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.
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.
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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