Are Dog People Just Born or Do They Evolve Over Time?

I am a dog owner; but more than that, I am dog person. For those of you who don’t know me, here are my credentials.

  • My dogs live in the house.
  • My dogs sleep on my bed.
  • I don’t own a piece of clothing that hasn’t been dogified in some way.
  • I spend money on my dogs for food, healthcare, toys, training, exercise, and just for the hell of it.
  • I actively include my dogs in my life.
  • I have relationships with my dogs that are as meaningful to me as my relationships with people.
  • I actively educate myself about the best ways to care for and train my dogs.
  • I help others by teaching them how to train and interact with their dogs.

Even though these things are true about me now, it wasn’t always so. I’ve evolved over time from a dog owner into a dog person.

I was brought up in the old school of dog training. Corrections via the leash & choke chain, rolled up newspapers, and punishment for bad behavior were the tools that I was taught to use. I never really thought about it that much and because of sheer luck and good natured tolerant dogs, these tools seemed to produce the results that I wanted.

Luckily for me and my dogs, somebody saw me reprimanding my dog Sundown one day, took me aside and introduced me to positive reinforcement. That introduction was the catalyst that took me from being a dog owner, to a dog person.  Before that change, I would say that I loved my dogs, but I was ignorant about the ways in which they learn. I was taught from a young age to train dogs with punitive measures, and even though I loved my dogs, I used the methods I was taught and didn’t think much about them. Now maybe that’s because I was raised in an abusive household in much the same manner or maybe not, but it raises a question that I was reminded of by a tweet on Twitter today. I’m paraphrasing the tweet here, but the basic premise was this. Can anyone who watches Cesar Milan’s show, The Dog Whisperer, who isn’t offended or outraged at the methods he uses, be thought of as compassionate or a dog lover?

For the record, I abhor the methods used by Cesar Milan. As his show evolves, it seems that the methods he uses become more and more punitive in an ever escalating war that Cesar seems to think dogs are waging against humans for dominance over the planet.  But are the people that watch him and take his words and methods to heart uncaring, or merely uninformed?

My thought is that many of these people are simply uninformed. They see this man on TV, he’s on an “Animal Friendly” station like The National Geographic Channel,  he is all over the talk shows giving the President advice on how to train his dog, and he trains the dogs of the biggest Hollywood stars, why not trust what he says?

If I want to take a positive outlook on life, then I need look at these people as dog owners that need to be helped along the way so they can become dog people. It happened for me and my dogs, it can happen for others.

I want Cesar Milan off the air as quick as possible. I’d love to see him replaced by any one of the good and knowledgeable people like Karen Pryor, Patricia McConnell, or Ian Dunbar just to name a few. But until that happens we have to deal with all the misinformation spread by Cesar and his show. I will speak out against Cesar and his methods in public and in private, but I will give his fans benefit of the doubt by giving them access to information that they just may not have known about. Maybe I can turn them into dog people too.

I know that there are many of you out there that may disagree with me on this, and as always your comments are welcome here. The only way we can learn from each other is by considering the other persons point of view.


Kevin, Jackie, Gavin, Annie, Tosha

One thought on “Are Dog People Just Born or Do They Evolve Over Time?

  1. I totally bought into Cesar Milan’s methods BEFORE I adopted my often fearful shelter dog, Rosie. When I started doing some research on how to help her with her separation anxiety, I realized just how off base and non-scientific his methods are. It hit home that using his methods would not only make my timid dog MORE timid but in time would probably cause her to retaliate in an aggressive way (biting) or make her utterly incapable of enjoying human company (or other dogs for that matter). I am so grateful to people like you who take the time to educate people like me, and whomever educated you to begin with! My dog isn’t allowed on my furniture, nor in my bed but that is a personal preference and has nothing to do with her ‘rank in our pack’. She knows who is in control because we lovingly lead her, teach her and give her plenty of affection and exercise (not always in that order) as well as reassurance when she is nervous and stability in the home of rules, routines and respect. I wouldn’t like to see Cesar Milan off the air, rather, I’d like to see him become educated in how dogs learn and then admit his mistakes and continue to educate people correctly. Although, I second that Dr. Ian Dunbar should have his own show on Animal Planet!

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