Friday, September 01, 2006

Dog Whisperer My Ass

Here's a link to an article on Cesar Millan, host of National Geographic's popular 'The Dog Whisperer' series Pack of Lies

I can't stand this guy and it's actually painful for me to watch some of the things he does. But people are attracted to quick fixes and his supposed magnetism (yeah, it takes a big macho man to drag a poor terrified pitbull down the street to prove to him who's boss). He has a long list of celebrity clients which is a bad sign in my mind. My favorite quote from the article: "Mr. Millan brings his pastiche of animal behaviorism and pop psychology into millions of homes a week. He’s a charming, one-man wrecking ball directed at 40 years of progress in understanding and shaping dog behavior and in developing nonpunitive, reward-based training programs, which have led to seeing each dog as an individual, to understand what motivates it, what frightens it and what its talents and limitations are."

I'm glad someone is finally calling him on his crap.


  1. Derr's criticism of Millan is not very well grounded, I am afraid. He comes at dog training from a philosophical base, not a practical dog-training base. Guess what? Dogs are not philosophers, and they do not operate in a pure-positive world even among themselves.

    Dogs are not human children, and they do not communicate like humans do. This is at the core of Cesar Millan's message, which is targetted to the hyper-educated folks that watch the PBS and The National Geographic channel.

    See my August 31 post at >> for a longer analysis of where Derr is wrong, where Millan is right, and why the audience matters quite a lot.


  2. Well, we're in agreement on one point, dogs aren't children. I've never ever said they were and I find the whole idea disturbing. I feel that people who treat dogs like substitute children do a huge disservice to dogs and in many cases threaten their health and life. What this all has to do with dog training methods used to solve the ensuing behavioral problems is beyond me. Positive dog training does not involve treating dogs as children.

    As for Derr vs Millan it's actually Millan who comes at dog training from a philisophical base and that's one of my main beefs with him. He gives people vague, feel good, quick fix advice based on what I consider pop psychology with no research at all behind it. Telling people they need to 'be the leader' is not very specific or helpful to the average dog owner and is open to wide misinterpretation and abuse as are many of his aversive training techniques the most controversial and potentially damaging of which is flooding.

    I agree that the audience matters quite a bit and that's exactly the problem. Aversive techniques can be effective in the hands of an experienced trainer and used on dogs that can handle that type of treatment. However it takes a lot of time and practice to perfect these methods and they're not right for many (most) dogs. Your average dog owner does not have the timing, training or knowledge to effectively use these aversive methods. While positive training might not work for every dog/behavior and also takes some time to perfect it won't cause harm if misused whereas aversive methods have the potential to cause great harm if the dog doesn't have the right temperament to deal with them and/or the human is poorly trained in administering them.

    It sounds to me as if you are a traditional trainer with an incomplete understanding of positive training techniques so we're just going to have to agree to disgree on this issue.

    By the way, Cesar was recently sued by one of his celebrity clients: From the article:

    "Hours after dropping off the dog, Suarez said, a worker called to tell him the animal had been rushed to a veterinarian. Suarez later found the dog "bleeding from his mouth and nose, in an oxygen tent gasping for breath and with severe bruising to his back inner thighs," according to the lawsuit.

    Workers at the facility were accused in the suit of placing a choke collar on the dog, pulling him onto a treadmill and forcing him to overwork.

    Suarez said he has spent at least $25,000 on medical bills, and the dog must undergo more surgeries for damage to his esophagus."

    Sorry, but that's not how I train my dogs.

  3. Anonymous12:58 PM

    Thanks for this link, Elayne. I'm not crazy about him either, and I'm always getting into discussions with dog pals about him (I know some people who like him) I think he's an entertainer, not a dog trainer. He has built an image that sells books and videos, and everything the audience see has been edited and scripted. He really can't offer anything more informative than "be a leader" or "dogs need a lot of exercise" (DUH!) because he doesn't actually know any more--his methods are not based at all on any actual behavior research. He just claims to have an "instict" for it. I call BS!

    I've been meaning to write a blog post myself on my opinion of him, but it's to hard no to get all vitriolic ...

    Lisa B