Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cesar Millan Live in Kamloops: My thoughts

Quick preview: I am by no means a fan of Cesar Millan. I went to his live show so that I could provide accurate information to clients when they ask about him.
Okay, on with the post:
A dog training friend and I went to Cesar Millan Live last night. We arrived, took our seats and the show started. He started his show out by talking about his past. He talked about how he grew up on his grandfathers farm and learned about dogs and dog training from his grandfather. He then went on to talk about how he illegally jumped the Mexico/US border. After that he talked a bit about his children and how he raises them in a similar way that he trains dogs. Then he went on to explain that when he got to the US he saw all these people wearing piles of things to walk their dogs and how strange that was for him. He brought out the first two dogs, a chocolate lab puppy and a Blue Heeler puppy. All he really did with them was feed them. Didn't even touch them which was pretty bizarre and useless. Then he talked a bit about his dog training "tree". This "tree", like his other diagrams, was very strange. His tree basically stated that Positive reinforcement and "traditional training" cause fear, anxiety, war, and poverty. I find it very ironic that he says "traditional training" is not the same as what he does because really, the principles of his training and traditional yank and crank training is pretty much the same.

Next dog up was a "wolf dog" who apparently guards her owners property from bears. the whole time this dog was on stage, both Cesar and  the dogs Handler were commenting on how "calm and submissive" the dog was being. meanwhile the dog was panting, licking his lips, yawning, squinting his eyes etc. Which are all calming signals. That indicates to me that this dog was not calm by any means. He was in fact very stressed.

Then after some more useless blabber, out came the next dog. Cesar's first on stage "case". An intact male pit mix. His issue was pulling on leash. The dog came out wearing a flat collar. Cesar took the dog from the handler and put his signature nylon slip leash on him. He promptly corrected the dog for pretty much everything it did. Threw in a couple of rib "touches" too. After a few minutes he gave the leash back to the handler and taught him how to correct the dog with the slip lead. Lot's of calming signals coming off of this dog too. In the end the dog really didn't learn anything.

Next "case" was a foxhound looking dog. This dogs problem was excitement over toys and clapping/cheering. So again, Cesar takes the dog and puts it on a little slip leash. then proceeds to correct the dog every time it looked at the toy or dared try to TOUCH the toy. It was quite a sad site considering all the dog really had was toy drive! By the end of about 5 minutes the dog was shutting down. Absolutely no confidence left. Slinking on the ground, major whale eye, lip licking etc. That dog was confused and terrified!

They also brought out a black German shepherd "police dog". Watching that pair work, there was obviously lots of praise and positive reinforcement happening. That dog was doing his job for the toy and loving from his handler. Not because it knew it needed to be "submissive". I also learned upon further investigation, that this pair was not from the Kamloops police department but actually brought in from a private security company in the US.

He made several statements that reinforced to me how absolutely clueless he is. He mentioned multiple times that a dogs past is not an important part of training. That dogs live totally in the present. That I disagree with. Knowing a dogs history can really help you determine the best course of action when you are trying to help a dog through behavior problems. He also said that on an "aggression scale" of 1-10 his favorite place to work at is 2.That is wrong on so many levels. For optimal learning, dogs should be completely calm and relaxed at 0. When you are doing any kind of behavior mod, keeping the dog as far under threshold as possible will help the dog learn faster and more effectively. The more stressed and over threshold the dog is, the less effective your training will be. Good dog trainers always try everything possible to keep the dog at 0. One thing that really disturbed me about Cesar was his pride in having been bitten. He seemed to take it as a sort of "badge of honor". I would NEVER take pride in having been bitten. Being bitten in a Behavior Mod situation likely means that you pushed the dog so far over threshold that they had to resort to using their most intense defense mechanism, teeth. If you are pushing dogs over threshold so far that they are biting, you need to reevaluate what you are doing because it isn't working. Something is wrong. Accidents happen but don't take pride in pushing a dog to the point of biting. That's just wrong.

To summarize, it was pretty worthless. There was really no substance in the whole 2 hours. It was all just fluff and sparkles. Whether you are a Cesar Millan fan or not, it's not worth your money. It was really just him repeating this idea that dogs are trying to "take over the world" with their dominance and that they need to be put in their place, which is simply untrue. There are much better ways to actually TEACH a dog to do something rather than just walking around with a confused, shut down dog that has no idea what is going on. I really didn't get anything from it that I couldn't have gotten from watching his TV show. I also felt really bad for the poor dogs. Cesar Millan or not, that was a scary environment  Definitely not a situation I would ever put my dogs into.  

Jill


27 comments:

  1. Hi Jill,
    I have to say your perspective on Cesar Millan is very good. I have never really thought he was a great trainer. He seems old school and newer methods of training have given such better results.
    Pat B in Waukesha, Wisconsin

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  2. What a great review of his "show"! Thanks Jill, for going, and actually watching the dogs body language rather then listening to the "spiel".

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  3. And also travelling to different stages plays a role in the behaviour modifications.. For some dogs , its a stressful environment and also for some dogs , they react differently. He may act brilliantly on one stage in Halifax then went on to Toronto stage , he turned and snapped. We will never know how a dog thinks but I find it cruel to take dogs on the stages to demonstrate ' skills '.. I think Cesar should be using slides and do a verbal presentation. Using slides and pictures allows us to see how a dog would behave in their own environments. I find stages very intimidating and overwhelming. Sometimes it serves no purpose except for " entertainment" Thanks for the info..

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  4. I very much appreciate your concise and yet detailed synopsis of the "show." From what I've seen on tv that's what I would have expected.

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  5. Thank you for sharing your view on his show.

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  6. What a balanced and fair review, thank you for writing this. I'm going to share it, and I do hope that this goes around the world a few times :)

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  7. Wow, I don't get it... Cesar NEVER states he is a dog trainer, so why are you putting him in that category?? In fact, when he needs a trainer for the person and the dog, he brings one in. He is all about behavior, and teaching people how to deal with behavior in themselves and their dogs. So why are you trying to put him in as a trainer when that isn't remotely who he is. I have trained and worked Rottweilers for 25 years. You have to get the behaviors you are looking for before you do ANY training. Most people out there want a calm and submissive dog, and no amount of training is going to get you that!!! Behavior modification between owner and their dog, is key 1st. And by the way.... Licking, panting, yawning, are signs of submission, the squinty eye thing is probably because he was panting !! you make me mad, because you should know better. you went with the intent to find fault AND warn people, and because you went with that attitude, that's exactly what you saw. Maybe you need to call Cesar to get an adjustment on your behavior.!! Not impressed.

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    1. Ok, Margaret, take a read, educate yourself, and then come back and comment. Lets come into the 21st century of dog training/behavior modification:
      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090521112711.htm
      http://avsabonline.org/uploads/position_statements/dominance_statement.pdf
      http://www.canis.no/rugaas/onearticle.php?artid=1
      I used to be a fan until I began to educate myself on behavior and research supported by scientific evidence. Happy reading!

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    2. Margaret,
      Licking, panting, yawning are in the category of stress and displacement behaviors. Appeasement behaviors are things like licking at another dog's mouth, rolling over to show belly,submissive urination or lifting a front paw. These are all very well documented by scientists and behavior experts.
      Behavior modification is steeped deeply in training and one does not function without the other. This is common knowledge in the dog and behavior world.
      I would love to point you and Cesar toward information that supports what Jill has written about so you have the correct information rather than continuing to put information out into the world that is incorrect.
      For example, take a moment to follow this link from the American Veterinarian Behaviorist Society to learn more about the science or lack thereof concerning the dominance myths: http://avsabonline.org/uploads/position_statements/dominance_statement.pdf
      I have worked with untold number of dogs over the years, all with positive methods, and have never had to hurt, intimidate or dominate any of them, and I specialize in aggression and fear. Understanding dog behavior takes a combination of hands on experience and education to keep up with the field of behavior and training.
      I have also seen CM live and there is no "there, there." With out the voice over, the cutting room, and the hype, there are many, many gaps in his understanding behavior, and yes, training.
      Nan Arthur, CDBC, CPDT-KSA, KPACTP
      Author of Chill Out Fido! How to Calm you Dog

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    3. Hi Margaret. Thank you for sharing your opinion with us. If Cesar is not a trainer, then what is he? He is not a behaviorist because he doesn't have a degree in animal behavior. And "Dog Psychologist" does not exist. So actually yes, he is a dog trainer. I have done behavior mod and dominance theory plays no part in it. Dominance exists between two animals OF THE SAME SPECIES over one or more resources. A dog can not be dominant over a human, inanimate object,or animal of another species. Dominance is a behavior, not a personality trait! Licking, panting and yawning are in fact calming signals which is how dogs communicate with each other. Here is a nice blog post by Dr. Sophia Yin about dominance: http://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/dominance_in_dogs_is_not_a_personality_trait

      Jill

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    4. Margaret, I respectfully suggest that you google "calming signals". Jill, great blog post!

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    5. And yeah, he doesn't state he's a dog trainer. In fact, he claimed that he "want to be the best dog trainer in America". His own words.

      But that's neither here nor there. He operates based on bullying the dogs into suppression. Via physical punishment and intimidation. I don't know why that would be okay with you or why you would defend this.

      Sure, dogs use violence and intimidation on each other. That doesn't mean that we should. We're supposed to have the bigger brains. It's time we use them.

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  8. Wonderfully put! I used to be a fan, but I have changed my ways for the better. His lack of education leads him to explain everything he does by "it snaps them out of it"- that's all he has. He cant explain the mechanism behind why his methods work- which is positive punishment and intimidation.

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  9. Margaret Eggen here is a basic explanation of lip licking. In Canine Behavioral Sciences it is far more complex than this and often times it is the cluster of body language signals that is being read. Lip licking and yawning are not submissive behaviors by any means. The young lady who wrote this blog was very accurate with what she was describing, and her interpretation. http://dogs.about.com/od/dogtraining/a/lip-licking-in-dogs.htm

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  10. O by the way, I saw the show in Abbotsford and have a completely opposite opinion of what you saw, and the place was packed with people..hmmmm that tells you something. Plus he was great with the dogs !! A lot of trainers I know and respect were there, to learn, and they thought he was great!! I use a lot of his methods in rehabilitating dogs and training their peeps, and NEVER are we harsh, firm yes but not harsh. And what is old school training anyway, that comment is as varied as the languages we speak on earth.

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    1. Margaret, I believe that the folks above mean "outdated" when they say "old school". I sincerely hope you read the links that were provided for you.

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    2. What is "old school" .... you answered your own question!

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  11. Excellent blog piece. Congratulations! I hope you don't mind my sharing it with everyone!

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  12. Thanks to all who are sharing my post. I really appreciate it! :)

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  13. Jill, you are an amazing young woman with a real gift for observation of both dogs and humans. Keep up the good work and know that your generation will be making such a big difference in behavior and training.
    Thank you for sharing your honest and open thoughts.
    Nan Arthur, CDBC, CPDT-KSA, KPACTP
    Author: Chill Out Fido! How to Calm your Dog.

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  14. Thank you Nan!Dog training and behavior is really something I enjoy.

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  15. Great read, sounds accurate as to what I've seen and read about him. His kool-aid drinkers will always be that, they won't ever seen the light. Oh well keep on doing what you do, great review!

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  16. Thank you for the review. If a 14 year old can see that Cesar's training methods are worthless and inhumane, why can't his adult followers do the same?

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  17. Hi Jill, what a great article and your perception of CM is right on! I am a Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Trainer & I think you are AWESOME!!!! Keep up the good work!!!

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  18. I completely disagree!

    "Lot's of calming signals coming off of this dog too. In the end the dog really didn't learn anything."

    You're very wrong. The dog learned to fear Millan and probably other humans as a result. ;) Other than that, spot on assessment of this huckster who's messing up the lives of countless dogs and the relationship with their humans.

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  19. Same people who talking bad about Cesar Millan is same people that will put a red zone dog to sleep. You go to one show and you think you know everything about Cesar Millan.

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    1. I disagree. I am a dog trainer/behaviourist and I will never suggest a dog be euthanised because of aggression. Aggression can cover many issues, fear being one of them. I have a Border Collie who used to be aggressive to people and other dogs, but after working with her and living with her, she now loves people visiting and meeting people out on walks. We also now have a client's dog who stays with us 3-4 days a week who has become her best friend. If, as you say, we are people who would put a red zone dog to sleep, she would have been put to sleep at 4 months old! I used to agree with Cesar Milan and I agree that rules and boundaries are needed with any dog, just as they are with children. However, you do not succeed by bullying or intimidating, all that teaches them is to be scared of their handler/owner/people/dogs; in fact anything that was in the vicinity at the time! I once attempted (before I knew better) to use a spray bottle (water only) on a dog to stop it from attacking the cage I kept my pet rats in. It worked, or so I thought! Then I realised after I no longer had my rats, that all it taught her was to be scared of anything that sounds like a spray, or even the cupboard door being opened where the spray was kept! Is that training! I don't think so!

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