Pro or Con Cesar Millan?

Are you Pro or Con Cesar Millan aka Nat Geo’s Dog Whisperer?

Over the past couple of years there has been a lot of controversy surrounding National Geographic’s series called the Dog Whisperer starring Cesar Millan.

The Dog Whisperer show is currently in its sixth season and recently received the 2010 People’s Choice Award.

Millan’s empire has grown and I have to say that no matter what you think of him or the Dog Whisperer series you gotta want a business manager like his!

In addition to the popular television series, the Dog Whisperer’s activities and products include:

Did I miss anything?

Oh yeah, you can also get a Cesar Millan calendar!

No matter what you think about the show or the man, you gotta admit he is quite the marketing machine.

When the first season of the Dog Whisperer show began to air a public relations officer asked me my opinion about it.

First I started with a disclaimer–but not one like Nat Geo has to repeatedly splash on the screen of the popular television show.

My disclaimer?

I’ve never met him, or worked with him, but can assure you that the only thing two animal trainers agree about is what the third is doing wrong.

LOL you think I am kidding. I’m not, it happens to be true.

I even saw that Nat Geo used my quote when combating some bad press over the Dog Whisperer and you rarely hear about any of the lawsuits settled out of court like this one.

Anyway, I also told her that Nat Geo was smart in that they selected a charismatic Latino to hit that growing demographic.

Now fast forward to present day and you’ll find that Cesar Millan is uber-popular. That status has created two main vocal camps of people:

Camp One: The Tribe
In the first camp are those who make up his tribe. They are those who love him and think he is great. They will also support and defend him to no end. Even though they have never met him in person, these people feel that they do know him and want to come to his aid if something negative comes to light.

Camp Two: The Horrified
In the next camp are those who are unhappy that National Geographic, long known for their innovative exploration and reporting, has seemingly sold out in exchange for ratings. This camp spends time working at damage control in an industry that still has no real regulations. Some in the dog training world began to move away from what is seen on the show just 15-16 years ago.

Personally, I think it is time to move forward and quit wasting energy on bashing or protecting a celebrity whose enormous following will probably increase despite whichever camp you support.

When you step away from the emotion and attachment to having it the way you might want it, there is both pro and con about the show and influence Millan has.

Let’s call it the pros and cons of Cesar Millan.

Pro Cesar Millan: On the one hand, the guy has show that a Latino can bust out and take the lead. (LOL, no pun was intended—but hey, why not?!)

Pro Cesar Millan: The Dog Whisperer has actually shown people that they need to train their dogs, something that was once not really prioritized but that now is considered a requirement instead of an option.

Pro Cesar Millan: Dog trainer phones are ringing more frequently since people who catch the show are motivated to change their dog’s behavior and know they need help.

Con Cesar Millan: The drawback to the Dog Whisperer show is that the methods being shown are considered archaic (and harsh) in comparison to other methods that are available today.

Con Cesar Millan: Not everyone can safely emulate the techniques shown in the Dog Whisperer series. Hence the need for the numerous disclaimers that seemed to appear after a lawsuit against Millan.

Con Cesar Millan: People mistakenly believe they are seeing real time training accomplishments and think they can get the same results quickly. They fail to understand that they are viewing edited clips of events that happen over time.

Now when my phone rings and someone gushes over Cesar Millan, I inform them that I do not use that type of methodology in my training and ask if that is an issue.

If it is, I give them Millan’s phone number and move on.

The problem is that too many people are not moving on.

Instead some waste a lot of time screaming (pro or con) about Cesar Millan and the Dog Whisperer series.

In my opinion, gleaned from the school of hard knocks, the best way to implement change is to be the change you want to see.

So while I understand the irritation and concerns prompting a position statement (and also from IAABC, AHA, ACVB, AVSAB, et al) and other opinions at About.com, blog posts, and forum discussions about Cesar Millan and the Dog Whisperer series, and even a website dedicated to moving people Beyond Cesar Millan–let’s all move on to something more constructive.

When I began training animals there was no such thing as an “animal behaviorist” and all trainers had to apprentice.

I apprenticed under some animal training icons and innovators and kept training and continuing my education in other related topics.

So I paid my dues and for an education and so have a degree in animal training and management. I believe the best blend is to take the tools in your training toolbox and use the best ones.

