Tuesday Topics 5 - Guide Dog Whisperer?


One of my favorite TV shows is The Dog Whisperer. I started watching it right after Cabana came to our home, and I don't know what I would have done without Cesar Millan! The Guide Dog manual talks briefly about being a pack leader, but I don't think I would have fully understood that concept if I hadn't watched The Dog Whisperer. I think I've seen every episode now, but every few days, I gotta have my Dog Whisperer fix. It helps remind me to be assertive with Cabana, instead of getting lax and letting unwanted behaviors go unaddressed.

I completely espouse Cesar's dictum of exercise, discipline, then affection. Dogs need an effective, controlled way to drain their energy, which is why I make walking Cabana in the morning one of my top priorities, rain or shine. We also learned to minimize affection first thing in the morning, when Cabana tends to be very excitable (she's well rested, hasn't seen us since the night before, and is waiting for breakfast). By not giving affection when Cabana is in an excited state, we have helped her learn to control her excitement in the morning and be much calmer. Now, the period of time when we withhold petting her is getting shorter and shorter, because she's learning to calm down much more quickly.

Still, I know that The Dog Whisperer is not necessarily "Guide Dog approved", so I wondered what other puppy raisers think about his methods. Are you a fan or do you think it's hooey? Do you like certain things he teaches but think that other parts are flat-out wrong? Do you like his rollerblades or do you think they're weird?

raiserally  – (March 31, 2009 at 12:16 PM)  

Beware, you will probably get A LOT of adverse comments on this topic. Dog trainers and their methods in general tend to be a very heated topic (because everyone's right and wrong at the same time?) but especially "The Dog Whisperer" and the lady from "It's Me or The Dog" and a couple others.

For me, Cesar's techniques work wonders for some dogs if instituted correctly, for others, it sends them into a piddling lump of submissiveness. His basic ideas are extremely well, what people forget is he's a professional and those watching his show generally aren't, meaning the techniques aren't instituted correctly. We've used his techniques with the SDITs from JLAD per direction from the director when necessary. It's always best to take points that you like and can institute from different trainers, combine them and use them the way they work best for you.

I do like Cesar Milan and greatly enjoy his show, although there are some things I don't necessarily agree with.

Hope you get some good comments on this one! :-D

Brittany  – (March 31, 2009 at 2:11 PM)  

I like his show, and most of his methods. I do think he is better with assertive "problem" dogs than he is with submissive/fearful dogs. For example, Patriot can handle being "touched" if he gets worked up about a dog on our walks, it snaps him out of his excitment and he could care less. On the other hand, "touching" Hobbs crushes his little spirit and shuts him down completely.

I used his methods once on a little GSD puppy who was taking the puppy mouthyness to an extreeme level. After one bite from her, I "bit" her back with my hand. After that the only way she would approach me was on her belly avoiding eye contact at all costs. She never looked at me again, let alone tried to bite me. It made me sad that she had become so afraid of me.

I also completely agree with his exercise, dicipline, affection montra! I wish more people would do that with their dogs!

Hobbes Dogs  – (March 31, 2009 at 2:43 PM)  

Wish I could give more of a comment this week - but I have never really watched the show, maybe once or twice at most.

As with any dog trainer, I imagine if I did watch I would agree with some techniques and disagree with others. I like to be exposed to many different training methods, and combine the aspects that I agree with and work for whatever dog I am training at the time (of course ensuring that they fit in with the rules of the dog guide school where applicable).

Martha G  – (March 31, 2009 at 4:30 PM)  

I've watched the show once or twice, but know it's heavily edited and also know there is a very critical view held against his methods by trainers who use positive reinforcement training (like clicker training).

I adopted an Australian shepherd last fall and ended up seeking advice through Mini Australian Resource and Support because my 2 dogs were not getting along. I mentioned that I was reading one of Cesar Milan's books and the support person immediately e-mailed me 8 articles to read about Cesar Milan. I had only gotten as far as the exercise, discipline, affection formula in Milan's books, which I still think is good, but I tend to like positive reinforcement methods better than negative reinforcement. Here is one of the articles I was sent. I thought it was one of the best.

http://www.4pawsu.com/cesarfans.htm

I was steered toward Patricia McConnell and Karen Pryor. I'll be glad when GDB uses more clicker training than leash corrections for training our dogs.

