Cesar Millan is a nationally recognized dog trainer and star of National Geographic Channel’s hit show “Dog Whisperer”. In this book he claims to help you see the world through the eyes of your dog so you can eliminate problem behaviors.
I decided to read this book because so many people follow Cesar’s methods and believe that this is the best way to train dogs. I know many people that are outraged by Cesar’s methods and I wanted to know what all the outrage was about.
The basic premise of Cesar’s methods are:
- Suppress undesired behaviors
- Use pack mentality to ensure you are the leader
- Reduce the amount of affection you show to your dogs
To do this, you need to access the “energy” that is flowing through yourself and your dog. You need to analyze this energy and determine it’s state and then affect the energy to the state you desire.
Cesar Millan also talks at length about how we are humanizing dogs and that we need to seriously reduce the affection we show them.
What I Liked:
Cesar Millan appears to genuinely care about dogs and their well being. Cesar believes that dogs should be allowed to run and play off leash as much as possible. He points out many ways in which humans are creating stressful situations for their dogs without realizing it. One of the primary things he believes will help a dog’s well being is to make sure that it gets adequate exercise, something that quite often people don’t do.
One thing I noticed is that many things attributed to Cesar Millan, such as heavy use of prong collars or beating of dogs, are absent from this book. In every situation, he discusses the well being of dogs and says that the methods described are only to be used in the absolute worst of cases. Even then, what he describes is not blatantly abusive.
Areas for Improvement:
This section could go on for a long while. I’ll do my best to keep it short.
Cesar Millan refers to his childhood quite often throughout the book and mentions his grandfather’s farm as an example of how dogs are managed well. It seems that this is where he got most of his ideas on dog training. However, he only lived on this farm until he was six. After this, he lived in a city and didn’t really do much of anything with dogs until his later teenage years. So all his training experience is from the first six years of his life.
He talks quite a bit about a dog’s “energy” and describes it in a way that reminds me of “the Force” from Star Wars. It is a mystical force that connects all things and is quite often out of balance. The goal is to bring the “energy” into balance. He mentions many types of energy. Dominant, Passive, Submissive, Calm, etc. To bring this energy in balance, one creature needs to be the leader and the rest must be followers. However, I find this whole concept quite confusing. It does not appear to have any parallel in other dog training ideologies. Instead, it seems to crop up when Cesar has a hole in his understanding of why dogs behave as they do. When he doesn’t understand why a dog is doing something, he attributes it to their “energy” being out of balance.
Cesar Millan mentions various references in his book. Not specific books but references to authors, trainers and methodologies. However, when I looked into these references, it appears that he mis-quotes them to his advantage. He mentions behaviorism on several occasions and then attributes ideas to behaviorists that are not part of behaviorist theory.
Quite often when reading this book I found myself exclaiming out loud something like “how did you come to that conclusion!?” or “how do you know that!?”. Cesar refers to the way that dogs think as though we were able to actually see inside their heads and examine their thoughts. Cesar then comes to conclusions that don’t fit the facts he has presented.
I would definitely stay away from this book. I personally do not agree with the conclusions that Cesar Millan has drawn. I would not treat my dogs in the ways he recommends. I was frustrated every moment while I was reading this book because nothing made sense.
I have been working heavily with dogs for many years and, most recently have been studying quite heavily about animal psychology and behaviorism. Basically why dogs act like dogs. Everything that I read in this book sounded pretty much like made up gibberish. I believe that this book is probably doing more to confuse dog owners than any other single resource available. The conclusions don’t fit the facts presented. The mystical “energy” is not even a real thing.
My guess is that Cesar’s methods work, in that they are able to make dogs behave and not attack other dogs all the time. However, I’m not certain that he understands why they work and why things fall apart for him sometimes. I look at a dog with certain body posture and say to myself “that dog looks concerned by what’s going on. Let’s help the dog feel better about this situation.” Cesar Millan says “the energy is out of balance. We need to assert dominance and suppress this behavior.” Which would you choose?