In Defense of Cesar Millan

OH MY GOD INTERNET STOP SHARPENING THE PITCHFORKS. I'm not saying he's the world's best dog-trainer! I'm not even saying he's a GREAT dog-trainer (charismatic as hell, though).

What I am saying is that Cesar Millan, for better or worse, has made dog-training accessible to regular dog-owners who may not have the money for (or interest in) professional dog-training services. He's responsible for popularizing and mainstreaming some tenets of dog-owning I think we can ALL get behind--the necessity of exercise, for example, and the importance of rules/boundaries/limitations, and the idea that owners may be responsible for creating a dog's bad behavior.

I understand you don't like some of the other stuff he's popularized--alpha-rolling, leash-popping, e-collars, prong collars...the list goes on. HOWEVER. He's not going away, so instead of just wishing the man and his entire body of work would just fall into the sea and out of public consciousness, let's try to educate people about Cesar's methods, and teach them that they can (and should!) pick and choose from the Dog Whisperer. When people rave about Cesar Millan, don't just jump to "HE IS THE DEVIL AND IF YOU WATCH HIS SHOW YOU ARE ABUSING YOUR DOG." Maybe start with "you know you shouldn't alpha-roll your dog, right?"

I also understand there are other dog-trainers out there you believe should have the preeminence Cesar Millan enjoys. I have many strong feelings about this and I will be sharing them later in this piece--if you already know everything about the Dog Whisperer controversy, feel free to skip to Section 6 using the Table of Contents below:

 

Table of Contents

  1. I Cesar'd My Dog - And It Worked!
  2. ...Until It Didn't.
  3. Why Do People Hate Cesar Millan?
  4. What Works Better Than Cesar?
  5. So Should We Abandon Cesar Millan Entirely?
  6. Disparaging the Dog Whisperer and Finding a Replacement
  7. TL; DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

 

This whole thing may be news to some of you, and you may be thinking, "wait, what's wrong with the Dog Whisperer guy? I like him." That's where I started out, my friend.

 

I Cesar'd My Dog - And It Worked!

Chance was a puppy with relatively few problems when I adopted him. Wanting to be the very best dog-parent I could be, I wanted to train him correctly from the beginning. So, I seriously had the thought, "hmmmm...who's, like, the VERY BEST dog-trainer in the world??... Obviously the Dog Whisperer."

This is important. The "Dog Whisperer" brand has been SO SUCCESSFUL that I, a college-educated Type-A personality who can't decide on a cable television provider without an extensive cost/benefit analysis matrix, didn't think TWICE about who is obviously the "best dog trainer." (This is why I will argue later that it's STUPID and IRRESPONSIBLE to tell people to not listen to a word Cesar Millan says.)

So, I immediately began binge-watching episodes of "The Dog Whisperer," and someone gifted me a copy of How to Raise the Perfect Dog, with the following endorsement: "I followed this TO THE LETTER and it really works! I love Cesar!!"

Shrug. Why not, right?

I started with Cesar's suggestions about a feeding ritual (if you've got a puppy, I highly recommend you check out my Quick-Start Guide to Your New Dog, where I detail how I implemented this, and I also link to a video where Cesar demonstrates it). It was magical--just like the show!!

Then I worked on "threshold" or "boundary" training using my "energy"--ALSO MAGIC. Chance went from attempting to push over the baby-gates intended to keep him confined to utterly (and permanently) respecting gates, and all I had to do was stand up straight, put my hand out, and step forward towards my dog when he nudged at the gate.

Finally, I adopted the "EH EH EH" Cesar suggests in that book as an alternative to his "tsch" (which I just can't reliably produce). It was MIND-BLOWING, and completely effective in training Chance not to chew on my stuff.

Most importantly, Cesar changed my dog-owner mindset; when presented with a behavioral problem, I didn't immediately think, "What is wrong with Chance?!" Instead, I thought, "I must be somehow encouraging this behavior or not communicating effectively," and this pushed me to continue to seek answers rather than just throw up my hands and assume I got a lemon.

