My friend Adina forwarded me a debate that's going on at a Veterinary Medicine blog on "About.com" because she and I share an - I wouldn't call it an obsession, but it's a "special interest" in the training methods used by Cesar Millan - and the article and comments being left on the post at this blog have been really interesting - it's at http://vetmedicine.about.com/b/2009/07/07/veterinary-behaviorists-take-a-stand-against-cesar-millan.htm - so you can go read it.
The author is taking the stand that "In February 2009, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) issued a "position statement" about the use of punishment for behavior modification in animals, detailing 9 possible adverse effects of negative reinforcement (punishment) training. While not naming any trainers by name, the statement was written to counter Millan's techniques featured on his National Geographic channel show, The Dog Whisperer."
She gives a link to a video clip that shows Cesar "hanging" a dog in order to get him to submit to him and ends the post with - "If a "professional trainer" such as Millan can be bit several times in a few minutes, so can you. Or worse. What are your thoughts on dog training methods? Are you more or less likely to buy products that feature a celebrity spokesperson? Please add your comments below. " - and tons of people have added their comments, that's for sure - including the owner of the absolutely huge "Dog Whisperer fan Yahoo Group" that has over 3,000 members - she is a pretty smart lady and I've read her stuff before and she can give some compelling arguments.
Both Adina and I also left comments amongst the over 70 comments so far, and I'm sure that Adina won't mind if I paste her comment here - she said -
Instead of listening to Cesar as he talks the good talk about his love for dogs etc., try watching the dogs’ body language when they are interacting with him. They are often SCARED! look for tucked tails, slinking bodies that are close to the floor, lip licking, whale eyes (where you can see the whites). These are all signs of fearful dogs and given that 90% of dog aggression stems from fear, it is no wonder that the man so frequently gets bit on his show. I have watched many episodes of the DW and I continue to be amazed that people accept this as a humane way to train their dogs. If I was just in the business of dog training for the money, trust me I would want Cesar to stay on the air because the vast majority of the money I make comes from repairing the relationships between people and their dogs who have been mis-led by National Geographic. I have been in this business for over six years and have worked for the local animal shelter where we see worse case scenarios and I have never been bitten because I respect the dogs and don’t push them past their limits. I can tell you about four dogs in the past year who were PTS after biting their owners. What were the owners doing when they got bit? Alpha rolls! Cesar’s techniques may work with 75% of dogs without negative long-term consequences but his fan club doesn’t seem to care about the 25% of dogs that won’t tolerate this type of training.
Cesar fans please learn the truth about pack theory and dominance before you believe everything the Dog Whisperer has to offer. Look to scientific journals for facts. The articles may be more boring to digest than a well-edited episode of the Dog Whisperer but you need to EDUCATE yourselves and not accept everything that a celebrity is spoon feeding you.
In my comment I said - I’ve been watching his show everyday for about the last year, so I’ve seen a lot of Cesar Millan – and I’ve been following his training for philosophy since I first heard about him because his idea of “discipline, exercise, affection” in that order has seemed so foreign to the way that I’ve personally found has made my own multi-dog – rescued, many issued, multi-layered and very interesting canine household home a happy one. Cesar has gone so far as to say that love is not required to make a dog a balanced dog – his exact words are “Many clients I work with are surprised to learn that dogs don’t need love and affection to lead healthy, balanced lives.” ( http://www.dogchannel.com/dog-information/cesar-millan-dog-whisperer/article_let_dog.aspx )
That is such a shock to North American people who are so used to giving love to their animals – I know that’s why I personally have dogs – because I have a lot of love to give. and that’s why I just can’t give myself to Cesar Millan’s training methods.
As well – I wanted to comment about something that Harry Nguyen said – “For those who think Cesar is a cruel person or his methods too harsh. I challenge anyone to find me a pack 30-40 formally troubled dogs, of different breed, size, and temperament, that are more balanced and happily living together than the ones living at his center.”
I’ve had this same problem myself in my own home – I’ve had fosters that could live in my multi-dog household really well, and they’d get adopted out to seemingly really great homes – but they’d get returned for fighting with the other dogs in their new homes – and there was always this question – “why can they live with no fights in my home – yet in someone else’s home they become aggressive?”
If you notice on Cesar’s show – a lot of dogs come to the “Centre” for training for a couple months, and then go home – and start their old bad habits again – and at the end of the show what happens is that Cesar keeps the dog and gives the people a new, easier to manage dog – and their original dog stays at the Centre with Cesar as a permanent resident.
