Getting Skeptical of the Dog Whisperer

As a dog owner I have frequently heard of César Millán the Dog Whisperer. Millán is a Mexican-American dog trainer, best known for his National Geographic TV show, The Dog Whisperer, in which he rehabilitates trouble dogs.

Here is a typical video showing what Millán does with aggressive dogs.

When watching his show, one can’t help but be amazed at the way he handles some of these dogs, many of which are either wildly disobedient or incredibly aggressive. His successes have earned him many fans. He’s published three best seller books, made numerous media appearances, gives presentations to sold out venues, and he owns his own dog training facility.

It’s hard to imagine anyone taking issue with his methods which are so effective. But taking issue is what many dog training professionals are doing. Can we take a skeptical look at what Millán does?

Millán’s modus operandi can be summed up into two central points:

1) Be a “calm, assertive, pack leader”

2) Dogs require “exercise, discipline and affection—in that order.”

Essentially what Millán is suggesting is that dogs, like wolves, are pack animals. The owner of the dog is like the alpha wolf. The owner must be the dominate pack leader and the dog must be submissive. Dogs that misbehave do so because they consider themselves the pack leader and don’t respect their owners.

Millán goes about establishing dominance through his “calm, assertive, energy” he doesn’t acknowledge dogs when he meets them, he ignores them when they bark, the only response he typically gives is a quick poke or slap. It’s only when the dog has calmed down and is willing to listen to him that he initiates contact.

In order to train and teach his dogs, Millán relies on two techniques almost exclusively, flooding and positive punishment. Flooding is when:

“an animal is exposed to a fear (or aggression) evoking stimulus and prevented from leaving the situation, until it stops reacting. To take a human example: arachnophobia would be treated by locking a person into a closet, releasing hundreds of spiders into that closet, and keeping the door shut until the person stops reacting. The person might be cured by that, but also might be severely disturbed and would have gone through an excessive amount of stress.” – Andrew Luescher, DVM, Ph.D, DACVB

Sound effective?

Positive punishment is any type of punishment in which the dog is punished with an unpleasant condition to discourage future behavior. It’s the same type of thinking that suggests spanking a child for misbehaving.

Punishment, among most trainers of animals, is considered backwards and antithetical to successful obedience training. It is also generally agreed among psychologists that punishment is not an effective way to correct unwanted behavior in humans. However, Millán defends his use of punishment as part of the pack mentality that dogs naturally exist in. After all, a quick poke can’t really compare to what a alpha wolf would do to a member of its pack who misbehaved, right?

It turns out that the scientific consensus on pack behavior is as out of date on prior perceptions of corporal punishment. (See my blog post on corporal punishment for more on this)

One of the assumptions that Millán makes about dogs is that they are pack animals. His thesis of dog rehabilitation rests on the hypothesis that a good owner is also the pack leader and controls the dog with calm assertive energy in the same way an alpha wolf would control the pack. However, modern research on wolves and dogs indicates that this view of dominance and the “alpha wolf” are incorrect.

David Mech is an adjunct Professor in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, and Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Minnesota, he’s also one of the world foremost experts on wolf behaviour. Much of the terminology of wolf behavior comes from Mech’s original research. The vernacular of alpha wolf can be attributed to him. However, Mech reveals that the science of wolf behavior has changed in the last thirty years. His first book was published in the 1970′s, in which he used the term “alpha wolf” however he suggests that in reality, wolves don’t form packs based on dominance but rather cooperation. It would be more accurate to refer to the pack leader as the “breeding male and breeding female.”

This is an important distinction, which it appears that Millán didn’t get the memo on. If the “alpha wolf” theory is incorrect that would mean that a major part of Millán’s method is based on incorrect data. Since wolves and by extension, dogs are not dominance based pack animals, a dog that is acting up isn’t doing so because it has delusions of grandeur and a thirst for power. Treating it as though it were will not solve the problem.

Even if dogs were in a dominance based hierarchy as Millán suggests, his methods still wouldn’t make sense. Animals that rely on dominance do so to control mating and access to resources. It’s enforced constantly, sometimes resulting in animals being killed to enforce that control. Remember, evolution only works if you pass on your genes. Animals that are put in a position where they don’t get to mate have very little reason to not fight to the death to gain that position. If dogs were dominance based, they would not readily submit to anything, a dog owner would constantly have to engage in dominance based corrective behavior to “remind” the dog who was in charge.