I was 100% Team Cesar--THIS STUFF REALLY WORKED!!

Cesar Millan speaking at the Dog Psychology Center about the origin of "Tsch!"

...Until It Didn't.

So I was thinking Cesar must be right about pretty much everything. But then...Chance decided he was not going to walk on a leash.

One day, he just threw on the brakes--would not leave my apartment complex. No coaxing, cajoling, or "making a game of it" got him to budge. So, I recalled what Cesar always does on the walk--and "popped" the leash.

Nada. Not a reaction. Granted--I was super-tentative. I mean, Chance was a floppy six-month-old puppy. It felt...wrong...to be yanking on his leash like that. I tried a few times, but it just wasn't working.

Then, I graduated to "kicking" him, just a foot-tap like on the show.

And this is exactly why anti-Cesar advocates just want him to go away. Because, if Cesar is the first dog-trainer people think of when trying to train their dogs, they'll inevitably try his most famous methods. Just like I did.

Now, here's the thing. My "kick" was the tiniest tap. I did not hurt my dog. It was not abusive. And even Cesar says you're not supposed to drop-kick your dog--it's supposed to be just a  tap.

But I felt super-icky doing it.

AND...it didn't work!

This is the point at which I turned to the internet for alternative methods of training your dog to walk on a leash--and I discovered that some people really, really hate Cesar Millan. And maybe I'd destroyed my dog for life.

 

Why Do People Hate Cesar Millan?

Disclaimer: I'm not formally educated in dog-training methods. I'm reporting what I've learned by doing a fair amount of internet research and an equally fair amount of trial-and-error. I encourage you to do the same.

It all boils down to the fact that there are better ways to train a dog than some of the things Cesar is famous for--but because he's so darn famous, quite a few people turn to Cesar first for dog-training advice.

Many people feel that cornerstones of the Cesar "method" are borderline (and sometimes outright) abusive, while positive-reinforcement or "force-free" methods not necessarily showcased on the show have been scientifically demonstrated to be superior. However, thanks to Big Media and that Chiclet-smile, Cesar is the most famous dog trainer in America, and now many in the dog-training community feel they are fighting an uphill battle in disproving Cesar's outdated philosophy.

 

THE "CESAR" METHOD

 

Most people argue that Cesar Millan falls into the "traditional" dog-training camp. This method seems to be based on a "pack-mentality" approach to dog-human relationships; the fundamental assumption here is that the dog will attempt to achieve dominance over its human unless the human makes it clear that THEY are in fact the dominant one, or "alpha."

Traditional dog-trainers like Cesar reject "rewards," like food or toys. You'll notice, if you watch enough episodes of "The Dog Whisperer," that he rarely says "good dog" or offers treats. He explains that the execution of the desired behavior--like going for a calm, relaxed walk--is treat enough. And if a dog displays unwanted behavior, they get a "correction" which is also called an "aversive" (as in "aversive punishment").

 

BEING YOUR DOG'S ALPHA, OR "PACK LEADER"

 

Many people interpret Cesar's alpha/pack-leader message to mean that, as Pat Miller writes on The Whole Dog Journal, "you [should] use force and intimidation to overpower your dog into submission. They say that you, the human, must be the alpha. They’re all wrong. Every single one of them."

To be honest, I never thought Cesar was telling me that to be Chance's "alpha" I had to "overpower him into submission," and I literally cannot write it any better than Jen K. over at Back Alley Soapbox so here's what she says:

Frankly, I somewhat disagree [with this interpretation of Cesar's message], and I think it has a lot to do with semantics.  The average person doesn’t know about canine biology or behaviour – they just know they had a dog when they were a kid and they have one now.  Domestic dogs are so commonplace that, to their detriment, the average person doesn’t feel the need to do a lot of research.  
So whether or not Cesar literally means “alpha”, the important part is what is heard when he says that. And the average layman listener doesn’t hear facts about wolves. What they think is about responsibility and leadership (I hope). Arguments about alpha and the potential responsibilities of anything like a dog parent, guardian, or “pack leader” is an industry-specific semantic debate which detracts from the pragmatic uses of such terms when it comes to our relationship with our dogs and actually trying to teach them something. People in the pet industry can get all riled up debating the specifics of these terms, but the general, TV-watching public is actually in the dark here, and I think the term might actually retain some valuable use when teaching average dog owners how to interact with their pets.

That's exactly what I think, too. I think Cesar means "alpha" in the same way a parent is the alpha-leader of a child. BUT, Cesar's "alpha" message is, in large part, why some people hate Cesar Millan.

 

USE OF AVERSIVES

 

The other big reason people sour on Cesar is the aversive "correction" part. Apparently, in early episodes of "The Dog Whisperer," you saw scenes like this one, described in an article on LiveScience that was published in 2009:

"JonBee jumps up at Cesar Millan, his sharp teeth snapping repeatedly. Millan calmly yanks on the leash and pulls the wolf-like Korean Jindo away. This continues for over a minute, with Millan’s face remaining undisturbed and JonBee’s owners gasping on the other side of the living room. Finally, the dog shows a moment of weakness. Millan quickly pins him to the floor and rolls him onto his side. Millan’s calmness seems to be reflected in the dog now lying frozen in submission."

This so-called "alpha roll" is supposed to assert the human's dominance over the dog. Cesar didn't come up with this--it was originated by the Monks of New Skete, who detailed its use in their 1978 book How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend (they have since recanted and now discourage its use) . However, the monks don't have a massively popular television show on the National Geographic Channel, so many hold Cesar responsible for popularizing the method.

When I learned about what some people think about Cesar, I had to do some searching to find what they were talking about. I honestly had never seen an episode where he alpha-rolled a dog; I started watching the show in 2014, and since the show ended in 2012, I estimate that I was watching reruns from the final two or three seasons. Granted, I have not done a comprehensive study of the show so this conclusion is purely anecdotal, but I think he may have taken a hint from the backlash against him, and over time lessened the amount he relied on dominance displays like that. Which, in my humble opinion, is something to respect the guy for!

Anyway--the other physical corrections that struck me as the biggies in Cesar's method are leash-popping and "touching," and he definitely uses these tools in a lot of episodes. To execute a "leash-pop" correction, Cesar urges you to put the collar high up on the dog's neck (just behind the ears), and administer a swift jerk. Again, Cesar didn't come up with this--it's how you use a choke-chain.

In various episodes, he's also suggested using a prong-collar (like a choke-chain only with little spikes that stick into the dog's neck) and e-collars (remotely-activated collars that provide electric stimulation at the touch of a button) and probably other stuff I'm sure you'll read about in the comments section.

From what I've read (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong), it seems like the only thing Cesar came up with himself is what he calls the "touch." It's literally just using two stiff fingers to quickly poke (ok basically stab) your dog in the side or flank as a correction. Sometimes, he does a quick sneaky back-kick to tap the dog in the flank (almost exactly how you would tap a horse with a riding crop).

So, the big aversives that Cesar still frequently employs are the leash-pop and the touch. They always work on the show. On my dog? Not so much.

 

What Works Better Than Cesar?

The short answer is: training that focuses on rewarding dogs for desired behavior. The longer answer? Well...

It turns out that dogs aren't direct descendants of wolves, so trying to act like you think wolves act in a pack isn't gonna make your relationship with your dog any better. As I said above, personally I never heard Cesar's "alpha" philosophy as "be the alpha wolf." I always thought he meant be like a parent to your dog--all good things come from you, it's your house so your rules, the dog doesn't run the show, etc. But maybe you heard "alpha" and thought your dog must fear you to respect you--if so, don't do that, because that's not a thing.

