Sometimes Cesar is Right

Ok now. Take a deep breath. Don’t start creating an angry rant in your mind. Just hear me out.

Cesar Millan, with his multimedia empire, doesn’t need me to defend him. He has plenty of followers with an amazing ability to repeat his talking points. Even the Republican party isn’t as good at remaining on message.

But that’s the idea.

I think some of us in the science-based, purely positive camp of dog lovers can get a little self-righteous. And in our desire to create an ideal world, lose our ability to talk to, much less persuade, dog lovers who haven’t gotten on the same page with us yet.

Golden Retriever and Man

You're letting me dominate you again. That's why I'm such a wicked dog.

Recent research on human behavior posits that when people only spend time with folks who agree with them, their viewpoints become more extreme. I think that’s fine when we’re talking about my opinion. But I don’t want folks who disagree with me to get any more set in their ways.

Since every third person in the real world I talk to about dogs mentions the words “dominant” and “calm assertive leadership,” I’ve vowed to answer their comments constructively. That means I’ve sought out the points of agreement with Mr. Millan and his minions (oops, did I write that out loud?) followers so I can reply with something more open than “You moron. That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

So here’s what I think Cesar has right:

  • Most dogs do need more exercise. They are happier and more enriched when they get plenty of time to sniff, run outside, and play.
  • You should remain calm around your dog, no matter how she behaves (I think you can skip the assertive part, however.) I know that I’ve caused problems with my dogs when I got panicky because I anticipated their reacting negatively to other dogs. If I had been more calm, they probably would have been too.
  • Adult dogs deserve to be treated as dogs, not cute, stuffed animals. I love cuddling my dog as much as the next person. But Honey needs more than just my affection. She deserves to be treated as an adult animal with needs and desires that don’t always dovetail with my own. (I doubt Cesar would agree with that last sentence but I think we’re in agreement with the first one.)
  • Dogs need to use their noses. I think that’s part of recognizing that they are different from us.
Dog on Man

I think I'm sensing a theme here. Mr, you are puppy-whipped!

Keeping these things in mind means that when someone starts talking about their dog behaving like an “alpha,” I haven’t poisoned the discussion with my arguments. I can say, “Yes, it’s important for dogs to know where they fit in their homes. Did you know that the researcher, David Mech, who popularized the term “Alpha” when studying wolves in captivity, has a more complete picture now based on new research about wild wolf packs?

There are many ways in which dogs are treated badly by their people. Some are yelled at and can’t understand why. Others are killed with kindness when they’re overfed and under-exercised. Cesar addresses some of those things. It’s up to us to keep the lines of communication open so people don’t think pinning your dog is the right way to deal with fear aggression. It’s up to us to provide ideas about safe, effective ways of living with the dogs we choose to live with.

What do you think?

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Comments

  1. I agree with you on the points Cesar got right. I’m sure a lot of people know them and they’re pretty much common sense.
    Thanks for letting us know about the actual pack structure in the case of wolves. It does make a lot of sense for puppies to stay with their mother or father and hunt/live/eat together.
    If it’s respect for their elders that wolves (and I assume dogs too) have, I wonder what would make them feel the same way towards humans…

  2. Oh Cesar. *wince* I think you have a lot of really good and interesting points here, though:
    The exercise thing is HUGE. I wish more people were saying it: a tired dog is a good dog. I am realizing more and more how much my calmness really does make a difference for Daphne, and I’m trying to focus on that. Yes, huge crowds are scary, but she really does seem less freaked out when I’m all, “Wow, this corner sure is relaxing. I love sitting quietly among crowds!” I think there is a place for assertion, but it’s usually around other people; we are responsible for protecting people from our dogs, yes, but also for protecting our dogs from people who don’t know how to approach or interact with them.

    I love this whole post and won’t comment on every single sentence… but thanks for sharing it!

  3. I agree with you! I’m not a fan of Ceasar, but I do think there are many people who don’t understand their dogs’ needs to be a dog. I just think there are better ways to meet those needs than with some of his methods!

  4. Good point. After posting “He saw, he came … and did not whisper” which was about Cesar’s visit to promote his upcoming tour to Denmark the heat of the discussion sometimes was too much. There was a similar tweet convo I had with Dutch people after supporters and opponents discussed the upcoming seminar of Cesar in their country, that went sour for the same reasons.

    I can understand the frustration of the people in the “positive camp”. For them it must be horrible to see (even if part of what he says is correct) him getting air time for alpha rolls and pinch collars. But constructive dialog is the answer. But it is tough. I think part of the problem is also that positive trainers feel attacked and they don’t have a charismatic person that talks their cause that can match Cesar’s PR. A lot of Cesar fans are saying they “don’t need expensive trainers for something they can fix with Cesar’s methods in 20 minutes”. Positive trainers feel hurt, know that it isn’t true, something they have studied for years is in one line erradicated, AND they know there is one dog on the other end of the line that is going to suffer. Hard to keep the dialogue flowing when confronted with one-liners like that which stab straight in the heart …

    Training dogs is about training people, what a tough job it is!

  5. I think most successful trainers have something positive to add to the discussion. I would no more blindly follow any one trainer to the exclusion of all others than I would blindly follow my husband on every decision about how to manage our home, and I love my husband. Not even considering another person’s point of view on any topic only further divides us as people.

  6. I don’t hate Cesar. There are people a lot worse than he out there. In fact, I have a post of my own in the works about one such person. The thing I will give Cesar credit for is that he always keeps an open mind. If food works, he will use food, if his traditional methods aren’t helping, he will try something else. Sometimes that something else is even worse, but I respect that he is willing to seek other options. He never judges anyone or looks down on dog owners who just don’t know anything. For the most part, he is kind to the people he works with.

    But that is enough Cesar love for one comment. 😛

    You are absolutely right, of course. The more we judge people and shut down their arguments, the more we prevent real conversations. This is true for all topics. Cesar isn’t the real enemy. The real eneny are people who see him as some sort of dog training god and won’t consider anything else. The real enemy are people who shock their dogs into submission and won’t open their minds to better ways. Like you say, we won’t get anywhere if we are just as narrow-minded in our opinions, even if they are the right ones.

    Great post! I love having more to think about. :-)

  7. I try not to think, speak, and/or write about He Who Shall Not Be Named, but if someone asks me about him, I will say what I think (and most of it isn’t good). The best comparison I’ve come up with is this … He is the Sarah Palin of the dog world … infer from that what you will. :o)

  8. did I mention that the photo and caption about Honey dominating him and being a wicked dog made me burst out laughing? thanks for a much-needed chuckle!

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  2. […] Pamela at Something Wagging This Way Comes wrote a much less long-winded post on finding the middle ground. If you haven’t read it yet, you should. She makes a lot of very good points. And doesn’t ramble nearly as much about herself. […]