Simply the fact that there are large scale efforts to have dogs spayed and neutered should tell you that dogs don’t exist in such behavioral system. Research on dog evolution indicates they are scavengers and have promiscuous mating habits. This is why humans have taken such measures to try to control dog mating.

So why does Millán’s techniques appear to work? The most obvious answer is that we only ever see his techniques over the course of an hour long show. There’s no debate that positive punishment can be effective in the short term. If you smack a child for doing something, chances are they aren’t immediately going to go right back to doing that behavior, it’s the same with dogs.

Another reason is that some of Millán’s techniques are useful, mainly the exercise aspect. It should be no surprise that hyperactive dogs probably aren’t getting enough exercise. But it’s also important to realize that there are more than one type of dogs. Some breeds are highly energetic and require way more attention from their owner’s than other breeds of dogs. Border Collies, for example, are one of the most active and energetic dog breeds. Bull Terriers, while also being energetic are also known for being mischievous little devils that will require more training and stricter social structure to avoid them getting into trouble.

So, certain breeds of dogs and in certain situations would see an improvement in behaviour with firmer training, more exercise and more attention.

I’ve talked about how Millán’s theories on dog behavior are wrong. They are not pack animals who are dominance based. I’ve also talked about his methods which use positive punishment and exposure of dogs to stressful situations called flooding.

But I’d also like to discuss Millán’s connection to more traditional woo like homeopathy.

Millán has on more than one occasion promoted or suggested the use of homeopathic dog medicine. In an episode called Mufasa and Tucker, Millán invited Dr. Dahlia Shemtob to administer homeopathic medicine to calm a dog’s nerves. In a Q and A with his fans, he also recommended homeopathy and acupuncture for dogs to help keep them relaxed. In a quote on the Homeopathy Health Center, Millán states: “Homeopathy means to me; the ability to live without any negative blockage to go forward and be at my potential. Because of homeopathy my family and dogs live a balanced life.”

Not only are Millán’s suggestions irresponsible but they could be dangerous to your dog’s health. If your dog is sick, you need to take it to a science based vet who can diagnose the problem and prescribe the correct medication or treatment.

I checked to see what Millán’s stance is on vaccinations but for the most part he seems to be in favor of them. He does occasionally use troubling vocabulary like letting your dog use its own natural defences (speaking to the misnomer that the immune system is like a muscle that needs to be worked out.) He also suggests dog owners do their own research which is always risky. Unless you are qualified to understand dog biology and medicine, you should really limit “research” to consultations with qualified vets.

Overall however there is plenty for the skeptical dog owner to have misgivings about César Millán. His outdated theories on dog behavior, his questionable methods of training and punishing dogs, his reliance on quack medicine for dogs, his ambiguous vocabulary on “energy” and other common pseudo science buzz words. Based on all of this, I’d recommend extreme caution in using any of Millán’s methods.

25 Responses to “Getting Skeptical of the Dog Whisperer”

  1. Bryan says:

    There are a lot of problems here, the first being ascribing this method as Cesars. Its been around for hundreds (if not thousands) of years – you’re giving him far more credit than he deserves.

    1) Animals that rely on dominance do so to control mating and access to resources
    This is incorrect; dominance in used for a number of things by many species. In the case of wolves (i.e. the most relevant example here), “dominant” members (misleading term) are the breeding members, but also lead hunts (i.e. its an organizational/coordinating tool), choose if/when/where the pack migrates, etc.

    Dog/wolf packs are organized more along family lines, so the conventional view of dominance in wolf packs is wrong(i.e. alpha female isn’t the female who became dominant, but rather tends to be mom) – but pack-order and parental “dominance” still plays a major roles in pack behaviour – and fights over dominance do occur – often ended in offspring leaving the pack to form their own.

    2) It’s enforced constantly, sometimes resulting in animals being killed to enforce that control.
    Deaths are quite rare in the wild, even in highly aggressive species. Secondly, its not enforced constantly (that’s impossible: eating, sleeping, etc get in the way). Rather, deviations are punished immediately, and dominant animals make frequent displays to re-exert their dominance. This is quite similar to what Cesar does. There also is often positive re-enforcement of proper behaviour – the opposite of what Cesar does.

    3) It is also generally agreed among psychologists that punishment is not an effective way to correct unwanted behavior in humans
    Completely irrelevant; the cognative evolution of wolves/dogs has deviated from that of humans for ~80 million years (i.e. the evolved completely separately and have few shared aspects). You cannot compare the two.

