It’s unfortunate the things we don’t see around us every day.  Sometimes they are right in front of us.  Cesar Millan has become a herald of the dog world through his series on National Geographic “The Dog Whisperer” and sadly, the things that look good and sound good are actually something else entirely.  Here’s a youtube clip of Cesar Millan kicking dogs on his show.  If you can make it through the clip, be sure to watch @1:57 how the dog is scolded for yelping at Cesar’s kick in his stomach.  Also try to ignore the commentary, it’s mostly garbage, this kind of footage doesn’t need pithy emotional claptrap.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eIqouuh3nY&feature=player_embedded

This is abuse.  Pure and simple.  But these moments can happen so fast and so much of the truly offensive “corrections” are edited out of the show.  This video shows you numerous times how Cesar Millan and other “traditional” trainers intentionally push a dog into an emotional state of fear and then overwhelm them with pain or restraint until they cease to offer behavior.  This is called “flooding”, and while there are arguments that flooding achieves results (which it does), do we really want to be kicking our dogs?  Let’s expand to a different animal; how about we start kicking our children when they become emotional?  Slap them with rulers for answering a math question wrong?

On the flip side, the makers of this video are not as bad, but certainly guilty of giving misinformation.  Dogs regularly form pack mentalities in the home, this is how they have interacted socially for thousands of years.  Is it modified from their wolf ancestors? Absolutely.  Is it still similar? Absolutely.  Where we get it all wrong in our heads is that what Cesar Millan and the “traditional” or military training methods preach about pack mentality is a primate pack theory.  Many primates have strict social guidelines just like these trainers describe, but it’s not dog or wolf pack mentality, it’s much more human.  Many species of primates will kill a juvenile for getting out of line.  You will be hard pressed to ever see this in a wolf pack.

Wolves are the masters of energy conservation.  Fighting is a waste of energy and unproductive to finding food which is often scarce for a pack of wolves.  If a human approaches a pack of gorillas we are talking about considerable danger.  But if a human approaches a pack of wolves they usually just run off.  While wolves maintain an Alpha male and an Alpha female within the pack, the Alphas do not dictate every pack decision.  It’s not uncommon for them to follow a Beta or other ranking wolf to go on a hunt.

Pack dynamics are far more intricate and complicated and we still have a lot to learn.  However, this doesn’t mean we can’t start to apply what we know.  Dogs are loving, loyal, social animals that thrive on building of relationships.  There is a tremendous power in this and building a lifestyle that encourages relationships to grow in positive ways will generate motivation more effectively than pain or punishment based training.

Cesar Millan has a lot to learn, and it is The Pawsitive Packleader’s hope that he continues to learn science based animal learning theory and abandons his inhumane techniques that are poisoning his viewers.  These are people who are seeking help and advice for their own dog.  They may be first time dog owners who wouldn’t know any better.  It is not fair to hold duped viewers responsible for poor decisions with their dog when someone being presented as an expert is telling them to do it.  To their defense they are just trying to learn more and for this I applaud them.

In training,

The Pawsitive Packleader