Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Experts Agree Dog Whispering Results in Bites

Yesterday I had a comment left on the post I wrote outlining the talks I attended at the No Kill Conference - one of the speakers, Dr. Linda Wolf - said in her talk that

"Cesar Millans methods should never be used because they cause a shift in the relationship"

And the commenter posted - "What? But he seems to have so many dogs that can get along with each other and people. Many of the dogs he helps are now seemly happier dogs and the people are happier with them.

I want to know more about why not use Cesar Millans methods, as they seem to produce dogs that can live with people better and live with other dogs better. "

Me and a lot - well I should say - ALL - of my dog trainer friends, believe that Cesar Millan actually hurt the dog/human relationship - so it was a wonderful and beautiful gift that I was given today when one of my great friends, Adina MacRae - who owns several dog related companies, put out a press release today called "Experts Agree Dog Whispering Results in Dog Bites".

In part, she writes - "As Dog Bite Prevention week is recognized across the United States, one of the contributing factors to this seeming epidemic may require Americans turn off their TVs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, close to five million Americans are bitten by dogs annually with approximately 1,000 people requiring emergency medical attention every day. A key factor in aggressive dog behavior is the way they are trained. Experts agree the dominance-based techniques often used on popular programs increase the risk of aggression and dog bites.

Adina MacRae, President of the Clicker Leash Co., inventor of a new positive dog training tool, says this is why she brought her humane training system to market. "I have seen first-hand the results of dominance-based training methods and they can be scary," says MacRae. "The majority of dogs bite out of fear and the techniques you see on most television shows are designed to suppress undesirable behaviors with scare tactics." MacRae, a dog trainer known for using positive reinforcement to help dogs overcome aggression, noticed as the popularity of dominance-based training grew, she was getting more calls about growling, snapping and biting dogs. She points to the disconnect that often results when people try to take on an "alpha" role instead of being a guardian to their companion animals that leads to dogs becoming defensive."

You can read the whole press release at the link I provided above.

I've talked about Adina's great invention - the clicker leash, on this blog before - and it so happens that the clicker leash was chosen as one of the products to be put into a gift basket given to the Obama family when they got their new puppy Bo that they got recently - which was a great honour for the best invention to ever come out of Nova Scotia - since maybe the invention of hockey - or basketball.

Today I found on You Tube a short video of Cesar Millan giving the Obama's some tips on their new puppy, which was pretty interesting - you can see it - here - and when I emailed it to Adina - she emailed me a blog post that she'd already written on her own fabulous blog that you should all mark in your favourites and go and read regularly from now on. It's called "Should Obama Take Cesar's Advice?" and she says things like -

"Hopefully the Obamas will see that it is also a time for change in the world of dog training. Although Cesar’s fan base is huge, there are not many professional trainers that see eye-to-eye with the “dog whisperer.” It is true that most dogs need more exercise than they are provided in today’s busy world, but to put discipline before love often results in a rift between dog guardians and their pooches. Professional trainers are often contacted by people claiming to be experiencing dominance issues with their dogs and much of this stems from Milan’s frequent recommendation to be a “pack leader.”

It is time for the dog whisperer to educate himself with current research instead of relying on out-dated advice from his grandfather. Science has shown us the potential fallout associated with putting discipline first when training our dogs. Dogs become nervous and may stop offering new behaviours for fear of the consequences, resulting in an animal that is difficult to train and may be seen as “stubborn” by the average dog owner. Further, given that approximately 90% of aggression in dogs stems from fear, if we focus on disciplining or correcting nervous or insecure dogs, their behaviour can quickly spiral into fear biting and other forms of aggression."

Adina's whole blog is called "Dog Trainer for Dog Lover's Blog" - and it's a must read!

Cesar would have a field day with my new dog Magic Bob - he'd have him strung up on the kitchen floor in a second - he's perfect in 85 ways and highly imperfect in about 15. He's been following Daisy around growling trying to get her to fight with him - and I don't need to remind you that Daisy is a rottweiller and Magic Bob is a toy poodle. Luckily Daisy realizes that size difference. I suspect Cesar would call this dominance and something that needs to be alpha rolled out of him. I however, beg to differ.

While I was searching around researching for this blog post I found a couple other things - one is a short video from the Cesar Millan show that almost made me throw up. If you can't tell that this dog is suffering and shutting down in order to get Cesar to stop doing what he's doing to him - then you are on a different planet than me. This dog's eyes are popping out of his head, he's terrified, he's shutting down, he is not "relaxing", or "submitting", or "surrendering" or doing anything that is training him to be a better dog in short order. He is doing whatever he's got to do to survive in that moment. This video is not showing dog training - this video is showing a man abusing a dog.

To see a little shot of the other side, we have an article from the trainer Ian Dunbar - who actually does TRAIN dogs to be better. The dog trainer's trainer - While Cesar Millan is dazzling TV audiences, Ian Dunbar has been quietly gaining the respect of dog experts and dog lovers everywhere

And a SUPER article from local dog trainer Silvia Jay entitled - "Don't Whisper"

As well - there was a great, and very controversial - news piece on KOMO tv about Cesar's methods a few months ago - it's available for viewing on You Tube at


  1. I appreciate that there are different methods of dog training and I do understand that many trainers don't like Cesar Millan's methods. There is a disclaimer that appears more than once during each of his shows that warns you basically "don't try this at home, work with a professional". I read, understand and heed that disclaimer. I also learn something useful every time I watch the show - not actual training techniques per se but little tidbits that help me to think about dog situations in different ways. I like to have lots of tools in the toolbox and try to learn something from everyone if I can.

  2. Anonymous2:11 PM

    It's ludicrous to think that in less than 20 minutes a dog with issues is "problem solved". That's what I object to the most, the perception that it gives to people that "all you have to do is this and this" and problem solved. I'm afraid that it may cause owners to give up on a dog when they don't get quick results as well as do emotional and or physical damage to their dog when they interpret the dogs behaviour incorrectly. Just like any "reality" show, it's not reality, but many people believe it is and it's all in real time. A 1 hour segment of that show may take days or weeks to film.

  3. What's the use watching a training show that warns you not to repeat it at home? It's a waste of time as far as I'm concerned.
    Imagine Martha Stewart warning people not to bake that cake or create the flower arrangement she demonstrated on TV.
    Dog training advice has to be functional for it to work. A method only a confident man experienced in physically overpowering dogs can do is not functional, and thereby not a good tool. Besides, disclaimer or not, people will - and are copying him. That's just what people do.
    Turn the TV's on mute and just watch what he does, not what he says. He talks a lot about energy, when in fact most of what is does is forceful restraint.