    4) Punishment, among most trainers of animals, is considered backwards and antithetical to successful obedience training.
    This should actually read “some trainers of animals”. People feel bad punishing animals these days, leading many modern trainers to rely on operant conditioning (i.e. positive re-enforcement), where you simply reward good behaviour in order to train. Cesar’s “method” is the opposite – you punish bad behaviour – and has a reported success rate apparently equal to that of operant conditioning.

    Neither method is used when training dog beyond basic obedience (i.e. service dogs, drug dogs, hunting/herding animals, etc) – this type of training usually relies on a combination of both methods; and probably is the closest mimic to “nature”.

    My point, as long as its taken me to get to it, is simple – Cesar’s methods do work, do mimic a *part* of wolf behaviour (and presumably dog behaviour). But like the operant conditioning methods preferred today, its only a partial mimic of natural dog/wolf behaviour, and only seems to work in the context of basic obedience training. More advanced training – rescue/drug/hunting/herding dogs, for example, generally combine the two methods.

    I’ll end by point out here the irony of chastising Cesars woo (which is valid), while failing to mention most of the alternate training methods are equally woo-prone…

  2. Morgan says:

    I use Cesars methods on my dogs… And guess what!? They listen so much better the half the out there who’s owners use”positive renforment “traing and clicker training -mega eye roll- dogs have and NEED an alpha! And comparing humans to dogs is useless be cause for the most part we aren’t much alike.As Cesar says ” dogs live in the moment,they aren’t worrying about the past or the future ,that’s humans!”AlsoI use homeopathic on every single one of my animals and none of them have ever gotten sick,they all had shots at 8 weeks and NEVER again and are healthier then some people’s know who get their animals shot on a regular basis.The reason his methods wouldnt continue working after he leaves is not because they don’t work but because the OWENERS get lazy! If they stop the dogs will go right back to what they were before.Cesars methods work ,all this boo hooing about “hurt the animals feeling etc” need to stop.they are dogs not children.DOGS.

  3. Mark says:

    @Bryan

    The term “operant conditioning” includes both reward and punishment.

    Furthermore, in the psychology literature, you’ll see that operant conditioning largely works the same way in all animals (including both humans and dogs.) So when Ethan stated:

    “It is also generally agreed among psychologists that punishment is not an effective way to correct unwanted behavior in humans”

    … he could have left off “in humans,” and the statement would still be valid.

    • Bryan says:

      The term “operant conditioning” includes both reward and punishment.
      You are, of course, correct. I couldn’t think of the correct term – the “preferred” methods (which some might call “new”, despite not being so) generally rely on the positive re-enforcement side of operand conditioning. Clicker training being the more obvious example.

      operant conditioning largely works the same way in all animals (including both humans and dogs.) So when Ethan stated:

      “It is also generally agreed among psychologists that punishment is not an effective way to correct unwanted behavior in humans”

      … he could have left off “in humans,” and the statement would still be valid.
      Here I have to disagree. Firstly, the claim punishment is not effective is, in and of itself, false. Studies have shown that punishment (in people, canines, mice, etc) is very effective if it immediately follows the behaviour you wish to prevent and is applied consistently (meaning, it does work if you do it right). That’s not to say punishment-only training is a good idea – its a very bad one, as it induces unwanted secondary behaviours – notably aggression. What rarely gets mentioned by the pro-positive re-enforcement crowd is that pure positive re-enforcement training is associated with many of the same unwanted secondary behaviours.

      I’d also point out that your claim that operant conditioning works in a similar fashion across species, while true, relies on taking my comment out of context, and doesn’t counter what I had stated. The basic mechanism which allows operant conditioning to work appears to have arisen early in vertebrate evolution. However, the way those feed into the more advanced cognitive parts of our/dog brains (i.e. the elements that create the often-unwanted secondary behaviours) evolved much more recently and are not shared across mammalian orders. This invalidates the call to psychologists, as the pathways which lead to unwanted behaviour in humans will be different than those in wolves/dogs – indeed, the resulting secondary behaviours are quite different between the species. For example, mental escape (receding into oneself, not physically escaping) responses are common in humans; they’re unseen (and possibly impossible given the brain structures involved) in dogs.

      Bryan

  4. CanadianChick says:

    Milan has been roundly discredited by virtually every professional body involved in animal training. Defenders of his animal training methods are akin to those people who say “well, spanking me for minor infractions as a kid worked, so I’m going to spank my kids that way too” in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.

    a friend of mine is a trainer – she’s put in so many hours “fixing” dogs trained by Milan’s outdated methods.

