Dog Whispering

Many people love Cesar Millan; there’s no doubt about that. He’s confident, well spoken, good looking, and seems to work miracles with problem dogs. However, while his techniques do seem to work, they might not be the best ones to use.

Many professional dog trainers and animal behaviorists are opposed to Cesar Millan’s techniques because of his reliance on force, fear and rough handling. Modern, progressive dog trainers often focus on positive methods instead, and many fear that Millan’s techniques spread misinformation and encourage people to use techniques that can be dangerous for both the dog and handler.

In fact, a recent study done by the veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania found that confrontational, aggressive or punishing training techniques (such as alpha rolls, grabbing the dog’s scruff or even yelling at the dog) led to increased aggression in dogs. (Click here to read more about the study.)

A Seattle TV station recently did a short piece on Millan which briefly outlines some of the issues involved.

Many people readily accept Millan’s techniques without further questioning or research because of the allure of his successful television program. During the show, people are only shown his brilliant successes. As well, many people are never exposed to other trainers or training techniques.

Here’s a well-written and thoughtful NYTimes opinion piece about Millan.

Millan’s television show cautions– “Don’t try this at home!,” which is probably the best advice to take away from his show.

What’s a good alternative? I use clicker training with my dog, Ginger. (Here’s a neat video!) She learns quickly with clicker training and absolutely loves our training sessions. It’s a great way to train good behavior by being positive and setting the dog up for success.

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