Some tools get buried in the bottom and might stay in the box as historical treasures.

For instance, I have choke chains that I use as distraction devices and a brass clicker that is 30 years old. (Believe it or not, we used to use bike buzzers and door bells before clicker training became the rage.)

Gosh if we were more innovative back then we’d all be retired–but we were the anomaly back then instead of mainstream.

In fact, we all got a lot of grief for our innovation.

My point is that your box should be full of stuff and that it is good to learn by talking training with those on every side of the fence.

We might not agree on our methodologies but most of us have the same goal of helping animals stay in the home and of getting them to behave well.

Hopefully we can implement change through example and through more humane methods of training instead of getting into the “us and them” camps that seem to spring up all the time.

I remember one of my most controversial animal training columns that brought out a lot of hostility because I dared to help someone who owned an animal that was not held by a “specific” or “sanctioned” group.

At least we knew people were reading it!

Our job as trainers and behavior consultants is to help people and help the animals they own or that are in their care.

What other people think is really not too relevant.

Personally, I am tired of reading both offensive and defensive commentaries about the Dog Whisperer series.

I also hate to break it to some of you but Nat Geo is not going to change a very popular series that is hitting a growing demographic and that maintains huge ratings.

My advice to progressive trainers/behaviorists who are passionate about their field?

Get to work.

Implement change.

Be the example people will talk about.

Then perhaps you’ll land a show that will leave the Dog Whisperer series in the dust–or perhaps you’ll find another way to move progressive and innovative training methods to the forefront.

Okay, take a deep breath.

Knowing my readers, I am sure you have something to say. It is a rare individual who doesn’t have an opinion on the Cesar Millan or the Dog Whisperer series.

Please read the comment policies first and then leave your comment below.

Be sure to let me know what camp you belong to (if you have a camp) and what other ideas you have on this topic.

About Ark Lady

+ArkLady is a cyber-jungle trailblazer, author & speaker. Join thecyber-jungle explorer email list or connect via ARKlady website.

Comments

  1. Donna J. Cicogni says:

    I am one of Cesar Millan’s fans. I have watched most of his shows to date, read some of his books. I have never seen cesar treat a dog unkindly or harm them in any way. On the other hand I have seen hundred’s of dogs be rehabilitated, I have seen him get bit many times, if he has a troubled dog he doesn’t back off. I think his methods work not only for the dogs but the dog owners he has trained. I know I can talk the talk, I wish I could walk the walk. I would love to be trained by him or someone that follows his methods. I think I will leave the red line dogs to him.

  2. Hi Donna. Thanks for stopping. Please help me understand.

    Why is it that you don’t consider choke chains harmful and that kicking a dog with a foot is acceptable? Or that getting an owner bit is okay?

    Honestly, I’ve been in my field so long that I really don’t get why people would want to use that kind of methodology when there are better ways to get results.

    I think the issue for many professionals is that there are other ways to manage behavior that are more humane.

    Also, there are many successfully “red line” dogs that have been rehabilitated without those methods and many pet owners who are taught methods different than those “as seen on tv” with fabulous results.

    Let me know and thanks for commenting!

  3. Love Cesar! How could you not? He’s so effective!

  4. Welcome Angela! Any animal trainer worth his or her salt is effective. Can you expand on why you think Cesar Millan is so special?

  5. What you wrote in those post is all gibberish-you gave no substantive commentary about what people lik or don’t like about Millan. what parts of his training are “now considered archaic”? What is considered “harsh” I’ve read all 4 of his books and watched each episode of his shows many times-where does “harsh” come in? And by the way, he makes it clear on the screen how much time has elapsed during a training session, and how many months and months the owners have to work with their dogs. There are no “quick fixes” and he and his clients make that perfectly clear each episode.

  6. Thanks for dropping by but I have to ask, did you actually read the post? It appears that you did not.

    I specifically asked people to say what they like or don’t like about Millan but you don’t outline it. If you followed any of the links in the post you would be able to read the professional opinions from those using more contemporary methods.

    However, it appears that you are a fan and not a professional trainer so I’d also like to know what other books you have read beyond Millan’s. There are a bunch.