  5. wize says:

    The first part of your essay is so riddled with logical fallacies (mostly in the straw man family) that I am really disapointed that its on this site. Just a few of my favorites;
    When you add Andrew Luescher’s comment to compare Ceasars method of flooding to a spider phobic “locking a person into a closet, releasing hundreds of spiders into that closet, and keeping the door shut until the person stops reacting” Taking something to the ridiculous doesnt make your view valid.

    “any type of punishment in which the dog is punished with an unpleasant condition to discourage future behavior. It’s the same type of thinking that suggests spanking a child for misbehaving.”
    Again you are comparing apples and oranges. Alluding that both are the same doesn’t make it so. Your next two paragraphs continue to insinuate that Ceasar’s positive punishment is actually corporal punishment. Anyone reading this would visualize the normal definition of corporal punishment of repeated striking of an animal. This is definately not what happens.

    Just because this David Mech has tried to relabel some aspects of wolf behavior doesn’t change the fact that the pack is dominance based. It also is a subjective opinion albiet from a professional in the field. The next few paragraphs try to take this opinion and build and arguement from it. I especially like the arguement that if there’s no apportunity to breed then there won’t be dominance. Obviously the author doesn’t observe many groups of animals often. Take for instance a herd of mares (female horses). They certainly don’t mate with each other but they have a dominant mare and a heirarchy all the way down to the last mare.

    I’ll end this by saying that the only thing the author did get right is Ceasar’s promotion of woo is dangerous and wrong. I am assuming he just doesn’t know better and hopes someone enlightens him soon.

    • Ethan Clow says:

      @Wize,

      Leosrme covered most of the issues with your comment. However there are a few things I’d like to add on. You seem misinformed on the nature of punishment vs corporal punishment. I would recommend you do a bit of reading on it.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punishment_(psychology)

      However to quickly summarize the points, corporal punishment is positive punishment. I’m not comparing two different things, they are exactly the same thing. Corporal punishment is a type of positive punishment.

      Just because Mech has done new research and re-evaluated his conclusions actually does mean something. This is called science. Would you say that Einstein was trying “relabel” Newtonian physics and that his “opinion” doesn’t change the “fact” that Newtonian physics is still right? I would hope not.

      • PrometheansFire says:

        Ethan, a piece of advice, keep your day work.
        Freethinker? to me is more like you’re following the herd…
        I just found your site following a link when trying to clarify on this same nonsense about Cesar being “wrong” in his methodology and philosophy with other person.

        And I found that you’re more misinformed than those who blindly follow the Dogma of the “purely positive” training.
        So, I wanted to give to you this information to see how much of a “Freethinker” you are…

        First at all… David Mech did not “re-evaluated” anything, he set the record straight, altogheter with others experts on the field Debunked the Myth about “Dominance being a Myth” used by those Pigeons detractors of Cesar Millan.
        (I Love the irony in this…)

        Dr. Bekoff: “In response to my essay, David Mech wrote to me:
        “I probably won’t have time to read this right now, for I’m preparing for a trip out of the country early next week. However, a quick scan of the Kelley article reveals much misinformation attributed to me.
        This misinterpretation and total misinformation like Kelley’s has plagued me for years now.
        I do not in any way reject the notion of dominance.”

        Now how this is related to Cesar Millan Philosophy and metodology? Well, he states this:

        - ” I’ve used the word dominance to describe the energy of leadership, but in the animal world dominance doesn’t mean “brutality,” and assertive certainly doesn’t mean “aggressive.” I believe that good leadership never involves bullying or intimidating; instead, it depends on confidence, knowing what you want, and sending clear, consistent messages about what you want.” – Cesar Millan

        Which by the way, it’s True… but where is the science in which he bases his methods? Well, how about this…

        Journal of Mammalogy, 2005 DOMINANCE, AGGRESSION, AND GLUCOCORTICOID LEVELS IN SOCIAL CARNIVORES SCOTT CREEL
        (this study was made in the wild, studing Wolfs, the African Wild Dog and Dwarf Mongooses by Scott Creel)

