Dog training methods and the dominance controversy

Earlier this year I sent out the below press release to select media outlets. Last week I was given the opportunity to speak with a reporter at The Denver Post about this release, and my own training methods and philosophy.

The Do's and Don'ts of Dog Training: courtesy tailsinc.com and doggiedrawings.net
The Do’s and Don’ts of Dog Training: courtesy tailsinc.com and doggiedrawings.net

It’s a tough issue: a part of me never wants to bring up The Dog Whisperer or Cesar Millan. I really feel it’s the best approach to concentrate on what I do and why I do it, which is what I stressed to the reporter and have made an attempt to do within the release. I also consider my job one that is all about animal welfare and standing up for the dogs; I became a dog trainer because I wanted better for the dogs. I’ve seen dogs turned over to shelters and rescues…and worse…and so often it’s a sad story of misunderstanding between species, about people who have unrealistic expectations of their dogs without learning how to effectively teach them. And so, I felt compelled to seize the opportunity of Cesar Millan’s appearance in Denver as one to catch hopefully more attention, to discuss training techniques and our relationship with our dogs.

I am posting this on my blog because I think it is important to educate. Good training doesn’t happen overnight; it is a lifelong relationship with your dog built on trust. There are many trainers with different ways of thinking, and there are many training tools and fix-its out there for the public to indulge and buy, and try out…there are many paths but I feel it’s important to take the one of least force, of least intimidation. I want my dog to be a dog who isn’t afraid of me or others, who can make the right choice and be given the opportunity to do so, rather than shut down into a “submissive state.” Dominance methods have long been disproved by behavioral science and can be very harmful! Our dogs deserve better, and so do we, to live in real harmony.

Thank you for reading, and I welcome your feedback!
Laura
Owner, Delightul Doggies

Controversial dog guru Cesar Millan in Denver raises questions about training methods for Colorado dog owners

January 11, 2014

Cesar Millan, most widely known as The Dog Whisperer from his popular National Geographic TV show series, is a highly regarded as well as maligned figure in pop culture. With his appearance on March 28 at Denver’s historic Paramount Theatre, it’s time to look at this controversy and how it affects dog owners in Colorado.

Millan’s training philosophy has been centered around pack leadership and using what he terms, “calm, assertive energy.” Using finger jabs, alpha rolls, intimidating body language and stances, Millan may yield some quick results as dogs are overstressed and shut down, but is that what pet owners want? Are aversive, confrontational methods the best to help our dogs who need it most?

While Millan’s techniques and showmanship may make for good television entertainment, his methods are more than likely to backfire, particularly when average owners try them. Despite disclaimers that viewers “should not try this at home,” no doubt there are dog owners at their wit’s end who may be tempted to do what is shown through their television screens.

“Cesar Millan’s methods are based on flooding and punishment. The results, though immediate, will be only transitory. His methods are misguided, outmoded, in some cases dangerous, and often inhumane. You would not want to be a dog under his sphere of influence. The sad thing is that the public does not recognize the error of his ways. My college thinks it is a travesty. We’ve written to National Geographic Channel and told them they have put dog training back 20 years,” Dr. Nicholas Dodman, the head professor of revered Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine says.

Dr. Dodman is not the only animal behavior professional who has come out against aversive training techniques, and the popularity of Millan in our culture. The original dog whisperer, Paul Owens, the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), the American Humane Association (AHA) and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) have all released statements condemning Millan’s methods and National Geographic’s airing of his shows. The modern scientific community has, more and more in recent times, shown that old-school dog training methods of dominance are not the best for our dogs, and that positive reinforcement training techniques work across the board for all species of animal.

Denver dog owners need to see this as an opportunity to learn about differences in training methods. With Americans spending more than $53 billion annually on their pets (American Pet Products Association), our pets are very much a center of our universe. But what is the difference in methods between Millan and Dodman, and how can knowing about that help them? We all know that it is important to choose a vet who understands the science behind treating their dog’s physical illness, but it’s just the same with choosing a trainer or behaviorist–science does yield a lot of insight into what training methods work, and are more humane.

“It is my hope that, even if someone like Millan is very well-known in our society, that it can be a springboard for consumers to use this as a way to learn more about training methods and become more savvy at choosing the best trainer to meet their needs,” says Denver-area dog trainer, Laura McGaughey. “While I do not use nor do I agree with Millan’s methods, I do believe it is a platform for us to educate people, and open the door to harmony and respect between them and their four-legged companions,” she says.

For more information about training methods, the Cesar Millan controversy and choosing a dog trainer, contact: Laura McGaughey, owner, Delightful Doggies: 303-550-5652 or laura@delightfuldoggies.com.

LINKS FOR MORE INFORMATION:

http://drsophiayin.com/philosophy/dominance?/dominance.php

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

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

http://beyondcesarmillan.weebly.com/index.html

http://avsabonline.org/uploads/position_statements/dominance_statement.pdf

http://avsabonline.org/uploads/position_statements/Combined_Punishment_Statements1-25-13.pdf

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