Kelsey, Burgess, and Tahoe  – (March 31, 2009 at 5:15 PM)  

Caesar's method has its strong points, but I do agree that it may not be the perfect dog training method. His concept of pack leader helped me a lot when I was starting out raising. As long as people truly understand it, and don't get carried away with it, that tool is probably the most effective tool any dog trainer can have. If you aren't the leader of the dog, then you are not going to be able to train it. His concept of using energy to effect the dog's behavior is also a valuable part of his method. I do wish he used a little bit more positive reinforcement, but with some of the extreme cases that he deals with, I can see where he really can't use a whole lot of it to rehabilitate the dog.
However, with smart dogs like our guide dog puppies in training, a smart combination of his methods and positive reinforcement is pretty much what GDB promotes.
I find his books interesting, and his show is decent. There is always something to be learned! :) His roller blades I'm not so sure about, but I doubt that I could roller blade while walking ten dogs, so I won't judge too much. ;)

raiserally  – (March 31, 2009 at 5:23 PM)  

If you're looking for a Very comprehensive way to be alpha, I would suggest a book that Joy (the director/founder of JLAD) requires all her raisers to read. I've found it extremely helpful not only with Eclipse but with my dominate yet pansy of a Sheltie, Teddy. The book is called Leader of the Pack written by Nancy Baer and Steve Duno.

It gets to be kind of a bore to read at times but is generally an easy read and points out exactly how to humanely become alpha, without sending that soft dog into a piddling lump of submissiveness. I would highly recommend it for anyone who works with dogs, whether a pet, SDIT, or otherwise. Also "Don't Shoot the Dog" is a good positive reinforcement book!

Emily, Burgess, and Tahoe  – (March 31, 2009 at 6:29 PM)  

As all above have said, it has it's good and bad points, and everyone has their own opinion ;) But I love to comment on the Tuesday Topics, so I'll just mention a few of my own views :) The essentials of his are great-- patience, consistency, and being a pack leader. However, most of the cases he works with are very different from our GDB pups, so we can't apply many techniques. With our pups we work a lot with praise. Everything they do right, we give a positive reinforcement. With him he's more about boundaries for the things the dogs do wrong. So, good and bad points ;) But really-- who else is cool enough to ride roller blades while walking 10 dogs?

Taelor and Pilaf  – (March 31, 2009 at 11:40 PM)  

I actually agree with many of Cesar Millan's techniqes. I recently talked with my guide dog leader (a man who has been a puppy raser for over 25 years, and was also the first to have a K9 unit in his police foce for his area/county), and he is a big supporter of Milan and his technique.

As for whether or not you see everything that goes on, I actually have a friend (I was asked not to supply any specific info, sorry) who had their dog on the show, and I was told that nothing happened off-screen that didn't happen on-screen. So that's my 2 cents. :)

Personally, I am not a huge fan of large amounts of positive reinforement/ tons of food training. I understand that it works well on some dogs, but on others it just makes them only care about the food, and not the person themselves. :/
But anyway, that's just an opinion.

Thanks again for these wonderful TT (Tuesday Topics)!!!

~Taelor and Pilaf~

Poppy The Puppy  – (April 1, 2009 at 4:29 PM)  

While I agree that his techniques work for the dogs he is working with, I also believe there is a large component of entertainment value there. He doesn't show your run of the mill dogs who annoy their owners a bit, but aren't on their way out the door. When dealing with extreme cases, you need extreme training. But, the majority of us don't live with dogs like he works with.