In fact, a new study at Emory University that looked at MRI images of dogs' brains suggests that dogs' "ability to experience positive emotions, like love and attachment, would mean that dogs have a level of sentience comparable to that of a human child."

This pretty much undermines parts of Cesar Millan's philosophy (specifically that you need to dominate your dog), and is a really good reason why you shouldn't try alpha-rolling, leash-popping, or poking your dog.

So instead of the more "traditional" approach, educated dog professionals feel strongly that research shows that there is a better way called "force-free training"--one of my favorite dog blogs, Companion Animal Psychology, did an amazing series on positive reinforcement and dog training and you should check it out to really understand this argument.

And, honestly, serious dog professionals--with education and degrees to back up their opinions, unlike Cesar--really believe in force-free training. For example, Jean Donaldson, Director of The SF/SPCA Academy for Dog Trainers, expresses her concerns about Cesar Millan in this piece for Urban Dawgs, and argues that dog professionals from behaviorists to vets to finally trainers are all in favor of force-free training:

The force-free movement has been partly driven by improved communication from the top. Applied behaviorists, those with advanced degrees in behavior, and veterinary behaviorists, veterinarians who have completed residencies specializing in behavior problems are in greater abundance than in previous decades, and there is much more collaboration between these fields and trainers on the front lines. These two professions are quite unified on the point that the use of physical confrontation and pain is unnecessary, often detrimental and, importantly, unsafe.

The "force-free" training she's talking about is also called "reward-based" or "positive-only" training. This article from Companion Animal Psychology, "Seven Reasons to Use Reward-Based Dog Training," is easy-to-read and will give you a great understanding of how it's different from Cesar's method.

 

So Should We Abandon Cesar Millan Entirely?

I didn't, and I haven't, and I don't think you have to either, if you like the guy. I believe it's entirely possible to use some "Cesar methods," but I do think it's really important that you not use the abusive ones. You have to pick and choose (like everything in life, really).

For example, technically, using "EH EH EH" is "punishment," but personally I don't have a problem using "no don't do that" alongside "yes do that and here's a treat"--there's a lot of debate whether this makes what I do with Chance "positive" or "balanced" training. It has really helped make it very clear to Chance what is off-limits, in my opinion.

 

Advocating for Exercise and Rules/Boundaries/Limitations

 

Other than the "EH EH EH," there are two things for which I believe Cesar Millan deserves an award for publicizing to the dog-owning population at large: his emphasis on exercise and rules/boundaries/limitations.

It is my personal opinion that the biggest reason our animal shelters are overcrowded with dogs is because people get dogs without realizing what a dog really needs. Then, when the dog starts displaying "behavioral problems," they chalk it up to a "bad dog" and get rid of it instead of addressing the root causes of the behavioral problems.

All too often, many destructive behaviors like chewing and digging are a result of too little exercise, while things like resource-guarding (like being aggressive around food bowl or toys) frequently stem from the dog simply not understanding that rules exist and need to be followed. Many problems can be alleviated by introducing new activities that incorporate both exercise and obedience, like agility classes, into the dog's (and owner's) routine, while also establishing clearer behavioral expectations.

If you have the money, obviously I think hiring a qualified professional dog-trainer is the most responsible thing you can do. (Unfortunately, "qualified dog-trainer" can be applied to almost any person who wants to print that on their business card; here is a great article from the ASPCA on the different types of trainers out there and what to look for when finding one for your dog.)

But if you don't have the money for professional dog-training, this is where I think Cesar (and Google) can really come in handy. Before you return Fido to the shelter, go ahead and watch "The Dog Whisperer" (or "Cesar 911") or check out Cesar's website for creative ideas on how to exercise your dog--he suggests everything from riding a bike while your dog runs alongside to finding a sheepherding facility near you! He'll also give you some great tips on what rules/boundaries/limitations you can institute at your house to improve your relationship with your dog. That might just turn your "problem dog" into the perfect pooch.

 

Don't forget to pick and choose!

 

The one thing you MUST REMEMBER, however, is that not everything he says is right for every dog. In this article, author Tracy Krulik recounts how frustrated she got that two of Cesar's suggestions--walking your dog before breakfast and not letting your dog go through a doorway before you--didn't work at all for her and her dog. She is frustrated because she seems to believe that Cesar insists ALL dogs must ALWAYS be walked before breakfast and must NEVER go through a doorway before the humans.

I never interpreted anything in "The Dog Whisperer" this way. If you watch enough episodes, you'll see that even Cesar breaks his biggest "rules" from time to time--it just depends on the situation. For my dog Chance, it is IMPERATIVE that he not go through the doorway before me; when he does, he gets super-excited and could easily dash out into the street that is RIGHT OUTSIDE MY FRONT DOOR. So for us, that's really important advice. For Krulik's dog, who is afraid of doorways? No, obviously, scratch that one and do something different. How is this hard to understand?

Most importantly--if something Cesar (OR ANY OTHER TRAINER) suggests doesn't feel right for you and your dog, DO NOT DO IT. Trust your gut. I did, with the whole leash-popping thing. I tried a bunch of alternative methods I found online to try to entice Chance to walk, and when nothing worked, I called Matt Beisner at THE ZEN DOG. You can read about how that worked out in this article--long story short, I learned a lot and Chance has been happily going for walks since that day. And I don't need to pop his leash.

 

Disparaging the Dog Whisperer and Finding a Replacement

OK, here's the part for the folks who hate Cesar Millan and seem to be really pissed off that there are other "superstar" dog trainers out there that "deserve" the mantle of "Dog Whisperer," but the stubborn general public continues to keep Cesar Millan in business.

 

Quit Telling People to Abstain from Cesar Millan Entirely

 

I'm an amateur dog-parent, so let me first acknowledge what I CANNOT speak to: I am in no position to tell anyone which training methodology is better than another, while many of you are probably in a better position to do so. However--I think it's irresponsible to go around saying people shouldn't listen to anything Cesar Millan says because he's "unqualified." It's irresponsible because, as I've learned in my research, there's no one way to become a "qualified" dog-trainer.

There's a false equivalency in proclaiming, as Sally Gutteridge does on Canine Principles, that "Cesar and his dog training advice should never, ever influence how you treat your own best friend" because "he has not one scrap of canine behaviour qualification. Not a certificate nor any proof of study." This suggests that anyone WITH certification SHOULD be listened to. This is crap. You see, I could create my own damn dog-training school right now, ask you to PayPal me $50, and send you a certificate for completing the Patchwork Dogs School of Bullshit Dog-Training. So just because someone has "a certificate" does not make them inherently "more qualified" than Cesar Millan, and you sound silly suggesting that because Cesar isn't "qualified," NONE of his advice is any good.

(A little note here: So very many people on the internet get their hackles up about Cesar's questionable ability to interpret dog behavior and point to his "lack of qualifications" as proof that they're right. But I'm willing to bet that THOSE SAME ACCUSERS ARE JUST AS UNQUALIFIED. Because there are LESS THAN FIFTY PEOPLE IN THE UNITED STATES WHO ARE "QUALIFIED" TO JUDGE CANINE BEHAVIOR. Patricia McConnell is one of them. The rest of you should maybe just quit whining about how Cesar Millan is unqualified and work on your Ph.D.--WHICH IS NECESSARY TO BECOME A CERTIFIED ANIMAL BEHAVIORIST!!)

 

Other Dog-Trainers Need to compete

 

Now, here's what I can speak to: "better" dog-trainers need to become as easy to understand, easy to implement, and engaging to watch and/or read as Cesar Millan rather than just complaining about him. I AM NOT HAPPY THIS IS THE CASE. Boy do I wish people read more newspapers than Buzzfeed, but the marketplace is survival-of-the-fittest, and until other dog-trainers can compete against Cesar on those metrics, the general public is going to continue to turn to him for advice.

For example, many Cesar-haters advocate clicker-training as an alternative to more traditional methods. Great! I have used clicker-training with Chance and it's totally fun. The "Dog Whisperer" of clicker-training seems to be Karen Pryor--once you wade through the advertisements for her "become-a-clicker-trainer" courses and the other products she sells on her website, you'll find this explanation of what clicker-training is and why it works. I'm not entirely convinced the average dog-owner with a yappy Yorkie really is going to sit down and learn about "operant conditioning." ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  

By the way, you really need to see the homepage for Karen Pryor's website:

I mean COME ON. It looks like clicker-training is a lifestyle--unless you want to become a dog-trainer, who's got time for all that?!  Am I defending being too lazy/bored/overwhelmed/whatever to learn what operant conditioning is and how it works? No. I am not. But? The reality is that your average dog-owner doesn't want to and/or won't. And, as someone who originally visited ClickerTraining.com to learn more about this method of training, I instantly assumed it was all about selling clickers and courses on how to clicker-train because of how much merchandising was delivered immediately.

Now let's talk about ease of implementation. For me, the magic of Cesar Millan lies in how I could turn the everyday business of just living with my dog into teachable moments. Training could happen all the time!

Unfortunately, some trainers, in their passion for dogs, turn off dog-owners by making training seem really hard. Dr. Sophia Yin, for example, remains a giant in the dog-training/behavior world--seriously, if you're gonna trust anyone's philosophies on dog behavior, she might be a good one to go with! But Dr. Yin, who really hated Cesar Millan, said of her approach:

While many trainers are primarily good at training animals themselves, I can help YOU gain the needed skills too. I have studied the effects of handler movement on the pet and compiled a collection of successful techniques. I routinely have owners perform exercises first without the pet so that they can develop the mechanical skills they need in order to guide their pet and communicate with them effectively.

I mean, watch this video and tell me how YOU think the average dog-owner, with a job and a mortgage and a couple kids in school and soccer practice and also SOMEONE HAS TO EMPTY THE DISHWASHER but would also really like her dog to stop jumping on her, is going to react:

If you get bored with the endless testimonials, jump to 4:15 for the moment at which I yelled SERIOUSLY WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT?!

I think Dr. Yin is clearly a world-class professor of Dog, and every dog-trainer (INCLUDING CESAR) should probably have to take a class from her in order to graduate. But the average dog-owner isn't going to the same school as dog-trainers. And that's why one of Dr. Yin's students needs to figure out how to translate Dr. Yin's method for the masses--and make it really freaking easy to do while you're emptying the dishwasher.

Finally--FOR THE LOVE OF DOGS MAKE IT INTERESTING. Certified animal behaviorist Dr. Patricia McConnell has said Dr. Ian Dunbar (Ph.D., BVETMED MRCVS, by the way) "is a world authority...and he should be the one with the celebrity." Like Dr. Yin, Dr. Dunbar is a widely-respected, highly-educated expert in the dog-training/behavior community. However, it seems he's done little to make himself palatable to a general audience:

Honestly this looks like a SNL sketch.

In a world where it's freaking POKEMON GO that finally gets people to walk their dogs, are you surprised that the average dog-owner isn't interested in watching THIS video?? Also, are you surprised NatGeo Wild hasn't been knocking down Dunbar's door? Gah. Seriously. I started a dog-blog FOR FUN because I read so many articles and watch so many videos on dog training/care, and I feel like I can't get through that without a glass of wine.

