Cesar Millan with his dog Junior.
Cesar Millan is probably one of the most well known and most controversial trainers of our time. Cesar burst on the dog training scene a number of years ago with his no-nonsense approach via the TV show "The Dog Whisperer". There has probably never been a more watched TV show about dogs. His approach is often very farmer-like in that he uses very few tools, although in some episodes he does use an eCollar.
I personally have very mixed feelings about him. There is tons of stuff that I love about him, but there are also things I don’t agree with. I guess what fuels the fire for the items that I dislike is the manner in which the public has interpreted and extrapolated what Cesar has said. Cesar's followers (TV style trainers) have learned to make a decent living by reciting a TV show and delivering a message without the substance to match. That certainly isn’t Cesar’s fault. Cesar was probably hired to provide a character for an interesting TV show. The goods were certainly delivered there.
Cesar is certainly gifted in his ability to live in harmony with large quantities of animals. I have no doubt about this either. Although often his dominance style approach will not translate over well to the owner of the dog. There are a number of episodes where the owner of the dog relinquishes ownership over to Cesar.
First off, Cesar preaches exercise, discipline and affection - I couldn’t agree more. A very large percentage of behavior issues can be resolved by exercising the “hell out the dog”. Many people simply get “too much dog”. A dog will find his own sources of entertainment if he is not provided with the necessary stimulation. Cesar often preaches walking. I will disagree here. The high drive dog needs a lot more than walking. I often suggest tug training for high energy dogs, in addition to running beside a bike.
I am also for discipline, only I prefer to teach the dog what is desired in a fairly soft manner. Once the desired behavior is understood then corrections have their place.
Cesar will often spin a bully or fearful dog around to let another dog sniff its butt. This is known as “flooding” approach (fearful dog) but in a dam bursting type manner. I personally prefer a much slower approach. I guess what I am hinting at here is that some of his techniques I don’t have a problem with, it is just the manner in which they are implemented sometimes.
What really drives me nuts though are all the metaphors, euphemisms and ambiguities in his delivered sermons. Some of these could be interpreted in a multitude of ways. I am always shocked at what some have derived out of certain episodes. There have been times I have been floored. People also don’t get the warning of “Don’t Try This At Home”. Somehow people also don’t understand the definition of the word “entertainment”.
Initially when Cesar began using eCollars on his show, I was thrilled that this much maligned tool might finally gain some credibility. I became concerned when I heard some fibs being told. In one episode Cesar tells people that his Dogtra collar has a 127 levels of vibration. I have sold Dogtra for a number of years. Their collars have 127 levels of stim (static shock) and only 1 level of vibrate. Let’s not lie to people because that destroys credibility on everything else. I believe the goal was to try to get acceptance from a tool that many had painted in a less than positive light. My disheartenment continued when I saw very poor use of an eCollar in a number of episodes. I simply do not understand how Cesar could not have learned how to use this tool properly. Cesar studied eCollar use under Martin Deeley. Martin is considered by many to be one of the real experts in eCollar use. I have no idea how much training Cesar had. I do know that a number of my friends and colleagues agree with me that his use of such a tool is less than ideal.
Recently, I was happy to see Cesar try a different approach for the reactive type dog. In the particular episode Cesar initially took his one size fits all spin'em around approach . He then later decided that since this dog was rescued from the streets of Mexico that it probably was not naturally aggressive off-leash. After all a feral dog which attacks every other off-leash dog would probably not survive very long in Mexico. Cesar eCollar trained the dog to stay in the general vicinity of the owner. This same dog showed very little aggression or reaction when presented with another dog, once off-leash . This is a very basic principle in "Large Field Socialization" approach. I have no idea why the show took so long to demonstrate a very valid approach. This should have occurred years ago before the show was demoted from the Nat Geo channel to the Nat Geo Wild channel.