Cesar Millan

Okay, I have to say it. I don’t like Cesar Millan’s training methods. He’s set dog training back about 20 years.

The Alpha Roll?! Come on, really. And I don’t know of any good trainer who would EVER say, “Don’t try this at home.” Then what’s the point, I ask you? Showmanship, ego, and money. That’s the point.

It’s not that Millan is wholly without merit. There are some training techniques that even Millan doesn’t have to turn into an aggressive “Me Leader–You Lower Than Dog Poop” show. But, on the whole, I find this man painful to watch. And I almost always feel very sorry for the dog.

There are several world-caliber trainers who run circles around Millan. Like Ian Dunbar, Suzanne Clothier, Patricia McConnell. Why don’t they have their own show? None of them have the massive ego or desire for media attention that Millan does.

And positive training doesn’t make for good TV. There’s no drama to quietly, and with dog-building confidence, help a dog learn how to make the right choices. Yep, that’s right, training not based on fear for one’s well-being and safety, but rather on the dog learning to decide to make the right choice — essentially the difference between being controlled by another vs. learning self-control. What a concept!

Addendum: Google seems to be sending people to the above post, rather than my post where I more thoroughly explain what I think Cesar is doing wrong and why, so I’m adding my post of Nov. 14, Cesar Millan — Take 2, here.

Seems Cesar has a way of stirring things up wherever he goes. He’s attracted a fair amount of attention here in Shanleyville.
Different trainers become popular with different people for different reasons. Obviously, the Dog Whisperer show has struck a nerve. I don’t find that surprising; there are a lot of dogs who need more training. And there are a lot of people who have problem dogs and don’t know how to help them. I’m just saddened that, with all the progress and advances in training and all the truly great trainers out there, it’s been an old-fashioned, punitive trainer like Millan who’s risen to the top, in the public eye.

First, let me state: I’m not a rabid positive trainer type. But I will always opt to try a positive approach first. I think it’s possible to create a healthy balance of respect, communication, and relationship building–without the need for intimidation.

While I agree with Millan’s message in theory–discipline, exercise, and affection–I have a big, big problem with his application. Specifically, what bothers me about Millan is how he’s leading people to believe that it takes a heavy hand and a dose of special “energy” to train dogs. When, in fact, many of his methods could actually harm a dog. Choke chains and leash pops in the wrong hands are an ugly sight, especially when there are so many better ways to teach a dog to walk on a leash. And I don’t know any decent trainer who relies on flooding the way Millan does. I also take issue with his dog-side manner; his “don’t waste your time or mine” attitude. When is learning ever about shutting up and not asking questions? Just zip it and listen to Cesar, seems to be what he’s often saying. That goes over like a lead balloon for me. How about you?

While Millan does use some principles of dog behavior (much of it outdated), he oversimplifies the process of training, which, in reality, may take days, or weeks, and sometimes months of daily consistency (setbacks included) before one can expect to see reliable results. In short, there’s a lot more to dog training than good “energy”, mixed in with a few sharp collar yanks and a lot of “cchhhhtttttt’s”. Just watch the dogs’ faces. They’ll tell you. The dog being forced to walk across the slippery floor isn’t getting over her fear. She’s just more terrified of his “calm, assertive energy” and relentless punishment than she is of the floor.

Dog Whisperer, in my opinion, isn’t a show about dog training, or educating the viewer, but rather a show about Cesar doing his thing. But don’t take my opinion, check out what the real experts are saying–Google these articles.

  • Review of “Cesar’s Way” from Pat Miller of The Bark Magazine
  • New York Times article: “Pack of Lies”
  • Esquire Magazine, “Misguided Expert of the Year”
  • Article on Newsday.com
  • From the American Humane Association
  • Labrador choked at Millan’s Dog Psychology Center.
  • article from the San Francisco Chronicle – Ian Dunbar vs. Cesar Millan
  • click here for Radio Interview regarding Cesar Millan

The kind of trainer I want to work with is a thinking trainer with a long history of experience, and a variety of training tools–rather than a “one size fits all” approach. I want a trainer who, rather than being on a power trip, is more interested in educating. Trainer’s like this are out there.

Magic sent me on a long journey to try to find such a trainer. I eventually did find what I was looking for in Suzanne Clothier, who also happened to live nearby. The good news is that there are many terrific, experienced, knowledgeable trainers all over the country who don’t need to rely on punitive techniques to get results. If you’re in need of one, check out the APDT list or the IAABC list to find a qualified trainer near you.

Okay. That’s all the airtime Cesar’s going to get from me. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.


Because the comments this post has attracted have been overwhelmingly vitriolic without adding to an intelligent discussion, I’ve decided to close comments. My apologies to those of you who are interested in and able to engage in civil discourse. If you are serious about really wanting to understand dog training and dog aggression, read any of the following books for a good education.

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