    BTW I’ve watched the show and it doesn’t delineate the time lapse as you claim. Also, I’ve read some of his work and reviewed one of his DVD series which you can find elsewhere on the site but I also keep up with the academic advances in the field and the latest pet training products on the market–which you don’t see in the DW show.

  7. Why point fingers why not take what you like from different people and find what works best for you and the dog involved at the time. Correct me if I’m wrong but Cesar is a behaviorist not a trainer two very different things in my book. Do I agree with everything Cesar does – of course not. Can I see this man is very good at what he does – of course I can. In my opinion a “professional” should be just that – a professional.. maybe that’s why Cesar has much success in marketing himself – he doesn’t waste time pointing fingers.

    Anyone that is so sure they have the right method in doing something but in the next breath feels they need to criticize makes one wonder just how sure they really are of themselves. Again just my opinion –

    We’re all in this for the animals why not put our differences aside and work together for once. Think what a difference that would make in the lives of so many.

  8. I did not comment at first when I read this because I thought you’d be swamped with similar comments.

    This is hard to write because my type disappears off the page. Hope there aren’t too many typos!

    I find Cesar Milan heinous. I do not have a TV and so have only watched his show maybe half a dozen times (when in a motel). Each time I was almost ill by watching the reaction the dogs had to him. There was so much fear!

    I just wanted to take the dogs away from him and reassure them that all people are not so cruel. I have also watched Victoria Stilwell’s show and see much ahppier, and just as well behaved results.

    In the long run, I bet the dogs she helps train will be more successful in their homes. I can no longer watch Cesar’s show but did get a kick out of seeing the youtube video where a therapist encourages a woman to treat her husband in Milan terms.

    Also, Sophia Yin’s blog has a great post showing the ridiculous extremes he goes to with his “dominance” nonsense….a tiny puppy, an animal wanting to “dominate” a light, etc. Good grief.

  9. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment Ange.

    Cesar is not a behaviorist nor is his place really a psychology center and he is the first to admit he apprenticed and did not do formal studying for the field. In fact, in the olden days (LOL) apprenticing is how you learned techniques and your badge of honor to move forward in the field.

    The issue as I see it, is that many people today have studied formally as well as been active in training.

    Now another issue is that a lot of people say, “I’ve trained dogs all my life” but really have only trained a few but somehow they think they know how to train because they have experienced limited success.

    So, what happens is that someone else who doesn’t know better, takes that advice and considers it the status quo, and that perpetuates the old school.

    Plus, the nature of animal training is that everyone watches and talks about training. There are also a lot of “Type A” personalities in the field. This means they naturally take control or take charge and throw their opinions around.

    Pets are people’s passion so I think that is why this topic gets so heated.

    I think the point is that we do need to move forward and help the animals.

    We might never agree but when the goal is the same we can handle things a little bit nicer.

    However, having said that. I always wonder why some trainer’s hold onto their techniques so tightly and don’t move forward. Just because it has worked for eons does not mean that there isn’t another way to do something.

    Me, I’d rather keep learning and implement the latest techniques, and use less harsh tools, to get to the final goal.

    But then, I can’t say that everyone will do the same thing. AND I remember being attacked for innovation.

    So how do you get to common ground where you let go of old techniques and move into new ones–peacefully?

    If you figure it out, let me know how!

  10. Hi Jane, yes it has been strangely quiet but then I didn’t overtly attack the popular celebrity either. You can see by the tone of some comments that people get stinky when it comes to talking about Cesar Millan.

    I watch the show on and off. Like you, I don’t watch a lot of television, and as a professional, I really don’t find it useful or interesting–but I also like to keep my pulse on the pop culture trends and the Dog Whisperer is certainly that.

    If you understand what you are watching from a behavioral communication standpoint it is disturbing. However, most people are naive (or ignorant) as to what an animal is communicating.

    If you don’t believe me, just ask someone to tell you what it means if the dog is wagging his or her tail. Most think it is friendly communication!

    Plus, the methodology used in the show has long be the accepted standard for those not involved directly in behavior modification and training.

    I don’t personally find Cesar Millan heinous, he is a bright, energetic personality who is using techniques that have worked well for him and that he is comfortable with. I just wish he’d use his influence to delve into modern age methods!

    On the upside, his foundation is putting money into a lot of projects and he is using his influence to impact change on some level–just not in modern dog training methods! LOL

    Since I have not met him or worked with him I can’t say what my personal impression is–just the professional opinion in reviewing some of his products and the show.

    BTW I have called him but my calls were never returned.

  11. I’ve been meaning to comment on this post but hadn’t gotten
    around to it. I really enjoyed it, as well as some of your
    responses in the comments.

    I’ve written about Cesar on my blog before, my opinion of his
    training techniques is far from a positive one. This post
    (http://stalecheerios.com/blog/dog-training/dog-whispering/)
    on my blog has a link to a very well written New York Times
    piece as well as a few links discussing why other methods are
    better. I think the cons FAR outweigh the positives.

    I do think, however, there’s some to learn from watching Cesar.
    He’s charming and engaging and a very successful businessman.
    Even if I want to avoid his techniques, I think there’s some-
    thing to be learned from watching how he teaches others and
    how he sells himself.

    Ange said:

    “Correct me if I’m wrong but Cesar is a behaviorist not a
    trainer two very different things in my book”

    I hear this argument all the time and think it’s a bunch of crap.
    Trainer, behaviorist, behavior consultant, etc. Anyone can call
    themselves a behaviorist and anyone can call themselves a dog
    trainer.

    For me, if you’re modifying and changing behavior, you’re a
    training. Maybe you don’t want that label associated with you,
    but that’s what you’re doing.

    As for whether or not we should criticize and critique trainers
    we don’t agree with, this is something I find myself thinking
    about often.

    I like you advice:

    “Get to work.

    Implement change.

    Be the example people will talk about.”

    I hate it when people sit around, just being critical of others.
    Or, worse yet, when people criticize things they don’t under-
    stand. Or are critical because they’ve seen something done
    once but by someone else who didn’t understand the method or
    technique.

    That said, I do think objective commentaries are helpful.
    The trick, of course, is to do it without alienating people
    and without getting people on the defensive.

    Obviously, even though you highlighted the positives and
    negatives in this post, from the comments, there were a few
    people who were quite offended. But, I did think your post was
    objective. With highly controversial subjects, though,
    it can be nearly impossible to find common ground from which
    to have meaningful discussion and debate. Which is why sometimes
    it’s probably better not to bother dwelling on them.

    I like some of the commentaries Eric (of Dogspelledforward.com )
    has been doing.

    He’s been including what he likes and what he doesn’t like
    about some of the episodes he’s commented on, as well as
    what’s happening from a behavioral perspective. (Including
    trying to decipher the mysterious energy Cesar keeps talking
    about.)

    I have several posts I’m working on about Monty Roberts. He got
    picked because a reader asked my opinion of him. I’m trying to
    be objective, and to look at the actual behavior going on. To
    many eyes, Cesar and Monty appear to be good trainers because
    they are getting results. However, there’s more to training
    than just results, and I think people miss many of the subtle
    signs of stress and discomfort often displayed by the animals.

    So, if we can find common ground and a perspective that others
    will listen to, I think debating and arguing about some of
    these trainers is a good thing. The goal should be to help
    everyone see things from a new perspective. However, if all
    that’s going on is name calling, I’d rather not participate.

    That said, results are very important! The only way to move
    training forward and create a more progressive training
    world is for people to realize that positive methods do work.
    How are they going to realize this if they’ve never seen or met
    an well behaved animal trained with these methods?

    So, I do think trainers have a lot of training work to do, so
    that they can continue to show the skeptical that their methods
    do (or don’t!) work and what kind of results can be obtained
    from their techniques.

    Mary

    P.S. As Jane mentioned, something’s gone a bit wrong with your
    comment box. The lines keep stretching across the page when
    I type, to the point where I can’t see what I’m typing anymore.

  12. Thanks for letting me know about the comment box. Not sure why but we are redoing the blog so I’ll see what I can do.

    LOL you should have pitched me a guest post!

    I appreciate your taking the time to post and all the work you put into it.

    Although I tried to be a bit objective, I really am not but I don’t see any point in beating a dead horse because I think it is the fan base that is so hot on Cesar Millan. There are some professionals that support his work but most progressive trainers and behaviorists do not.

    I always say look at the source and then consider the opinions kinda like wolf-dogs–but that is another can of worms and I have not seen what Cesar Millan has done with them since his casting call sometime back.