If it seems like he's not even trying, you might be right. In a profile on Dunbar for SFGate in 2006, writer Louise Rafkin said that "some local experts lament Dunbar's failure to go mainstream, citing his unwillingness to lose control over every aspect of his work, including editing. "

Hilariously, Dr. Dunbar himself has written an article entitled "We Need a New Kind of Dog Training Show on TV," published on his blog DogStarDaily. Turns out he completely agrees with me:

I find so many dog training television shows tend to be formulaic and predictable, frequently focusing on conflict and countering problems, problems, problems and even more problems, hence presenting the picture that dog training is time-consuming, laborious, complicated, frustrating, combative, unpleasant and sometimes, even a downright drag, i.e., a problem.
What I would like to see is a one-hour, prime-time program of not stop blazing action, canine athleticism, creative and captivating routines, usually skillful, often hilarious, sometimes moving and occasionally, quite bizarre but all the time, bubbling with fun, oozing relationship and overflowing with oodles of woofs, wags, smiles and giggles. We need to teach people how much fun it is to teach dogs using simple, quick and easy, effective training techniques that don’t require consistency, exquisite timing, a PhD in Psychology, a heavy hand, or a year and a day. Then, problems will simply go … “poof”!

Yes. YASSSSSSSSSSSSS. THIS, YOU GUYS!!! So someone who wants to dethrone Cesar Millan needs get in touch with Dr. Dunbar, hire an actual Hollywood producer, put together a competitive pitch package, and get it to the networks, ASAP

Because honestly, I think that's maybe the biggest reason people misinterpret Cesar Millan. His entire brand is designed for television, so of course it focuses on problems, and the worst-of-the-worst makes for the best TV. And watchers of "The Dog Whisperer" need to keep that mind as well, and remember that tying their dog to a pig probably shouldn't be the first solution they try.

 

Conclusion

For those of you who have gotten this far and are shaking with rage over how much you hate Cesar Millan, I totally respect that. I really do. You've probably dedicated a ton of time to learning better ways to train dogs, and you love dogs so much and hate to see people turn to "The Dog Whisperer" instead of the myriad of other (better) solutions. But unless you're gonna pay for every single dog-owner in America to avail themselves of the professional trainers you think are better than Cesar Millan, and until some of those trainers make free and accessible their methods the way the Dog Whisperer has done, dog-owners will still watch his show and try his methods on their dogs. And, in most cases, that's better than returning them to the shelter.

And for those of you just learning about the controversy that swirls around Cesar Millan, I hope this has given you the confidence to pick and choose from his methods, and maybe check out some of the alternative methodologies I've mentioned above. And always remember--"The Dog Whisperer" is reality television! What you see (and don't see) is heavily dependent on editing and ratings. It's a good place to start, but it's not the Gospel of Dog.

 

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

 

  1. Some of Cesar's stuff works and is broadly accepted by the dog-training community. The feeding ritual, threshold training, and "EH EH EH" in particular worked for me.
     
  2. Cesar doesn't have all the answers--some of the stuff that works every time on the show just might not work for you and your dog!
     
  3. Some of the Cesar "method" stems from outdated training philosophies that can border on abusive (though what counts as "abusive" varies among professionals).
     
  4. "Force-free" or "positive" training has been scientifically proven to be the superior alternative to "traditional" methods that involve punishments like alpha-rolls.
     
  5. Just because Cesar sometimes advocates the use of aversives doesn't mean everything he says should be dismissed out of hand. Giving your dog plenty of exercise as well as rules/boundaries/limitations is something most dog-trainers advocate--and Cesar will explain it all for free! And on Hulu! Just don't forget to pick-and-choose.
     
  6. It's irresponsible to tell dog-owners to abandon Cesar Millan entirely on the grounds that he's "not qualified" when your alternative is to send them to an equally-unqualified dog-trainer who will charge them for advice Cesar would give for free.
     
  7. Instead of being an anti-Cesar absolutist, do two things: educate people about the difference between the good and bad methods Cesar employs, and/or create your own alternative to "The Dog Whisperer!"

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carrie Wiita is an actorbloggercheap-wine enthusiast, and dog-parent to Chance, a two-year-old rescue. She was reading posts in a networking group on Facebook for Sand Fire animal evacuees when she saw the announcement go up that Cesar had opened the Dog Psychology Center for animals escaping the wildfire and she may have choked up a little.