        The clearest behavioural correlate of high rank was that ALPHAS won a high proportion of their contests, but it seems unlikely that winning is more stressful than losing.
        Speculatively, it is possible that the higher GC (GLUCOCORTICOID) levels of Dominants are a Consequence of their ‘Behavioural State’, rather than their overt actions.
        For example, readiness to escalate a fight when challenged may be a Cognitive Stressor, even if NO CHALLENGE IS MADE.
        This same pattern is seen in African wild dogs (Creel et al. 1996, 1997): while ALPHAS have higher GC levels than subordinates, there is little association between GC levels and rank among nonalphas.
        It is intriguing that elevated GC levels are more clearly related to ALPHA status than to behavioural variables (e.g. rate of aggression) – Scott Creel 2002

        It’s a Clear Fact that for a Dog is LESS Stressful be the Subordinate Calm Submisive, than be an ALPHA Dominant.

        You Do Not go to Change the Mental State of a Dominant dog with Treats or Bribery and what Cesar’s approach Acctually Does is HE CHANGE THE MENTAL STATE OR BEHAVIOURAL STATE OF A DOMINANT DOG to one CALM SUBMISIVE STATE.
        (sorry for the CAPS, were designed for Dogmatic minds and I’m lazy right now to change it)

        Do you get it?… No? Do you want more?

        and this just get worse and worse for the Pigeons, this study was already confirmed by a recent one

        It’s tough at the top for alpha males: study
        AFP – Thu, Jul 14, 2011
        The results of nine years of research on wild baboons, published in the journal Science, suggest that despite perks like easy access to mates and food, top-ranking males experience similar stress levels as their lowest-rung counterparts.
        Those in the middle showed lower stress than either the top or bottom ranking males, according to measurements of testosterone and a stress hormone known as glucocorticoid.
        “Alpha males exhibited much higher stress hormone levels than second-ranking (beta) males, suggesting that being at the top may be more costly than previously thought,” said the study led by researchers at Princeton University.

        Yes, I said worse and WORSE…

        Stress Hormone Might Help Overcome Fears
        By By Amanda Gardner
        HealthDay Reporter | HealthDay – Mon, Jul 11, 2011

        MONDAY, March 28 (HealthDay News) — Adding the stress hormone Cortisol to more traditional exposure therapy may help anxious patients overcome their fear of heights, researchers say.
        Exposure therapy involves gradually exposing people to the thing they fear — be it height or spiders — in order to reduce fear responses.
        But while promising, this experimental treatment is not yet ready for prime time, said the authors of a study published online March 28 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
        “This is a first study — a proof of concept, if you wish,” said study lead author Dr. Dominique J.-F. de Quervain, director of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

        There is so much more, but I think that its enough for you.

        So, tell me, what do you think now about Cesar Millan?

  6. Leosrme says:

    Quoting “wize”
    “…Take for instance a herd of mares (female horses). They certainly don’t mate with each other but they have a dominant mare and a heirarchy all the way down to the last mare…”

    Thing is, Wize, horses are not dogs or wolves and do not act in the same way. Horses are prey and herd animals. They form herds for protection. There may be a leader but she is usually the oldest and most experienced mare. She’s the one who makes the decisions to keep them safe. In the wild, they would be part of a herd where there is a stallion. He is their ultimate protector and will also defend his harem against other males. It’s completely different. To use one of your own quotes “it’s like comparing apples and oranges”.

    Dogs are not prey animals but predators and they do not form herds for protection. Wolves form co-operative packs in order to hunt and procreate. They mostly hunt prey animals that one wolf alone could not bring down. They need the stability of the pack to help rear the young. The Alpha male and female in a wolf pack are in fact the breeding pair and not necessarily a dominant pair.

    Such methods used in aversive dog training as the “alpha roll” (because that’s what wolves do) are completely mis-interpreted. Wolves don’t alpha roll other wolves. One wolf will actually throw itself on its back in the face of aggression from another wolf, thereby diffusing the aggression by saying “I am not a threat to you, everything is fine”. You really need to read more about dominance theory as it appertains to wolves and how it has been discredited in the case of dogs.

    I suggest one good book you should read is “Dogs” by the Coppingers. Ray Coppinger is involved with breeding dogs but is also a scientist. Their study of feral dogs has shown that they do not form packs or hierachies. The Coppingers are not the only scientists to study this phenomenon. It appears that you have not bothered to read any books of this nature. David Mech admitted that he had got it wrong all those years ago. Takes a big person to be able to come out in public and admit that your well published theories were wrong.

    CM does in fact use flooding, as many aversive trainers do, and the analogy of spiders in the closet is somewhat accurate. Appears that you do not understand how flooding works on dogs. It can cause serious psychological damage.

    Positive training, using operant conditioning and classical conditioning is proved to work. Many well known trainers, authors and lecturers on the subject are in fact scientists too. I am not a scientist, just a positive dog trainer trying to make a difference in a Cesar Millan and Brad Pattison oriented world. I do not believe it is necessary to hurt and terrify a dog in order to train it.Positive training works in the case of behaviour modification by changing the dogs emotional response to something. Aversive training works too, no doubt. But it supresses the behaviour and does not change the dog’s emotional response. Sure, the dog will comply, but it won’t trust you. Ever. And one day, your aggressive dog that was “cured” using aversive methods, who has learned not to exhibit the behaviour for fear of the pain that results, will come across a situation where the stimulus will be so great that he will have to react despite the fear of pain. However, he won’t give you any warning at all. That is a dangerous dog.

    I am beginning to feel that your screen name of “Wize” is a bit of a misnoma.

    • wize says:

      Leosrme;
      In your rebuttal; “Wize, horses are not dogs or wolves and do not act in the same way. Horses are prey and herd animals. ” You deliberately missed the point of my arguement. I was creating an example to refute the claim that an animal(not just a dog) would not use dominance at all if there was no apportunity to breed. Telling me that horses are prey animals is irrevelant to my original argument.

      You also seem to be of the opinion that since wolves work cooperatively then there is no dominance. Seems a pretty weird stance to make. I’m not exactly sure what type logical fallacy that is. Coorperation and dominance are seen together throughout the animal kingdom. Why would you propose wolves would be different?

      Ethan Clow,
      You tell me that positive punishment is the same as corperal punishment and that they are not apples and oranges. Thats the same as saying flogging with a bull whip is the same as talking in a loud firm voice to discourage unwanted behavior. Both come under the definition as you see it. I stand by my point about apples and oranges as being relevant; same order, different species.

      Maybe some of the difference of opinion originates from differing definitions of dominance as found in the animal kingdom. If you are only defining dominance as a state where animals are constantly vying for control of the leader or breeding role then I think you are narrowing your view too much. Dominance between pack members/family members/herd members can and does exist without a constant pressure between animals to change positions. Perhaps the aformentioned narrow viewpoint is only used in this paper to shore up a faulty argument.

  7. hornblower says:

    I would like to add two position statements from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior. “The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) is a group of veterinarians and research professionals who share an interest in understanding behavior in animals.”

    Dominance Position Statement:
    http://www.avsabonline.org/avsabonline/images/stories/Position_Statements/dominance%20statement.pdf

    Punishment Position Statement:
    http://www.avsabonline.org/avsabonline/images/stories/Position_Statements/Combined_Punishment_Statements.pdf

    Both position statement include research references.

  8. Jason says:

    Best article I have read regarding Ceasar and his approach, if you could call it that ….

    http://btoellner.typepad.com/kcdogblog/2010/03/cesar-millan-his-dog-and-his-critics.html

    Further, the element which I really appreciated this article for was found in the comment section where Melissa Jo Peltier, “one of the executive producers of Dog Whisperer and also Cesar’s co-author on all his books” choose to respond.

    Hearing a rebuttal from the person in question is always nice.

  9. Ricky says:

    Cesar’s critics I find are overtly harsh, he’s FAR from being cruel to his animals. He does finger pokes !!

    And he uses positive re-inforcements equally… But they rarely give him credit for this, or if they do it is in passing.

    Also, comparing humans to dogs in terms of behavior and psychology is not something I would expect from Skeptic North. It makes no sense whatsoever.

    For sure his support of unproven methods of treatment are dangerous.

  10. Rod says:

    I have seen the show a number of times but I am not a fan more because it is yet another show with 5 minutes of useful information and the rest filled with ads, irrelevant fill and artificial urgency. This is like the vast majority of television these days.

    What I do know from many years involved with dog training is that there are a multitude of approaches and each have variable success. What works with one dog is rarely guaranteed to work with the next. Much of what Cesar does in not novel.

    The thing that is important with any dog training is consistency. While I am not obsessed with the Alpha thing, the dog can not be left to run the show. I have long coated dogs and people have said to me “How do you manage to groom them so nicely? My dog does not like to be groomed.”. My answer is typically “Do you mean to say that you asked the dog?”.