    Unfortunately, you are right when you say that anyone can call themselves a behaviorist or trainer–however there is at least some training and degrees or certifications that exist from qualified, accredited programs now versus prior to 15 years ago.

    I’ve had my certifications since the late 1970s and the degree since the early 1980s–a bit ahead of the pack. I’ve seen programs come and go, and organizations come and go but at least we are progressing.

    People didn’t use to care about this topic and now they do–which is a great thing.

    My best discussions were with a traditional trainer who owned a successful company but used choke chains, shock, and other methods to get the behaviors from the dogs under his tutelage.

    I had to laugh when he offered me a career with his firm, he had no idea of my background or training, but I was also flattered that he found me open enough to want to bring me into his firm.

    We debated a lot between his sessions and I hope that perhaps I gave him some insights he did not have prior to our interactions.

    Monty Roberts was another media propelled training star who was given credit for “horse whispering” when it really belonged to another horse trainer. The problem is that people want the magic answer and want to grab on to someone as their guru without doing any investigation or exploration on their own.

    The up side is that these icons have sparked a huge interest in human-animal interactions and I think it is up to the rest of us to modify it into what we want–how is that for a training challenge?

  13. Lin Goodman says:

    I think the man has amazing, natural instincts with, and insigt into dogs.
    That being siad, I believe his methods get more heavy handed with each season. You can learn a lot of good techniques to deal with your dogs, as well as some bad ones. We are not wolves, we are not dogs, and while I believe a dog is more secure with direction, we need to relate to them as humans. That’s why I prefer Victoria Stilwell. She has just as amazing instincts with, and insights into dogs and trains them just as, “magically”, but, in my opinion, more humanely. Cesar always says don’t use the dog’s name while correcting, so it associates it’s name only with good. I feel the same way about your hand. It should only be associated with good things. Any dog can be bullied, intimidated and scared into behaving. But to train it peacefully and end up with a good dog, now that’s my way to go.

  14. Thanks for your comment Lin. I believe you mean relating from our human perspective–otherwise you’d be suggesting being anthropomorphic which can get people into big problems with dogs.

    There are people who are talented that work with animals and I think that is what people are attracted to. I think it is because most people do not develop that capacity which is why Millan is so intriguing to the masses.

  15. Bobbie Masse says:

    Well, he certainly is popular. Are you going to do a column on Victoria, who is also doing TV shows and is also very popular? She isn’t as “heavy handed” as Cesar, but many of her suggestions are quite similar.

  16. Hi

    I was so pleased to read your comments, as to be honest I am sick of CM debates. I frequently post on a forum where it is either one of the other and no inbetween.

    When I started out training in the 80’s, choke chains were the norm, rattling cans etc., was also (heavens forbid) acceptable, but we have moved on from that, we have a lot more knowledge about dogs, the ways they learn, live etc. etc. and most people in the field, will encompass this.

    CM however, is stuck with his ‘theories’, some of which I think do have a good base (note I said some!), however, it is the way he follows them through moving forward, that concerns me. I don’t like to see any animal being bullied and forced into a behaviour that will not be sustained, once that force and intimidation has gone.

    However, I must admit to watching the show when I can, albeit terribly uncomfortably sometimes, when I look at the dog. All this said, he is a great showman (what a publicity machine!), there are occassions when I can see where he is going and actually ‘learn’ from what he is doing (even if it is more often than not how NOT to do it!).

    I think the biggest thing he has done is let the public know that they CAN do something about their dogs behaviour, they CAN call someone to help them sort it out and that has to be a good thing.

    There are dogs starving to death everyday and dogs living and breeding in appalling condition. Lets put our energies into doing something about that, rather than bashing CM!

  17. Hi Bobbie,

    I hadn’t planned on doing an article on Victoria and maybe that is an underlying problem. Victoria has not captured the interest of the mainstream. She isn’t very controversial and I don’t believe a lot of people relate to her or find her newsworthy.

    In case you are not aware, it was interesting to hear that she is “certifying” people who qualify. She is not training people, only interviewing them and then if they meet certain criteria, they can pay to be certified.

    Personally, I didn’t like the sound of it. If she actually had them work with her to earn certification, okay–but to just award one if you meet her criteria?

