The Dog Whisperer Sucks by Jon Miller

We know that our customers and their dogs need more than just help with pet waste removal.  In addition to looking for the best pooper scooper out there they're also often on the hunt for the best food, the best veterinarian care, the best dog sitting, walking, boarding services, etc.  Well, when our customers in Springfield, Millburn, Short Hills, Maplewood, South Orange or Union, NJ ask for a suggestion for a trainer or a walker we love to point them to Jon Miller at The Comfy Canine.  Jon knows his stuff.  So much so that he was willing to take on the great Cesar Millan!  Here's what Jon has to say about The Dog Whisperer:

There is a recent segment from The Dog Whisperer that I'm sure you've seen.  It involved a frustrated dog owner and a dog with a problem.  Cesar came in with his camera crew, spoke to the owner and then then said, "Let's get to work."

By the end of the segment, the frustrated dog owner saw an amazing, almost magical transformation that brought such praise as, "I believe in the power of The Dog Whisperer."  So do countless Americans who see these transformations week after week, dog after dog.  This man, who in a recent magazine interview compared himself to Gandhi, has elevated his persona to the point that just reading the title of this article would bring anger, disdain and ridiculous accusations of jealousy of his success.

When one looks deeper, one sees that it is precisely these magical transformations that are at the heart of why Cesar Millan is a fraud.  It is easy answers that he is selling and when it comes to modifying behavior, fast results get short term solutions.  So what are these methods? He'll say that dogs are pack animals with a hierarchy and the human has to be the top of that hierarchy.  If you can establish that, you've got the problem solved. Any problem.

Say the dog's problem is barking and going crazy at the television like a dog in a recent segment.
Cesar immediately "tells" the dog using his powers that he is the boss. A simple touch on the nose gave her the message. "I am the boss and you are the follower."

What one has to ask are two questions.

1. What happened while the camera was off?

2. What are the long term results of what he did?

As for the first question:  On the initial meeting with this dog, they put the television on and they sat down. The dog walked into the room, Cesar touched her nose, the dog backed up.  Cesar tells the owners that from the first moment they met he established dominance.  

It is impossible for a simple touch to relay anything to a dog the moment you meet her.  When modifying problem behavior nothing, absolutely nothing will be accomplished the day you meet the dog.  There is no way to know exactly what he did while the camera was off, but to get such a dramatic reaction from a touch on the nose it must have involved intense manhandling and powerful displays of dominance to achieve what he calls "calm/submissive."

Question #2. What are the long term results of this?
Fast results bring short term solutions.  What happens when one does this to a dog? What is the dog's reaction to absolute domination and helplessness? Eventually she will be calm. She will shut down. She is completely at the human's will. OK, roll camera!

When a dog is in the "shut down" mode she is learning nothing. She is not being taught not to take a specific action, she is being taught to take NO action.  She understands that if she takes an action, she will be punished by this man. Therefore, whatever behavior the dog is exhibiting will no longer show. This is the "success" that he has achieved.  This dog is afraid and as long as she is afraid she is taking no action whatsoever.  She shuts down.  This leads to a frustrating existence for a dog that only needs to be taught that what she is doing is wrong.

So what are the answers to these extreme problems?  All of these problems can be avoided before they even come up by socializing the dog at a very early age. Taking the dog to the dog park once a week does NOT count. Saying "hi" to the neighbor's dog once or twice a day also does not count, and having a second dog that your puppy grows up with also does not count. These things help, but are not nearly enough.

The rule of thumb is your dog should be exposed to one hundred different things (dogs, people, new places) in the first one hundred days.  Unfortunately, a lot of people did not get this information in time to properly socialize or (like myself) choose to adopt adult dogs. It's when these dogs are not properly socialized that these extreme problems arise. 

In the last thirty years, dog training and behavior modification has advanced like no other time. There has been tremendous advances and dogs that would have otherwise have been put down are living wonderful lives with families. Volumes have been written on the subject and some excellent examples are listed below. 