Maybe it’s not because Cesar has been able to “rehabilitate” the dogs at his Centre, maybe – could it be – he’s able to “manage” the dogs at his Centre?
As a person who is just a dog owner – I’m just going to throw that out there for all of you – dog whisper fans, and professional behaviourists, alike – to chew on.
Cesar is a trainer who appears to want to control every aspect about a dog’s life – and want the dog to ask before he can do everything – including when he can take a pee. That’s a lot of responsibility for the average dog owner. Some of us are up to it, and some of us aren’t.
If you’re interested in a couple more links of Cesar like the one that sparked this article – you can check them out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=CA&hl=en&v=9TRE7Zv7xdE&NR=1 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iUeD4oxGLs&feature=channel
There was another really interesting post from Theresa DePorter, DVM who said - "The training methods I would recommend for a dog like this,(the one in the 30 second video that the blog owner posted) and yes, I have treated dogs like the one in the video, require safety, prevention of aggression, prevention of arousal, teaching coping skills and rewarding appropriate behaviors. Devices like basket muzzles and head halters can be wonderful for a dog like this when used properly. There are a great ways to work with a dog like this one that real people can employ with their dogs and obviously, despite the “don’t try this at home” warnings, a lot of people do indeed try this at home. Severely anxious or fearful dogs may seem to improve in the short term but constant vigilance is required by the ‘dominant’ training methods and after time people grow weary or guilty, the dogs habituate and require more assertive owner responses and then someone is bitten either when the dog isn’t controlled or during efforts to control it."
What she said is basically the same thing as what I said, which I thought was pretty neat.
On another - but related note - at the same time I am reading the current issue of "Best Friends magazine" - and there's an article in there called "The Science of Kindness - Why Compassion matters in our interactions with animals" - and it's a super article. Best Friends Magazine is a great magazine and you get if FREE when you become a member of the organization - you should go and join up! Older copies are available free on their website, so I thought it wouldn't be too bad if I scanned the article and put it on my server for awhile since it will be available on their website in a couple months anyway, because it's such a good article - you can click - here - and read it now. But you should definitely also think about getting the magazine too, because it's awesome. But the lady Susan Friedman has got some great things to say about the way that Cesar tends to train dogs.
There's a section about "flooding vs shaping" - she says "many animal caregivers and trainers simply take it for granted nowadays that the best way to train an animal is through positive reinforcement. But at the time of Brinker and Friedman's initial email exchange, the previaling animal training strategy was to dominate, to make animals know who was the boss. It meant using some kind of intimidating stimulus from which the animal cannot escape, thereby scaring the animal into submission and making him easier to handle (think of the whip used by the lion tamer). In parrot training, flooding involves strking a caged bird with two wooden dowels until the bird stops lunging an dbiting. This technique of "breaking" animals is not just morally and eithically bereft, but according to fifty years' worth of studies, it produces short lived results. Also, it all but ensures that the animal will eventually lash out at the trainer or simply shut down completely.
The article ends with talking about moving these teaching methods over to humans - "Friedman confesses that, though she devotes so much of her time and energy to the behaviour and training of animals, her main objective all long has been to change the way we interact with our hman loved ones - our partners, children and friends". Previously in the article she had said - Every time someone has yanked the choke collar around his dog's neck, or forrced a bird inside a cage, or hobbled a horse, there may have been some pang, some moment of doubt that it was the right thing to do - in spite of what the so-called experts were saying to the contrary. Many people have asked themselves, I wouldn't dream of doing this to my child, so why am I doing this to my animal? What Friedman helps them realize is that dominating behaviour can be just as damaging to the animal as it is to the child. Sadly, there are some people who might treat their children or spouse in a dominating manner, but not their animals. As for them, Friedman's teaching are just as life-changing.
I personally have to attest to this - everything that I have learned about positive dog training and am continuing to learn have leaked over into my work life, and it's showing in a better work atmosphere where I work - I am on my policy and procedure committee for my department and I am working towards making our policies not something that our employees have to "live with" and that makes their jobs harder - but something that is positive for them and is in their best interests - and just a change in mindset - turning things around from a negative to a positive - can make all the difference - even with humans. From making animals and humans must do something into something that they want to do - into "win-win" situations - is good for everyone.
It's like the by-line of the Best Friend's magazine - "all the good news"!