Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Throwing Onions At Cesar Millan

My Shiba was just over a year old when he bit someone for the first (and so far only) time.  We had this cable just off of our ground floor unit apartment because he's a submissive urinator and it was easier to put him out on the cable and let him jump and pee and greet and pee and jump to his heart's content than to let him greet people inside.  Kitsune was on the cable at the time (they aren't kidding when they say dogs that are not able to flee are more likely to bite).  Our next door neighbor at the time was an Air Force air traffic controller.  He was a big tall guy with a booming voice and military bearing, all things that made my Shiba mistrustful.   His point of view was, this guy is big, loud, and acts like he's in charge.  Not cool.

Predictably, my very vocal Shiba started warning the neighbor by barking at him.  It was the rapid fire machine-gun bark that says, "Hey!  Hey!  See me?  I'm a dog!  I see you, so you stay over there and don't try anything funny!"

The neighbor kept trying to placate Kitsune by talking to him and reaching down at him, all things that just made Kitsune more convinced this guy was no good.  I told the neighbor to just ignore him, and he'd settle down faster.  But for some reason, this guy, instead of ignoring the dog, tries to pick him up.  He put both hands on the dog at the shoulder and in a flash, Kitsune had bitten him in the fatty part of his palm, just under his thumb.  Both hands.  Both bites were deep.

And being me, instead of apologizing, I said, "What the hell did you do that for?"  I mean, geez.  I told the guy to leave the dog alone.  It's not my fault or the dog's that he ignored good advice and did exactly what he shouldn't have.  I'm not about to apologize to him for his own idiocy.  I was also really irritated that he had just taught my dog two lessons I would have preferred he never learn:  That big, loud guys with dominant body language really ARE up to no good, and that biting achieves a positive result in a scary situation.  In fact to this day, four years later, he flips his shit at any man over 5'11", which is about the height of my SO.

His reply?  "I saw Cesar Millan do it once."

And while I didn't say it, I thought, "Well that makes the both of you idiots."  Apparently, he was trying some technique he had seen on The Dog Whisperer called "helicoptering."  Basically you pick the dog up, swing it around your head, and put it back down.  Somehow, this is supposed to make the dog respect you because now it knows you can throw it around or something.  I don't see how it does anything but scare a dog to death, but it does seem to be very good at provoking bites.  Variants of this maneuver on-leash with the use of choke collars (which by the way, is how it is SUPPOSED to be done, with a choke chain) have caused serious injury to many dogs including fractured legs, broken necks, and collapsed tracheas.

That's just a sample of the brutal things Cesar Millan supports.  He also uses a technique called "flooding" where a dog is forced into a situation that scares the bejeezus out of it, so it can just "get over it."  Sounds like another prime way to get bitten, to me.  Also sounds like a great way to scar a dog for life.

Millan calls his way "tough love."  I see that he mostly just leaves out the love.  Even after he made a terrified Great Dane puppy stand on a shiny floor, and the dog finally took one tentative step, he never praised the dog.  He never tried to reassure the dog.  He just wanted to completely dominate the dog, and the dog's fears.  His methods are based entirely on negative experiences, never on the positive.  The experiences the dogs have with Cesar are never enjoyable.

Other professional opinions on Cesar's Way:

"Well, that certainly is not a commonly accepted practice of educated canine behavior consultants."  - Lynn Hoover, president of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants

"Yes, we have serious concerns [about Millan's training methods].  Many of the techniques shown on television are very difficult for owners to accomplish and may result in serious injury to themselves or their dogs and neither are they the more updated training techniques that are now used."  -  Debra Horowitz, president of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.

"Cesar Millan's methods are based on flooding and punishment.  The results, though immediate, are transitory.  His methods are misguided, outdated, in some cases dangerous, and often inhumane.  You would not want to be a dog under his sphere of influence.  He has set dog training back 20 years."  - Dr. Nicholas Dodman, professor and Head, Section of Animal Behavior, Director of Behavior Clinic, Tufts University - Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine

I completely agree with Dr. Andrew Luescher DVM, who said, 'The show repeatedly cautions the viewers not to attempt these techniques at home.  What, then, is the purpose of this show?"

What, indeed?

It made me want to pelt the man with onions if I ever happen upon him in public.  Since I do not routinely carry onions with me, if that circumstance should ever arise, I'll probably have to content myself with telling him he's the sole reason my dog bit someone.  Congrats, Cesar.  Hope you're proud.  If my neighbor had been a complete asshole, my dog may have been legally killed by your idiocy.


  1. The worst part of all this is that the die-hard cesar fans could, and would, justify this dude's ridiculous actions of picking up your dog. and blame you for the dog's biting someone. and call your dog dominant.

    i think cesar's show is supposed to be entertaining and therefore anything to elicit a bite from a dog is going to boost ratings. the sad part is that people follow his "advice" and make their own dogs' lives miserable.

    When we began fostering (then we adopted) Buckley, the family that gave him up told the rescue that they "alpha rolled" him when he bit them (bit = puppy teeth). It took almost a month to be able to convince Buckley that a belly rub wasn't a punishment. It was horrible.
    Why can't human-dog interaction be based on positives all the time? Who doesn't want that?

    And the nay sayers that say "candy doesn't work with 'red zone' dogs" - not every episode has a 'red zone' dog in it and every episode negates the use of any positives.

    Grr, I'd pelt onions at him too.

  2. Yeah, I really dislike Cesar. I was surfing around for the quotes and I found some other blog that wasn't even harsh on his tactics and a million comments bashing his or her post. So settling in for a backlash, but I'm not concerned. Even Dr. Dodman's Nothing In Life Is Free program for truly dominant dogs (which rarely appear on Cesar's show) the most negative experience the dog gets is not being allowed on a bed or couch. Yeah, don't treat dogs like humans, they're not, and it often leads to creation of undesirable behaviors. But good grief. You don't have to be physically rough with a dog to achieve a result. The guy who invented the alpha-roll actually apologized for it later, saying something along the lines of, "Any dog who lets you do it doesn't need it, and any dog who really does is going to take your face off if you try." I guess he had an eye opening experience. Too bad it was after his ideas were published.

  3. actually ceasar isnt tough enough. If you cant control your dog you dont have business owning one. A dog that jumps up on people is a no no totally unacceptable. A dog that bites people for attempting to pick it up completly understandable. I have owned several dogs and have had 100 % obedience 100 % of the time and have no sympathy to people that dont expect it as a "norm". I also dont like ceasar for lying to the general public about the dos and donts with handling dogs. Barbara woodhouse's dressing down incompetent dog owners was 100 % dead on. You cant do anything with a dog until you tackle the issue bad caretakers of an animal. I own my dogs with or without a leash. I also take charge with humans as to set the boundries of what is acceptable behavior to myself and the pets I keep. Shame on you for not being more assertive with the unruly customer. The dog should mind its place with you commanding it not to bark after you have been made aware of the customers prescence