Cesar's methods go back a very, very long time. I remember as a child my grandfather would hit his dog with a rolled up newspaper on the nose. If he misbehaved, he would merely have to roll up the paper and the dog would cower. This never stopped him from jumping on strangers, barking incessantly, destructive chewing or anything when outside the threat of the newspaper swat to the nose. 

When a dog has an extreme behavior it is because that behavior was allowed to happen. She believes that what she is doing is the the correct way to behave. It took a long time for her to learn this and it will take a long time to incrementally unlearn it.

What Cesar does works on a short term basis but does not get at the source of the problem. What needs to be understood is that problems are minimized, not solved.  Sometimes they are minimized to the point of extinction but they will still always be there. To claim that the dog who snarled at Cesar and bit his cameraman will be able to be "cured" is unrealistic. The minimization process is a slow one. Each dog has her own pace and even though results cannot be seen immediately, when they do come, they are as dramatic as anything this magician has done and go far deeper in correcting serious problems.

Suggested reading:
The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson

Don't Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor

The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller

Big Business Scoopers is very grateful to Jon Miller for allowing us to post this essay on his behalf.  If you want to learn more about his training and walking services please visit his website:

The Zone: Training Your Dog Where to Poop in Your Yard

We've had a few clients ask us if we know how to train their dog to poop in a specifically designated area in their yard.  These are folks who have a large yard and want to reduce the cost of having a pooper scooper walk the entire property or folks who simply want to know where that poop is going to be!  So we thought we'd start finding some answers for them.  

Enter Nancy Schumacher, founder of Best in Behavior and CPDT-KA Certified Dog Trainer.  She uses a positive reward-based approach to dog training and was kind enough to give us some advice on this topic.  And as she notes: summer is the best time to start this kind of poop training!  Read on for her expert advice ...

"Training your dog to take care of their ‘business’ in a specific area of your yard is easier then it sounds. It takes patience and consistency but young puppies and older dogs can be trained to go in a dedicated zone. The area does not need to have any special surface but should be a defined area. An easy way to do this is to cover a small area with mulch or to stake out an area.

If you are working with a young puppy, start first thing in the day by taking your dog out of it’s crate on a leash and quickly walking outside to the area. Do not slow down or stop as it will be easy for the pup to have an accident. Run to the zone and keep the dog on leash. When you get to the area stand still and let the pup have the length of the leash. By running to the spot you have shaken up the dogs bladder and he will most likely go immediately. When he does go give him enthusiastic praise and a treat.

This is an image of a young boy rewarding his dog with a treat for using "the zone" properly.  The image illustrates how to train your dog to poop in one particular area of your yard.

The treats will be used every time for the first few days and then weaning off to a random treat now and then.  Leave any waste in the area so the smell will trigger the pup next time he is in that area. Puppies should not be allowed off leash in the yard during this training unless they have taken care of #1 and #2.  As a new pup owner you will be focused on when the dog has to go. Every time you are taking him out he goes on leash to the zone. If you catch him about to go in a different area when playing, interrupt him and bring him over to the zone. He should equate going in the zone with lots of good things; praise from you, treats and then being allowed off leash.

Older dogs need to learn that going in the Zone makes good things happen as well.  When you are training an older dog who up until now has had freedom to go wherever in the yard it is very important to establish a new routine. When the dog needs to go out, you need to put on the leash and bring him to the area. It is important that all family members are on board with this. If some people are leashing the dog and bringing him to the zone and some are not the dog will go with what he is used to which is going anywhere.  When he goes in zone be sure to make a big fuss with lots of verbal praise and a treat. Most dogs are highly motivated by food treats and will be happy to comply with going in the zone for a tasty treat.

With consistency and positive reinforcement you can train your dog to take care of business in the area you choose. Summer is a great time to start this training as the weather is warm and the days are long."

Many thanks to Nancy for taking the time and care to be our guest blogger on this topic!  If you have any questions for Nancy she can be reached via her website: