I’ve followed Cesar Millan and the debates about his training techniques for years. No doubt there are issues with his training philosophy, but there’s still a lot learn from him in his training.
The Dog Whisperer
The Dog Whisperer ran for 9 seasons (2006-2014) on Nat Geo, featuring a variety of problem dogs.
Rescues and pet parents praised the show for helping them with their dogs. Humane organizations and dog trainers attacked Cesar’s methods and lack of education.
Personally, I watched every episode, researched both sides of the arguments, and took from his work what helped my dogs.
Cesar Millan’s Techniques
Cesar claims not to train dogs but to train people. The Dog Whisperer starts with the statement…
No dog is too much for me to handle. I rehabilitate dogs. I train people.
He operates from a dominance/alpha understanding of dog behavior and teaches people how to establish themselves as pack leaders.
His methods rely on providing dogs with a foundation of exercise, discipline, and affection–in that order–and advises his clients to provide rules, boundaries, and limitations.
The Good, Bad, and the Energy
Let’s start with the bad. The dominance/alpha theory on which Cesar’s pack leader training are based have been refuted.
Dogs are social opportunist and aren’t looking to dominate you. Relying on dominance theory underestimates the complexity of a dog’s experience of you as family.
With a dog like my Tank, applying dominance theory will likely get you bit and destroy his trust.
Now the good. Cesar has spent years pointing out that our dogs are misbehaving, because we haven’t been adequately fulfilling their needs. Great message!
One of those needs is consistent leadership. Also a great and necessary message!
The energy… Guess what? You may be able to lie to another human, but you can’t lie to a dog.
Dogs respond to Cesar, because they see through the stuff us humans gets caught up in and see HIM. Call it energy. Call it non-verbal communication. Dogs are masters at it.
Dominance theory definitely needs to die, but that doesn’t change the good work Cesar is doing to help people see that the issues our dogs are having are usually us and not them.
Click here to learn more about Cesar’s latest work.