    Maybe I got it wrong–let me know if I did.

  18. Thanks for stopping by KC.

    Yes, I was training informally in the 1960s and then professionally in the 1970s. We used behavior modification and more positive training with wild animals but the trend was to still use the old methodology with canines. Go figure.

    I take a gander at some of the animal training shows now and again. I do cringe watching Millan a lot too. But since I’ve been a professional for so long, I really don’t find the cases interesting nor do I get anything new from them. The main reason I tune-in is to keep on top of what popular culture is consuming.

    So, I think the shows serve a purpose in that they create an awareness for the need of better behavior and the option of hiring someone to help but beyond that the most popular show is actually a determent when it comes to promoting more contemporary strategies, techniques, and tools.

  19. As someone who is a pretty harsh critic of Cesar, I am tired of reading rants and the same criticism of him over and over.

    But I do think there is a place, and perhaps even a need, for detailed discussion of what he is actually doing. A frequent complaint I have heard and read is that those who dislike what he does are either not really watching or cherry-picking things out of context. That’s why I have been doing commentaries on his shows and trying to highlight the good and the bad.

    Many people do tend to take the things he does and says as the gospel truth and accept the heavily edited “results” they see on TV as proof. The antidote may be to directly confront what he does and explain what can be done differently.

    As far NGC changing the show goes, you are right. As long as they can satisfy their legal obligations with a disclaimer. Any obligations they might have to the viewers and their pets is completely beside the point. I understand the National Geographic used to stand for something. Not anymore.

  20. It is good to see you here Eric! I’ve been reading your blog via RSS and sometimes directly.

    Yes, discussions are good but what seems to be happening is everyone is getting back into the ol’ “us and them” mentality. I do watch the show now and again, like yesterday in an episode where he got bit and was stressing the dog out further.

    Your strategy is a good one but I think the problem is that people tend to want to grab onto someone and have them be the guru. It is the same with Wilkes or Pryor–they have followers who get invested in them–it isn’t usually the professionals (okay, sometimes it is) but rather the fan base that gets attached and then behaves badly.

    Also, I have to agree with you. I am sorely disappointed with NatGeo and now Discovery because they are going the way of pop culture driven shows rather than the good meaty stories they used to share.

    Hope to see you again and keep up the good work.

  21. Bobbie Masse says:

    Yes, Ark Lady. NatGeo, Discovery, TLC, and even the Science Channel are running motorcycle shows, fix-your-house shows, little kids dressing up like movie stars, pig cleanups, how to blow up a box of televisions sets, etc. There is a place for these type of shows, and I’m sure they have a following. These channels are not the place for them. I sure miss the really good shows they used to have, those about real science, real animals, etc. I’m just about stuck with Animal Planet these days! As for Cesar, he’s really good with the aggressive “red zone” dogs – but his methods aren’t appropriate for regular dogs who just need to learn how to not jump on people, or not pee in the house, or just plain regular obedience training. He does wonderful re-homing for dogs that probably would never be adoptedbecause of behavioral problems, and I salute him for that. I used to watch him all the time, but he’s become pretty repetitive.

  22. Hey Bobbie,

    Thanks for popping in and leaving a comment. Yes, I am SO missing the great content that used to be available via television. I seldom watch it so when I do it is usually for shows that give me some real meat on a topic or that are very artistic with great writing or characters such as the old Masterpiece Theater.

    I don’t waste my time on much these days and the current animal programs mostly make me cringe because they are pop culture oriented and focus on entertainment or in some cases, edu-tainment.

    What saddens me is that they do little to educate the public on good solid animal etiquette or behavior because they are so focused on fast paced action to hold viewers.

    Since you mention red-zone dogs, a lot of people specialize in them. Personally, I think of most as ticking time bombs that unless carefully managed are risky. Millan has an abnormally large number of animals that help him to manage newcomers and they get an unusual amount of exercise when compared to the average pet owning population.

    So although he does a great job, I think it is also misleading to expect that from most people since they do not have those type of resources and won’t stick to the demands of a rigorous program.

