My Cesar Millan Experience

As someone who possesses their Masters in Animal Behavour/Development and is currently working on their PhD and does a lot of behavoural consulting; last night I had the opportunity to witness Cesar Millan firsthand at the Scotiabank place in Kanata, Ontario. THANKS so much to Dr. Wright for the amazing 107 level tickets for myself and my son and we were 12 strong from KAH with 5 more of my own behavoural clients in attendance. KAH was also the hospital in attendance on hand in case there was a cause for medical intervention. Contrary to what I have seen posted on at least one board; KAH did not 'choose' the dogs that were in attendance at the show. I even ran into my handler plus her family there! BIG social time! 🙂

While I deeply disagree with many of his techniques and have always been so honest about my viewpoint and professional plus personal positioning when asked – His use of force, intimidation, fear & exhaustion techniques such as treadmilling plus that he has had no formal training is a cause of deep concern for many of the behavoural and training experts in the world –  he did present a few good basic core messages to the dog owners out there. AND that was so surprisingly wonderful to experience him doing so. 🙂

Before attending the show last night; I had read yet two more anti-CM articles sent my way along with a disturbing video of CM running a young Saint Bernard until they were heavily panting and then literally dragging and choking it (it was wearing either a choke or a prong collar; hard to tell for all I could do is mostly focus my eyes in horror upon this poor animal with what was being done to them) up a flight of stairs. Positive training methods????

However; last night; he was quite general and as I have said over and over again, training is one of the least regulated professions out there and many are self-taught or do a 1 month online course and then call themselves trainers. WORSE, so many of them now consider themselves behavoural experts and truly, after 10+ years of formal education in this area and another almost 25 years of experience AND another 3+ more years of formal education to finish off my PhD to come; I am still learning!!!! RESEARCH! RESEARCH! RESEARCH before taking on a 'trainer' or 'behavoural' expert. So many will also want to push one 'training registry' over another as being the best and only 'true' training registry in all of Canada and that is not necessarily true either. I tend to sit back and only input when I do feel absolutely necessary when this debate gets very controversial on the boards for like many other topics, there is not one easy answer BUT I do know that by all of these people 'fighting' instead of working together; it is only going to continue to drag on without effective resolution. I fear that not in my lifetime will something that I am so passionate about and try to educate and fight so hard for shall ever become properly regulated. 🙁

One should have a minimum of a Masters Degree in Animal Behavour to be considered part of the behavoural consulting/expert world and there are so few of us in Canada yet many would like to lead you to believe otherwise. I ONLY know of 12-15 of us in ALL of Canada yet is seems they are on every street corner. AND while those of us in the behavoural trenches are also or were trainers – VERY VERY VERY few trainers are behavoural experts. KNOW the difference! Once you start delving into the trenches of aggression, fear, separation anxiety; you are no longer on the surface of the basics of 'sit', 'down' and 'stay' training. I receive hundreds of emails every day from people that have used X Trainer or X so called Behavoural Expert for help with their dog but now the dog is either not better and in many cases much worse and can I please fix the dog. I do not work just with dogs, I work with the owners so that they are properly armed with all the tools/aids needed to be not just good owners but great responsible/accountable owners so that they can be a team with their dog(s) to be assets to not just home yet their community. My job is easy as I tell them for I have rules from the moment I begin to work with them and their dog(s). I do not let the dogs take a mile from day one; whereas they now have to be retrained as do their dog(s) on what is appropriate and acceptable behavour. While having someone such as myself working with you and your dog(s) is not cheap, it is also can be one of the best investments out there so that your dog can be the best he/she can be and for the owner(s) to be the best that they can be. NO dog is perfect, you can only make them as perfect as they can be and behavour is not changed, it is modified! That is something so many people do not understand….. So many want that quick fix solution and if you are not dedicated, committed, responsible, patient and consistent, failure is destined to happen. People need to stop trying to make the dog into something the dog can never be…..people need to make their dogs the absolute BEST they can be!

Now back to Cesar Millan – He talked about respect, leadership, trust, education, calmness(that I also interchange with the words 'control' and 'settled' in my own programs), humanizing(what I term the 'projecting too many human emotions upon') plus common mistakes made by owners and he used one of the best kept secrets that my handler and I were even talking about in the foyer before the show last night; SHOW COLLARS as a great training aid/tool! BUT what he did not talk about was using this tool/aid to do a transition to a flat/side release buckle collar as that should be the common goal of any training program.

He used words like 'assertive energy' whereas I use the words 'calm, settled and controlled leadership' with my dog(s) and in working with Clients and their dogs. He uses the word 'loyalty' and I use the word 'bonding' in a similar context. He also talked about 'excitement' mistakes people make plus what I term 'passive ignoring' and 'carrying on/moving forward as if it was nothing big'.

What also was interesting to note that as two puppies he was demonstrating with were no longer food motivated(they had eaten before they came to the show); he lost some patience and interest in trying to find other means to 'motivate' them to listen and be trained. Many dogs are not treat or food motivated and you have to be resourceful in finding other tools/aids to get them to be motivated for at the end of the day; YOU have to be the most exciting, important and interesting thing to them to then WANT to listen to you. OR in his words; to be that 'PACK LEADER'  😉 Yet to CM, if they were simply not interested in the food in the dish he had, forget it re: training them to do what he wanted them to do.

He also talked about how people make the common mistake of giving to much affection and not enough training and discipline in working with their dogs and this has also be a huge core message of mine with clients, especially with those that either adopt from us or rescue from other means. DOGS live in the 'moment' and making a past of abuse 'up to them' is not in their best interest. You can truly kill by 'kindness' and I have posted many a blog post re: seeing Danes and other dogs as just heads and stick legs on a whale of a body due to obesity. HOW does this 'help' your dog besides shortening their life span, increasing their chances of many health problems etc. Not to mention about the resourcing and separation anxiety behavoural issues that can develop with this type of spoiling affection that I term using 'ruination' affection!

I also did very much like his words surrounding 'breed' bans and that banning a breed does not solve the problem, the importance of rescuing animals, not supporting puppymills and that we need to target the 'humans' behind the dogs.

AND what I was not in agreement either were his views that the 'name' of a dog being last on his list of importance. Living in a multi-dog household and that many of my own clients have multi-animal households, the name as an 'identity' is very important as is associating a 'command' with the 'action' being requested of that one specific dog or more than one dog out of many that may be present in a home or park or other training environment by using that very important name(s) ie their identity(ies).

Cesar Millan is very much a HUGE entertainer(lots of laughs last night!) and boy, does he have a 'cult' following. It was almost surreal watching how hypnotized and glazed over so many were at the show. It was almost like being at a rock concert – wait, he did have rock music at several points last night! cheeky !

AND for me, while I am still not a 'fan' of CM, I can honestly state when others say 'well, you have not watched his show, read what he has written, you have not seen him in person' that….I HAVE in fact watched him AND was extremely close to him last night! I am further enlightened re: his methodologies and mindset re: training and some behavour positioning and am much more prepared to have further indepth conversations with my Clients, on some of the boards I belong to or am a Board of Director Member of or Behavoural Advisor of and also in my discussion groups for my PhD etc.

Thank you SOOOOOOOO much again Dr. Wright for presenting this wonderful opportunity with the free tickets to myself and also to my son to be part and witness to CM LIVE and in PERSON! I truly had a very entertaining time – Perhaps CM should do comedy in his spare time 🙂 and I not only hope yet think so many have come away from his show with more to think about and much to talk about!!!!