Though I know he is likely not popular with many of the experienced folks on this forum, can I hear some opinions on him and his methods? Some detailed discussion would be great, as opposed to "he's great" or "he's no good." I enjoy the program, and I think he seems to have some good ideas -- basically, in that he stresses calm, confident leadership as being the key to dealing with dogs.
I want to hear it too, my friend talks about him all the time like he is a God.
My opinion? Cesar Millan's methods are a load of crock. LONG outdated. Most of the trainers I respect have long moved on from the alpha/dominance theories and use positive reinforcement. Millan's alpha/dominance theories stem from wolves -- how the pack functions, pack hierarchies, etc. Because domestic dogs have long evolved from wild wolves, these theories hold no relevance to our pets. "Dominance" is a term that gets thrown around a lot and personally is not something I believe in. See this excellent article on why I don't believe:
i've seen the show. i've read the book. i used to be a fan, but i've had a change of heart for many reasons. i know that he is HIGHLY popular around here as well as in other dog circles and forums, but in my personal opinion, the popularity of the self proclaimed dog behaviorist/people trainer fosters myths and misconceptions about why dogs do what they do or how best to train them or resolve problem behaviors.
here are some online articles, which also contain additional online materials on this topic:
i've been involved in way too many heated debates on this subject, so this post is all i will say about this topic. everyone has a right their opinions, so besides offering my personal opinion and adding the links, i don't feel the need to defend my position or try to change someone else's mind.
for people who feel that cesar has helped them and their dogs, i think that's wonderful.
"Properly trained, a man can be dog's best friend." ~ Corey Ford
Trickster -- that was a good article, thanks.
Puff [YF, AKC field line (from competing HT/FT breeder) 62 lbs, dob: 8-'01]
Bess [BF, AKC bench line (from competing show breeder) 55 lbs., 1967-1981] "Poor Bess, the Wonder Dog":
I read the link you attached. My thought is that there are some good points raised; however, there are also some things I have a hard time with. (One example is that in trying to push the "dogs aren't wolves" point, they compared dogs and wolves to humans and chimps. However, humans can't breed with chimps, whereas dogs can breed with wolves, right? This therefore seems not to be at least somewhat of an apples-to-oranges comparison). Anyway, in all the reading I've done in the past two months (since I got my dog) -- which has been quite a bit, I sense a strong competition between two schools of thought on training -- one in which some use of force is justified (NOT beatings or abuse, but some level of coercive force), and the other in which ZERO "force" is acceptable. Yes, my post was on Cesar Millan, and the objection raised here is on his persistent use of the concept of "dominant." However, I think at least some of the strong objection to the word "dominant" is that it is closely-related to the word "dominate," which to the "non-force" group means "using force" -- which is of course the taboo for that particular group. Thus, I wonder if sometimes the baby is thrown out with the bath water, so to speak, in that as soon as a strongly "non-force" person hears "dominant," they think "beating the dog" and thus they instantly have a negative opinion of the person advocating their position. I don't know.
My point? I see the debate here as being almost as strong, if not AS strong, as that relating to parenting (spanking vs. no spanking). The truth is probably somewhere in between -- spanking is NOT the ultimate evil; nor is it the "magic bullet." I would sense the same thing in dog training. It likely depends on the dog, the owner, and their individual relationship. Maybe I'm wrong. I just know that for my dog, I do as much as I can (thanks to posters such as FallRiver and others) to be completely "positive" in my approach, but have also used "force" at times.
Anyway, Cesar does use the "dominant" wording alot; however, if you really "ignore" that word, and see what he is saying, it seems to me that his basic premise is to be a confident, assertive, but gentle "leader," while requiring that the dog "follows" your lead -- and at the same time not inadvertently encouraging "negative" behavior with your dog. It doesn't seem to me to be all that controversial, and it does (unless the TV show is completely faking, not "embellishing," but outright FAKING the results) seem to have some value -- based on the results.
I don't know. I'm just trying to keep learning how to do this whole dog training thing...
luke from georgia --
Thanks for the links. Some of those links were not valuable to me -- I don't agree with them philosophically. Others, however, made some good points. One of the links, in particular, discussed some more controversial things that Cesar did on some shows to "cure" dogs, which are things that I could see would be "troublesome" or "problematic." Certainly, these things require the "don't try this at home" label -- at the very least.
However, on the flip side, other things he does seem to make good sense. So many of his shows reveal that the "problem" is that the dog owner's attitude is one of "my dog should be pampered and allowed to do whatever he/she wants" -- and then they wonder why they have problems! In comes Cesar, (to the do, an unfamiliar human), with a different dynamic and set of expectations, and voila -- the dog responds differently; in other words, is "cured." In these cases, the owners have been taught, through the quote-unquote "miracle" they just witnessed, to change their OWN approaches to their dogs. This can't be all bad.