  23. Sheila Kaufman says:

    Looks like I’ve come late to the party, but will add my two cents anyway. I think it’s easy to become caught up in a new philosophy of training, to the point of it almost being like a religion. I nearly lost a friend over my own rigid belief in using only positive training methods when I first was introduced to it. It just made so much sense to me I couldn’t see how everyone wouldn’t agree. I still believe in that method of training whole heartedly, and it has been extremely successful for me, but, just because I see it, not everyone does or will, and compromise is definitely better than the alternative. You can’t teach people to adopt positive methods through negativity.

    As to Cesar, he does have an amazing machine behind him. To the point of getting exclusivity built into his contracts. An absolutely amazing trainer who literally wrote the book (one of the definitive textbooks on animal training with positive reinforcement methods for zoos and aquariums) did a television series on using those methods with domesticated animals. His program ran in Europe, but not the U.S. because of that exclusivity clause. I was told this by the trainer himself, not second hand. That is my biggest problem with Cesar. I don’t understand why, if he believes so strongly in his methods, he should be threatened by competition from alternative methods.

    I will say this, I have enough first hand experiences with traditional training methods creating more problems than they solved, that I was ecstatic to learn a method of communication with my animals that allowed for their cooperation in their training. There is a huge amount of fascinating science behind how and why positive methods work, but the bottom line is that they do work, and better, and I would never go back.

  24. Hi Sheila, nice to see you commenting on this.

    Funny, I have been pondering the religion analogy as a blog post about all the BS currently circulating around the domestic animal training world.

    I recently read something about CM by a trainer that was “calling him out.” In some cases, the strategy is to get attention and traffic from the topic.

    However, in a discussion with another trainer recently we were talking about how we both like Victoria Stillwell’s approach better but find the show a bit boring.

    In these days we are all getting conditioned to fast paced and repetitive messages.

    Unfortunately, the showman always wins out with the ratings.

    As far as proprietary or exclusivity, I am waiting for a challenge in court on some of these.

    Early in my career I wrote a piece called New Age Animal Training: Innovation or Marketing?

    One of the “leaders” in the “new” wave of animal training wrote me and asked me to take the term he had trademarked out of the article.

    I did but people are trademarking phrases that are in the public domain and that they did not invent–and I think it will come to a head sometime in the future–hopefully sooner than later.

    Also, there is a lot of intimidation circulating since the “real media” isn’t reporting news, just spouting commentary. Pop culture interest items the bloggers tend to be the ones heading the new media blast of talking about things others won’t and since televised media is about ratings, well…

    I’ve worked with animals in every capacity and was amused when people started labeling those who began using more positive methods in their businesses as “cross over” trainers.

    Puh-lease!

    You find the hard lines in the medical versus alternative healing practices, too.

    I don’t believe that there is an “us and a them” but only those who desire to move the relationships with and manners of animals forward.

    Recently Mary (over at Stale Cheerios blo) wrote about the Baileys being early innovators but my own research shows efforts back into the 1800s in Germany.

    Ever hear, “everything old is new again?”

    Without any history or savvy about history people are just marketing to a new group–I should have got on the bandwagon early!

    I”m not sure about the claim regarding exclusivity because you didn”t leave any examples and a lot of trainers speak and travel without a problem

    That book is actually a compilation from a wide variety of zoo trainers but there are some outstanding training professionals across many industries.

    My take is that if you are a good trainer, you evolve for the betterment of the species. But also, you do your job and don’t try to force your will on others either.

    Just like positive training, adversives tend to work against you.

  25. Sheila Kaufman says:

    Hi Diana,
    Yes, you are absolutely right about the book, and perhaps I should have said compiled a book, and developed a training program, as it was a compilation of articles by a variety of different zoo trainers, organized to be usable as a training manual. A tv series was shot to be marketed here in the U.S. using zoo training methods, showing the training of the zoo animal, then using the same methods for domestic animals. Not a new concept, but it would have been interesting to see. However, networks carrying Cesar’s show would not carry one by someone using an opposing method. This has been a number of years ago. I honestly watch so little tv these days, due in large part to exactly the watering down of educational television that you were referring to earlier in this thread, that I don’t know if that has changed or not.

  26. Yes, I’ve been to the final negotiations on shows and for a long time the trend was only for male hosts. It is only recently that I’ve even turned on the television. I tend to peruse to see what pop culture trends are on the go. Hoping to have some good videos in the online school when I launch.

