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Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Good and Bad side of Cesar Millan

I admit I am a fan of Cesar Millan, but it doesn't mean that I follow everything that he does on TV.

Cesar Millan and his pack
Cesar is a charismatic and very entertaining host, and he has made The Dog Whisperer into a big favorite amongst dog owners. As a result, he has many fans that implement his techniques on their house pets.

 However, there are some who feel that Cesar’s techniques are overly harsh, and inappropriate for novice trainers (most pet owners).
In this article, I examine Cesar’s approach and discuss its pros and cons.

Good Things about Cesar Millan:

1.  Cesar educates people on being a good pack leader.
To be a good pack leader, Cesar Millan talks about setting rules and boundaries for our dog. This includes door manners, and always walking our dog slightly behind us. He also emphasizes the importance of maintaining calm and assertive energy, which made a huge difference with my dogs.
Since dogs live in a human world, they need us to provide them with a degree of structure so that they feel safe, and so that they do not harm others or themselves. They also need a balanced leader who is able to protect them, and show them how to behave in stressful situations.
These messages are extremely important, especially in this day and age where dog owners tend to overly spoil their dogs by letting them do whatever they want. Uncontrolled dogs may become dangerous and unhealthy. Ultimately, they may have to be destroyed because nobody taught them how to behave in a human world.

2. Cesar gets people to fulfill their dog's needs, not just their own.
 Most dog owners are very aware of how dogs help us live happier, and fuller lives. What is often forgotten is that dogs have needs of their own.Cesar Millan talks about understanding a dog’s needs, and helping him be a happy, well-balanced dog through dog exercise and dog discipline. He also shows people that once they help their dogs burn some energy, the dogs are a lot more well-behaved.Given the unrealistic expectations of dogs that are propagated by some dog movies, it is a big advantage to dogdom to have Cesar Millan spreading this message about a dog’s needs to audiences everywhere.

3.Cesar shows people  how to improve their dog's behavior regardless of breed and background.
Some dog breeds have developed a really bad reputation, especially the Pit Bull Terrier. Cesar Millan does a good job of showing people that all dogs can be rehabilitated, regardless of breed and background.
His own pack consists of many Pit Bulls and Rottweilers, both of which have gotten a bad reputation for being dangerous and aggressive dogs. Cesar Millan frequently uses many Pit Bulls from his pack to rehabilitate other dogs. His Pit Bulls are calm, balanced, and very non-reactive even when faced with extremely hyper dogs.There are a large number of Pit Bulls in shelters today, and they have a difficult time finding homes because people are afraid to adopt them. Cesar Millan and his Pit Bull sidekick Junior do great things to combat the negativity associated with that breed.Cesar Millan’s message that every dog can be rehabilitated, gives hope to people with difficult dogs, and reduces the number of shelter surrenders. His hopeful message may also encourage people to adopt shelter dogs, and give them a second chance.

4. Cesar uses his pack of dogs to teach other dogs and improve their behavior.
 Cesar Millan shows people that the best teacher for a dog, is often another dog.
While we may try and learn canine body language, we will never be as adept at using it as a canine. Of course the doggy teacher must be calm and very balanced.
When looking for a trainer, try to find one that has some calm, balanced, dogs that can work with you.

Cesar Millan

Bad Things about Cesar Millan:

1. Cesar does not place enough emphasis on owner discipline.
Cesar Millan greatly emphasizes dog discipline, but he is a lot less strict with their owners. Dogs with problem behaviors need a lot of attention. Frequently, owners must put in a lot of time and effort to help their dogs reach a happier and more balanced state.
The format of The Dog Whisperer show is such that Cesar has to show results quickly, to make the program interesting and engaging. Often times, there is a timer which shows how Cesar Millan solves a problem in minutes (5-15 minutes), that will actually take a lot of time and effort to truly become a learned behavior.
Even though Cesar Millan may sometimes say that changing a dog’s behavior takes time, his Dog Whisperer program shows the opposite.

2. Cesar does not spend enough time discussing dog training equipments
 Cesar Millan does advise his clients to put a dog’s collar high-up on the neck, close to the head and ears. He will occasionally uses his Illusion collar to keep a choke collar from sliding down a dog’s neck.
Frequently however, Cesar Millan just goes with whatever the owner is using, thereby implicitly agreeing with the owner’s dog equipment choice. Given that Cesar Millan is the expert, it would be helpful to have more of a discussion on the pros and cons of dog training collars.Training collars (e.g. prong collar, choke chains), should not be left on a dog for long periods of time. They should be put on for a walk or a training session, and removed otherwise. Definitely remove a training collar when your dog is off-leash, especially when he is interacting with other dogs. A choke chain may get caught while a dog is playing or running around, which may result in injury or death.Prolonged use of choke chains may cause injury even if used correctly. For safety, only use a training collar for a limited amount of time (several weeks). Then, switch back to a flat collar once the dog understands the rules of walking.
The Illusion collar is a modified choke collar, and the risks of using such collars should at least be mentioned.

3. Cesar Millan supports a more dictatorial rule and does not explore other forms of pack leadership.
 It is important for us humans to become pack leaders of our dogs, but an important corollary question is what leader we should be.Cesar Millan seems to support something more akin to a dictatorship, where everything the leader says goes, and not following a rule, brings about some kind of disciplinary action whether it be a leash jerk, a finger poke, or an alpha roll. The dog is always expected to walk close-to, but behind the human, and there is very little stopping to smell the roses.
Between a dictatorship and no leadership is a wide range of other possibilities.
We want to take into account our own temperament, and the temperament of our dog, to determine the best type of relationship and human-dog bond.

4. Cesar downplays the dangers of  aversive dog training
Cesar Millan uses a variety of aversive training methods, including alpha rolls, leash jerks, and finger pokes. He often tells owners that these techniques do not cause the dogs any pain or stress, but are only meant to get the dogs’ attention. There is also an implication that these techniques are appropriate and humane because wolves do that to other wolves, or dogs do that to other dogs.
Both of these statements are not very accurate.
All aversive methods cause an unpleasant sensation, or they would not work. An aversive technique may sometimes cause stress and fear in a dog, which is why the dog avoids that behavior in the future.
Aversive training can also backfire if not executed with the correct force, with the proper timing, and with the proper redirection. When not executed properly, aversive methods may cause additional behavioral problems in dogs, including aggression.This University of Pennsylvania 2009 study shows that at least 25% of the dogs that are trained with confrontational methods exhibit aggression during training.
Given Cesar Millan’s popularity, there are a large number of people who follow his dog behavior modification techniques just from watching The Dog Whisperer on television. Cesar Millan should at least mention some of the dangers of using his aversive methods.As a dog owner, I would like accurate information on dog obedience training, rather than sugar coated versions.

Having said that, I can say that I still love Cesar Millan, simply because he doesn't give up even on biting dogs.  Read more.

The things that I have mentioned are my opinions, I am not an expert dog trainer or what have you.

If you have any questions, please email me at akvicencio@gmail.com

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