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: