I’ve made several posts lately of my concerns about Cesar Millan and his show The Dog Whisperer. Every time I sit down to write a new post, I pledge to get down off of the Anti-Cesar soapbox and move on to other things. But it seems like every day I see or hear something that brings me back to this subject.
Yesterday morning I saw a link that Pat Miller posted on her Facebook page about a company that was advertising a prong collar called Secret Powers. A collar that hid the fact it was a prong collar so that, and I’m quoting here, “When you are going down the street with your well behaved Dog, no one knows your Secret Powers.”
My response to this was the same as many who commented, if you feel that it’s something that you need to hide, maybe you shouldn’t be using it!
Intuition, your inner voice, sneaking suspicion, spider sense, whatever you want to call it, not paying attention to it may lead to another noun, regret.
I’m sure that there are many of you, who like me, have done things in the past even though something inside you felt it wasn’t quite right. There can be many reasons for this; expediency, curiosity, conformity, and perhaps the most important one for the topic of this article, our willingness to follow the advice of an expert even if that advice runs contrary to our own conscience.
In a famous 1961 experiment, Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram devised a study to measure the willingness of participants to obey an authority figure who told them to do something that went against their conscience. Simply stated, The Milgram Experiment undertook to determine if one human would administer shocks of increasingly higher voltages to another human while being told by an expert that it was okay and even necessary to do so. A full description of the experiment and its’ results can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment. It is well worth reading.
This experiment has been reproduced and modified somewhat in the years since 1961 but virtually each trial produces the same results, around 60% – 65% of the participants actually pushed the button that was supposed to deliver the maximum 450-volt shock to the student!
This brings me to the point of this article: Why do some people follow the advice given by Cesar Milan on The Dog Whisperer even though they may have reservations about the methods he uses?
The marketing and PR machine that is in place to support Cesar Millan is nothing short of impressive. Consider the following:
- Cesar’s show The Dog Whisperer runs on The National Geographic Channel, an organization long known to be animal friendly.
- Cesar has appeared on talk shows like Oprah & The Tonight Show.
- Cesar’s clients include many famous people.
- During the President Obama “dog watch” Cesar could be found on just about every news channel on TV offering advice to the President.
- Many of the catch phrases that Cesar uses like “Calm Assertive Pack Leader”, “Dominant Aggressive”, “Dogs Sense Energy”, and others, are finding their way into the common vernacular, often without true understanding of just what these terms mean.
- Even though the methods he uses often seem to be overly punitive and sometimes even cruel to some, Cesar constantly assures his viewers that they are harmless to the dogs.
- Cesar’s admonitions that if we don’t come to dominate our dog, our dog will come to dominate us.
It is very easy to see how people that are not exposed to any other training or behavioral information about dogs would come to trust Cesar, even though they may not feel right about some of his methods.
If you are a follower of Cesar Millan, I would ask you to please read the AVSAB Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Behavior Modification of Animals. Pay particular attention to pages three and four as they address many of the methods and myths propagated by Cesar and his show. I also encourage you to visit the website Beyond Cesar Millan, this website if full of information authored by qualified professionals as to the validity of the methods used by Cesar. You can also find a list of positive training resources on our training page.
I hope that by exposing you to this information you will be more willing to listen to your inner voice when it comes to using methods on your dogs that just don’t quite feel right to you.
For those of you that are already on the positive training bandwagon, share you knowledge with someone who just may not know about the wonderful world of training and friendship that lies beyond Cesar Millan.
As always we welcome any comments you may have. Agree or disagree, all we ask it that you keep it respectful.
Kevin, Jackie, Gavin, Annie, Tosha