Friday, December 16, 2011

My Take on Cesar Millan

I'm part of a bully breed discussion group on Facebook. A topic that recently surfaced was about two dogs (1 older, 1 younger), both male, getting into a fight that lead to blood shed. She was concerned that it would happen again and didn't know what to do. She received a lot of advice...and some of it was pretty good. Cesar Millan came up...and I don't like him. I was bashed a little hard for it, but here's how I view it.

Cesar uses the term "pack leader" a lot...and I do mean a LOT. That's a good thing to be. You want your dogs to look to you for everything. You are to be their most trusted and most respected pack member. To reach this point, you have to earn their trust and respect. Cesar's Way employs more of a dictatorship approach to being the pack leader - Cesar's Way or the highway. He uses short kicks, leash jerks, finger pokes, alpha rolls, etc to get his point across. He insists that the dog walk behind him, however slightly. There's very little chance to sniff along the path, which is entirely natural for a dog to do.

Here's how Axle learned to walk on a leash:

Prerequisites to leash walking: sit, watch me.

1) Associate the leash with good things - treats/praise.

2) Make dog sit before leash attached to collar. Praise.

3) Start with dog on left side, in a sit position. Use a phrase like "Let's go!" or "Axle, heel!" to cue the dog to begin walking, along with you taking the first step with your left foot. If the dog takes off before you give the command, start over in the sit position. Remain calm...if you begin to get upset about the dog needing to start over, take a break.

4) As your dog walks along side you, praise him/her

Make sure you reward the dog with praise or treats throughout each part of learning to walk. If you begin with treats, try to wean them off of the treats as they begin to get the hang of what you want them to do. If a dog only gets treats as a reward, he/she will always perform with the sole purpose of receiving that treat.

Cesar also really downplays aversive dog training. He claims the leash jerks and kicks he uses are good because they imitate behaviors displayed in a natural pack order. All aversive actions cause an unpleasant sensation, which is what makes them work. Causing pain or fear in a dog only works to weaken the bond you have worked so hard to create.

Cesar doesn't explain the equipment he uses very well. I let everyone know what equipment I use, how I use it and why. I don't just accept whatever they are using, as that simply reinforces in their mind that the equipment they are using is okay.

I don't use choke collars. I have used a slip-lead on Axle, but only after he had completed walking training. I prefer Martingale collars that are custom built for my dogs. They fit lose around the neck and tighten when walking so the dog cannot slip leash.

Basically, Cesar isn't all bad, but I can't support a "dog whisperer" that is more interested in kicking, tugging and other aversive actions than actually dealing with their individual needs and personalities.

For a lot of great training tips and more information on Martingale collars, go to I use for my collars.

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