    A more important question underlying the problem dogs seen on this show is how did these people get this dog? Many problem dogs come from pet stores or less reputable breeders. Buying from a good breeded means you get to “meet the family” before buying and the breeder gets to meet you. Most breeders I know will not sell to what they consider an “unqualified” buyer. They will also support you if you do have problems.

    What I have seen is the shows I have bothered to watch is the wrong people with the wrong dog.

  11. Cameron says:

    Just want to say that the paper you use as back-up for “flooding” is pretty lousy. Caesar’s methods are more akin to desensitization and habituation than flooding, and that makes a huge difference. Also, the author only watched a few episodes, which is hardly a good sample to make such gross oversimplifications.

  12. hal2011 says:

    CM will be touring Canada with many shows starting Nov 4. Anyone doing any protests?

    http://www.ticketmaster.ca/artist/1411267?wt.mc_id=EML_NTF343877_2pt_e_imgname_o_1#artist_table_focus

  13. bravogolden says:

    When has Millan ever hit a dog?His habituation is hardly the same as being in a pit of vipers.

    Many of his clients are of the Rescue mentality.They want to be good people and adopt dogs with problems they cannot handle with love alone.Many of Millans critics might well recommend euthanasia for many of these dogs as click and treat often does little for all out human and dog aggression.Millans client seem to arrive at his very dog friendly ranch. after going to the the self proclaimed professionals.His own pack of tough, often aggressive dogs speaks to his personal skills..to be one of his dogs would be a good thing.Far better than a one way trip to the vet ..Leave the man alone..

    • Hireme says:

      You are right on, Bravogolden! A number of years ago, I was so delighted to find Cesar’s show about training owners and rehabilitating dogs! I am a life long dog owner and lover. I have used Cesar’s methods long before I ever heard of him, and they work perfectly. These methods were taught to me by my Grandfather, so they certainly are not new; but now, because of his show, a majority of dog owners know them and are putting them into practice! I am sure that the popularity of Cesar’s show has saved thousands, maybe millions of dogs’ lives; and improved the family dynamic in countless homes where a canine is included as a part of it.
      I think there must be some serious professional jealousy going on by all of his detractors. My 50+ years of canine experience is enough to convince me that Cesar Milan is right, and to all of his detractors, eat your hearts out! and, to quote Bravogolden. “LEAVE THE MAN ALONE!”

  14. Tim McDowell says:

    I’m on the fence about whether his methods work, or are evidence based. I think a lot of it makes sense, and most of the time on his show the problem isn’t the dogs…it’s the owners. I think the thing with any animal is consistency, no matter what technique is used. The show is edited of course, and we have no way of knowing how many failures he has; only the successes will end up being broadcast.

    But, Cesar does have a bit of the woo in him. In several shows he’s had the dogs get acupuncture, Reiki, and he also seems to be a believer in the “raw food” diet fad.

  15. John says:

    Interesting vedio and great dog’s trainer he is.Millan actually knows
    about the relationship between dogs and humans.There are some harsh
    techniques to “control” their dogs instead of training them. I think
    he has a lot of great insight into how dogs think and they let you
    know what typical dog behavior is and what to expect from dogs. Our
    relationships with our dogs shouldn’t be based on some sort of false
    idea that there is a power struggle going on.Dogs don’t ignore us
    because they don’t think we’re “dominant” enough.There was a study
    done, and it was concluded that dogs have the intelligence and
    behavior of a child that is approximately 2 years old.

  16. Miguel says:

    Good post and great work, Millan does.To handle a dogs perfectly, we
    should be familiar with them. Main thing we should take care of food
    for them.
    Millan’s two central points are very interesting but that’s the facts.
    In case of dog’s training positive punishment is nothing but the corrections in their behavior.

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  • Ethan Clow

    Ethan Clow, born and raised in the Vancouver area, is best known in the skeptical community as Ethan the Freethinking Historian, co-host of Radio Freethinker, a skeptical podcast and radio show on CiTR in Vancouver. And as the former Executive Director of the Centre for Inquiry Vancouver. Ethan graduated with a B.A. in History from UBC in the fall of 2009 and has an active role with skeptical movements in Vancouver and British Columbia. He was an executive member of the UBC Freethinkers, a campus club that promotes skepticism and critical thinking. He still maintains a close relationship with the UBC Freethinkers and helps plan events and organizes skeptical activism as best he can. Currently he works for the Centre for Inquiry as the Executive Director of CFI Vancouver.