that subject is obviously featured. He goes to great lengths to demonstrate work with fearful animals, commiserating with owners about the delicacy of the feelings of their shy and frightened dogs, while stressing again and again the need for patience. He also counsels that his audience should never use techniques for subduing savagely aggressive dogs, to simply overpower an ordinarily boistrous or destructively bored dog.
I'm old enough to remember when even in America most people were as sensitive to the dignity of dogs as they were to horses. Clickers and treats as training aids would have been considered senseless, at best. Cesar demonstrates for us that cues of body language, some immeasurably subtle, are completely effective in controlling almost all dogs. What's strange is that perfectly ordinary people grasp this readily, while many trainers and dog psychologists wrestle unhappily with it all.
Are they wrestling with his success? With their own lesser talent? Are they ignoramuses? Are they CIA sponsored counter-revolutionaries? Not such a wild thought. They're counter-revolutionaries of some sort, no matter what the impetus.


Posted by: Susan Solomon | May 21, 2006 10:27:43 PM

I was amused that Cesar should become an expert by reading books. Good grief. I have a Ph.D., so I certainly value books. My training is in education and psychology, so I know a few things about operant conditioning. However, I am extremely thankful for what I've learned from Cesar. How did Jane Goodall become an expert on apes? By reading books? No, through careful observation. I believe Cesar Milan's fresh point of view is the result of observing dogs, and those observations would have been hampered by preconceived ideas of "experts." He has enhanced the life of the humans as much or more, in many cases, than their dogs by showing them that their interactions with their dogs often mirror their interactions with people. As they change their interactions with their dogs, they can learn skills that improve their social skills. In my mind, that's powerful.

Okay, let's talk about the phobic Great Dane. What do experts say about treating phobias? Do they still have clients spend years on the couch trying to uncover the experience in the past that caused them anguish? No. Now we know that people have to face their fears to overcome them. Therapists don't make it easy. Certainly, they use successive approximations. However, the person approaches the feared object or situation until their anxiety is so extraordinarily high that they cannot take it anymore. How fortunate the dog was to get most of that over in one session! People therapists usually require people to endure that anxiety for a number of sessions as they gradually approach the feared situation. Did you see the follow-up show where the dog was happily going into the school with no anxiety whatsoever?

The other day as I was walking my large dog, two highly aggressive German shepherds ran toward us barking. Of course, my dog was ready to go after them. Instead of panicking, I thought about what I had learned about calm assertiveness from Milan. I did not make eye contact with the shepherds. I did not run away. Instead, I focused on quieting my dog and putting him in a down. I also would not let him make eye contact with the dogs. The dogs stopped charging and after a time stopped barking. I walked my dog a few feet in a heel, and the dogs started up again. I repeated the procedure. I had to do this several times until the dogs gave up trying to engage us, and I was able to walk home with my dog--both of us in one piece. Thank God for Cesar Milan!

I have no knowledge of what happened to the dog in the lawsuit. I can certainly speculate about the person who is bringing the suit from what little I know of his present circumstances. But it would be just that--speculation. From what I have read, Cesar Milan wasn't there at the time. Until I hear evidence otherwise, I am certainly willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Many dogs owe their lives to Cesar. My dog and I might owe our lives to him--or at least our health. I don't know how the situation with the shepherds might have played out if I hadn't heard "calm, assertive" in my head.

Posted by: 4dogspal | May 19, 2006 12:40:14 AM

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