For instance, I saw a show the other day where a dog wouldn't stop some negative "anxious" behaviors. What eventually was revealed was that when the owners saw any sort of "anxiety" in their dog, they would immediately "pet" and "coo" and "fuss" over the dog -- in their mind, to help the dog. However, Cesar's point was that they were inadvertently "rewarding," through their attention, the negative behaviors. His point was to reward the POSITIVE behaviors -- i.e. when the dog was responding differently (or, his words, displaying calm-submissive energy). The energy thing sounds a little hokey, and there is nothing earth-shaking about rewarding good, not bad, behavior. However, I could easily see how someone, in an attempt to "calm" their dog, might offer "comfort" in a way that was actually rewarding -- such that over time, the owner would be helping to "solidify" the negative behavior in the dog THROUGH REWARDING it. To me, that was a helpful perspective ("comforting" a negative reaction might actually be inadvertently "rewarding" and encouraging it).
Anyway, I know you said you don't want to debate this, so I'll simply thank you for those links -- as usual, I learned a few things from them.
Humans are separated from primates by millions of years of evolution. Dogs, on the other hand, have only been "domesticated" in last 15,000 years or so. In evolutionary terms obviously this is huge difference, which I think answers your question.(One example is that in trying to push the "dogs aren't wolves" point, they compared dogs and wolves to humans and chimps. However, humans can't breed with chimps, whereas dogs can breed with wolves, right? This therefore seems not to be at least somewhat of an apples-to-oranges comparison)I understand what you are saying but again, IMO, I don't believe in 'leadership' -- I DO believe in taking control through training and guidance but I don't follow alpha/leadership methods.Anyway, Cesar does use the "dominant" wording alot; however, if you really "ignore" that word, and see what he is saying, it seems to me that his basic premise is to be a confident, assertive, but gentle "leader," while requiring that the dog "follows" your lead
I don't have much time to post right now -- I'll see if I can add more later.
Trickster -- this only answers the question if once accepts the premise that apes became humans, through evolution -- a point that I am certainly not willing to concede, but that's a whole other ball of wax which is basically irrelevant here.Humans are separated from primates by millions of years of evolution. Dogs, on the other hand, have only been "domesticated" in last 15,000 years or so. In evolutionary terms obviously this is huge difference, which I think answers your question.I think we may be misunderstanding each other's use of terms here. When I said "leadership," I was simply meaning the concept that if my pet follows my commands, an observer would say that I was the leader and the pet "follows" me. I think for you, the term seems to be more loaded, as you referred to a "leadership method" -- implying that this term refers to a particular training style. To me, you can be different styles of "leader" -- Hitler was a "leader," as was Jesus, both very different. When I said "leader," I just meant someone whom a dog will follow -- for whatever reason. Your beliefs as to how to "take control" still make you a "leader" in my book, but obviously the word means something different to you, which I can understand.I understand what you are saying but again, IMO, I don't believe in 'leadership' -- I DO believe in taking control through training and guidance but I don't follow alpha/leadership methods.
Overall, I think each individual (dog, human, and probably most other mammals) have the innate ability to both lead or follow -- humans are certainly this way, so why is it so unusual to think dogs are? Sometimes, I act as a leader, other times, in the presence of a strong leader, I naturally take more of the "follower" role. I'm not sure why there is such an effort afoot to "disprove" the idea that a dog could be led, or in the absence of a "leader," may take the role, to some degree, himself? I see that in my dog, I see that in my child, I see that in my co-workers, I see that in my friends. It is simply not controversial to me; in fact, it seems like the logical, normal order of things (at least for mammals). I just makes sense to me that if you can relate to another mammal in its language, you could learn to elicit its "follower" side, if you knew how to be an appropriate "leader." My experience in my life relationships reinforces this mentality. To me, that's what dog training is all about -- it is me trying to act in a way, and "speak" in such a way that my dog sees me as someone she will follow. There are obviously many ways to accomplish this -- thus the competing theories, right? I'm just striving to find out which way works the most efficiently and the most successfully.
I think that Cesar's techniques work with certain kinds of dog personalities. Jean Donaldson's, Patricia McConnell's methods work with another kind of personality. I think you just have to know your dog and know what works. Some really need a firm hand and understand "dominance". Others work better with classical conditioning methods. JMO.
I really loved Jean Donaldson's book, The Culture Clash. Have you come across that one yet Steve? Really helped me understand a lot about what is and isn't going on in my dog's head.
(As an aside, I have to say I at the statement that humans are separated from primates by "millions of years of evolution". It's more like 100,000. You are right about the timeframe for wolf-dog divergence. They (dogs) have really been a part of humanity for a good percentage of our humanity!)