Friday, October 3, 2008
My Opinion on Cesar Millan
Many of you are familiar with the show The Dog Whisperer on National Geographic, and how Cesar Millan and his pack have been helping rehabilitate dogs and "train" their owners.
Well, a few people have asked what I think of him, so I'm sharing.
I see Cesar Millan as a good trainer in general. I feel he is spot on when it comes to energy level influencing a dog. A dog can pick up on nonverbal cues and expressions that we as humans can't, even when we're the ones producing it. In order to keep your dog in a sane state of mind, you must be an even-tempered and "balanced" person. I feel dogs and humans share energies just like the assumed bonding between horses and humans. I also believe he is right about exercise. Dogs do need to roam, and regardless of breed, all dogs have energy that can be spared and frustrations that can be vented in a positive way by walks (on-leash, right folks?), fetch, hiking, etc. Keeping a dog confined somewhere is never acceptable, and in dogs caged or tied a lot, there is documentation of a deterioration of the mind - issues can begin to manifest themselves in a variety of ways such as developed obsessions (ie spinning, cage pacing, fixation on certain objects), aggression, unwanted digging, chewing, barking, or scratching, as well as a number of other things. Even aggressive dogs should be exercised. Putting a dog in a backyard for eight hours a day is NOT a substitute for exercise, unless you happen to own acreage. I own a dog who is human aggressive. I walk him at night, when no one is around, on leash, and for at least an hour. Sometimes, I'll take him on an offleash hike in some hills where I know no one will be.
Here's where I have the beef: Cesar is TOO hands-on with the dogs, in my opinion. Personally, I train using a clicker and Bil-Jac Liver morsels. Many dogs are food motivated, and it creates a positive experience for them. I believe in positive reinforcement the whole way, with lots of verbal praise and food rewards. Cesar's training is more negative reinforcement, ie, something done wrong results in a negative punishment rather than creating a positive for them to learn from. I would never recommend people "tchht" and "bite" their dogs when correcting - a nervous dog can make ribbons of your hand. Instead, I've found that something as simple as coins in a can can divert a dog's attention long enough to redirect it. I have never had to phsyically redirect any of my dogs. I'm a rather hands-off person when it comes to training, preferring to let the dogs nature come in to play. I do stay in a balanced state of mind the entire time, which comes easily to me. I have been bitten twice in my life (once by a Chihuahua in the face, once by an Akita on the arm), and if there is one thing I learned, it's that your mindset is the biggest benefactor when approaching a dog, no matter what your intentions. If you don't have your head on straight, a dog can, and will, sense it and react on it. In order to train a happy and mentally sound dog, you too must be mentally sound.
I do not see a problem with the Illusion Collar, so long as you are responsible with it, much as you would be with a choke chain or prong collar. I still use choke chains on my two larger boys, and they do not get hurt because
a) I know what I'm doing, and
b) The dogs have been trained not to pull.
If you want a real aide in training for dogs that pull, chase, or are a general nuisance on the leash, I'd recommend a Halti Lead, but again, this is another tool you must learn to use correctly. It is my personal favourite, having helped me train my mothers shy dog from bolting when he sees strangers.
All in all, I don't see Cesar as too much of a menace to the canine world. Personally, I'd rather handle my dogs myself. I think he is just a little overly pushy, and does bully the dogs into his way (alpha rolling is never a good idea, either... one of my big gripes there) some of the time. He's just a hyperactive man who gets a little too touchy with his canine clientele, IMO. I would never approach a dog with the intention of physically placing my hands on him/her to correct an undesired behavior.
Victoria Stillwell, however? I don't think she's let the fame go to her head quite yet and is a lovely trainer.