My bigger issue with the show is this: you have lots of people with little to no dog training experience seeing him do things and trying them at home without supervision and guidance. If you are not doing his techniques correctly, you can damage your relationship with your dog. There are things we teach that need follow up work and supervision. Different people have different learning styles without having any idea how they learn. Dogs are the same way. How often do I "borrow" a dog to work out a problem before working with the raiser? If the trainer is not aware of what works for the dog, we can create a bigger problem.

So, despite agreeing with some of his techniques, I don't like that the show is aired for a any yahoo with cable to see. And yes, I am one of those yahoos with cable :)



So, despite agreeing with some of what he does

Lani  – (April 1, 2009 at 7:26 PM)  

Wow love all the discussion - most folks have covered what I was going to say, but I will say that when i got my 1st pup, nothing in the manual told me how to deal with her. she was a dominate dog who I had a lot of problems with. My leader lives 45 mins away and I only saw her 2 a month, all she told me to do was collar correct. Cesar did provide more background on what Tacoma was thinking and ways that I could communicate with her. But not all of his techniques worked with her and i didn't know any better. It was not about training her but training ME. The manual was pretty much useless, we ended up buying a whole lot of other training books and took from each what we like. Fundamentally I use his philosophy (exercise, boundries, and consistency)but I apply those ideas in different ways, Lani learned with positive reinforcement, Waffle needs a strong pack leader. It is like having kids no one way works for all of them.

but now that I know better, not sure that I would recommend him to a new raiser, there are others who use the same philosophy but different applications.

thanks for the thoughts.

Cabana's Puppy Raiser  – (April 2, 2009 at 9:44 AM)  

THANK YOU for taking the time to post comments. I agree that not all of Cesar's techniques are for everybody and that most of his show is about extreme cases. He does have that big disclaimer on his show about consulting a professional before using any of his techniques. But there is that dichotomy in the fact that the show is on TV for the general public as a "how to" program.

However, it does help to have different examples and methods that we can pull from, to find out what works for us and for our dogs. Thank you for all the book tips from commenters--I will definitely check them out.

Being a pretty laidback and accommodating person, I could easily let Cabana walk all over me. But by watching the show, I always feel empowered to expect desirable behavior from both Cabana and myself. Cabana definitely challenges my authority, so I need to make sure she knows who's boss. Not in a mean authoritarian way, but in a calm and disciplined way.

More than the dogs on the show, though, it's always incredible to see how much the owners learn about themselves and their tendencies. And Cesar's dog imitations and his slightly off pronunciation of certain words are enough to make me watch the show. I must be easily entertained!

Martha G  – (April 2, 2009 at 1:20 PM)  

"More than the dogs on the show, though, it's always incredible to see how much the owners learn about themselves and their tendencies."

Oh yes! I certainly feel I'm learning as much as Ardella. I don't think I've felt I've absorbed so much or felt so much responsibility for another living thing since I had children. : )

Erin,Bubs,Tex and Veda  – (April 6, 2009 at 8:38 PM)  

Love Caesar, but don't see him as a dog TRAINER! But he is spot on with evaluating dogs, and training the humans! I like his thoughts of treating the dog as a DOG and not furry human. He helped me a lot with my second puppy....she was dominate, strong willed, and walking allll over me. After watching Cesar, I began evaluating myself, and WOW the change was amazing. I realized how my nervous energy was making her equally nervous, and thus her "bad" behavior became evident! From watching Cesar, I began looking into other things about dog training etc..and have sense learned how to evaluate the dog, and work accordingly. Some dogs you can be the CALM in the calm and assertive, while other dogs you have to be more Assertive.
And those are my views.

Mitch and Meade  – (November 30, 2009 at 6:08 PM)  

Haha... this is a little late but I think he's cool. I saw my first episode of "The Dog Whisperer" on Saturday. I have to watch it online because I don't get NatGeo.. I just got "Cesar's Way" from the library a couple hours ago. My favorite thing about him so far is his quote "I rehabilitate dogs. I train people.". I think many dog owners need trained. Especially my neighbors ( a post about them will be coming soon). In all his theories are fascinating!

m  – (January 27, 2011 at 8:37 PM)  

Now you are ze dominant one!

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