    I actually had a book that was sold that weaved both wild and domestic animal training stories with techniques inserted but was a bit before its time. The What Animals Can Teach Us about Spirituality actually had the working title of Animal Connection and contained some of the content from the other after I parted ways with the publisher (multiple subsidiary sales to new publishing houses got old).

  27. Adam G. Katz says:

    I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head, so to speak.

    I think that Cesar Milan is good for the dog training industry in general. Before his show, I think there were a lot of people who maybe ran into a dog problem and then just figured the problem was with the dog, not the owner.

    Now, whether people subscribe to Milan’s ideology or not, at least there’s more of a possibility that your average Joe-dog-owner will reach for the phone book and look for a dog trainer, as a result of the show.

  28. Thanks for stopping by Adam. Yes, it is good that people realize that they need help.

  29. Craig C says:

    Quick comment on this statement below:

    “Con Cesar Millan: People mistakenly believe they are seeing real time training accomplishments and think they can get the same results quickly. They fail to understand that they are viewing edited clips of events that happen over time.”

    Well, that’s a big assumption – that all viewers don’t understand the editing process for time’s sake. That said – I know people that work with Cesar I can tell you that yes, the results you see on the show do in fact happen that quickly. Also – in virtually every episode, you will see an “elapsed time” clock is showing you the actual time it took to change the dog’s state of mind, behavior, etc., regardless of editing down for time’s / TV’s sake.

    Can the average person / dog owner attain the same results as quickly? Of course not. Now whether they believe that or not, well, that’s really not the responsibility of the show. The same can be said for any (yes any) instructional television show as well.

  30. Appreciate your chiming in Craig but it is not a big assumption at all. People talk to me all the time about what they are viewing and believe related to any television show and most don’t know that they are viewing edited clips.

    I’ve not seen the time clock in any of the episodes I’ve watched but I am not an avid television fan–plus since I had a degree in animal training and management I’m usually not entertained or enthralled with most of the series that tend to captivate the general public. (Been in my career way too long too 30+ years.)

    Any trainer worth their salt gets an animal to respond quickly but it is the integration and longevity that matters and that has to be sustained by the owner. That takes practice and skill development.

    Perhaps it is not the responsibility of the show but the edu-tainment trend is something I find annoying and something is broke when you have to plaster disclaimers all over the programming.

    You might be giving the public too much credit or I might not be giving them enough but after years in the profession I think I have a pretty good thumb on the pulse of things.

    Plus, I don’t actually consider it an instructional television show–it is an entertainment/reality show in my opinion.

  31. sarah b says:

    i have used a couple of his methods and have found them profoundly more effective than positive reward unfortunately.not saying that the positive techniques don.t help. i have a neapolitan mastiff that i got at 2 months. as soon as i got him i took him to all the pet friendly stores possible and attended puppy classes with him. he has no medical causes making him aggressive but he has always been very aggressive towards other dogs. adores people and children. fought with my weiner/chihuahua mix. 8 month old 110 pound dog vs 8yr old 17 pound dog. its obvious who won. the little boy had a huge hole in his neck and you could see the fatty layer underneath because the flesh was ripped from the skin. glad i work in nursing and knew how to treat it. after that i have used the neck bite, you don.t have to do this hard at all, and the blocking until they calm sit then lay. it has help calm his aggression towards the little boy. i would hate to have to play musical dogs, seperate them while i am gone or come home to the little one dead with his neck ripped out. cesar millan is not all bad and has helped me greatly. i am an experienced mastiff owner so i have dealt w/big dogs before.

  32. With all due respect Sarah, aggression is not something the average pet owner should tackle without professional supervision.

    Just what methods you applied and used is not clear but aggression seldom just disappears and if you simply repressed it, it can come back with a vengence.

    I can’t tell you how many people over the years believe that just because they have owned multiple animals of the same breed think that makes them qualified for dealing with issues exhibited by the breed.

    Your particular breed of mastiff often exhibits more aggression that other breeds and although I appreciate your chiming in, I would ask you to do two things–the first is to get professional help by a qualified animal trainer (see the resource page).

    Second, you obviously don’t understand positive reinforcement. All training involves positive and negative methodology but it is how the strategies are applied that get you the best behavior, a happier animal, and long-term compliance.

    Less than a dozen animals does not make anyone an expert .

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