Schadenfreude and Cesar Milan

Like many of you I watched Alan Titchmarch’s recent interview of Cesar Milan and was bowled over by the results, so much so that it made me question why.  Was I just indulging in schadenfreude as I observed the obvious discomfort of Mr. Milan or was there something more to my feelings?

One of the most infuriating retorts against those opposed to Mr. Milan is that we are jealous of his fame and fortune. Now I am more than willing to calmly discuss my objections with others not of the same faith in training— but how am I supposed to respond to that barb? I know you are but what am I?

So with this retort bashing about in my head I watched the interview again and found the answers to silence the din.

In one exchange between Alan and Cesar, Cesar was asked about his use of spike and shock collars. Cesar explained that in those situations, the owner was already using those tools and he was just showing them how to use the tools properly. In another exchange where Cesar was trying to point out that he uses food as a tool as well, Cesar related a story about a woman who wanted to kiss her dog and how he and a Parrott helped her achieve that.

Even if I believed in Milan’s training methods and views on dog behavior, which I don’t, I have a major problem illustrated beautifully by those two exchanges. His focus was on giving the owners what they wanted as quickly as possible and the welfare of the dogs was of secondary concern.

Shouldn’t a thorough trainer question and possibly dissuade the use of tools like shock and prong collars in the first place? And as for kissing a dog, many dogs have problems with the kissy nature of humans. I admit that the dog’s biting needed to be addressed, but why make the dog kiss in the first place?

And with those thoughts settling in for a good soak, my guilt over schadenfreude was assuaged. It was not the humbling of Mr. Milan that I was celebrating, it was the hope that many people watching the show would see the same things I did. And just perhaps, they would come to believe that training methods considering the welfare of the dog as a primary concern may be better for humans as well.



11 thoughts on “Schadenfreude and Cesar Milan

  1. Amen Kevin. I have not watched the video yet, but I have seen it going around. Like you, I need time to make observations on it, but I love your catch on Cesar choosing to give the owner what they wanted each time. I need to go watch this now.

  2. Thank you, Kevin. Although I find it ironic that the ad that comes up (for me, anyway) directly below your article is for a dog trainer in my area that freely uses shock to the point of 2nd degree burns and prong collars to the point that they leave puncture wounds. I know this is not something you have control over, but it illustrates your point – trainers who use such methods thrive because they give owners what they think they want, rather than educating.

    • Thank you for commenting and yes that is very annoying. I have blocked many of those ads from appearing but of course new ones crop up and I have to know about them before I can block them. If you can tell me what the URL is to that ad I will make sure it is blocked. I am glad you enjoyed the post and sorry that the ad presented the contradiction.

  3. After this, one of the most infuriating things is the way that Milans’ fans talk at other people. The most repeatable things they’ve told us is that science is “just your opinion”; or that if we “don’t like it” we “shouldn’t watch him”; along with the reason that we “don’t agree with his methods” is because we’re using our “hearts rather than heads”.

    It’s a friend of mine who posted the video you’ve re-posted, and she said the only people who are being belligerent and swearing in their comments are those who are trying to defend Cesar. I’m not surprised…

    • I think that people can get over zealous on both sides. The psychology of someone being attacked can provoke responses not normally offered and I think that is why many of Cesar fans can become so heated in their defense of him. It’s harder to give up a belief rather than change and idea.

      On the other side, as I stated in the article. We get frustrated with the lack of any real information behind their arguments, In the meantime it’s often the dogs who suffer when people attempt some of this methods without really knowing what they are doing. .

  4. My first thought on that parrot anecdote, was, ‘ for pity’s sake, if the dog wants to bite you when you kiss him, he obviously doesn’t like it, so don’t do it and you won’t get bitten’. It’s a no brainier and would have solved the problem straight away, instead of forcing the dog into something he doesn’t like, is totally not necessary, and bizarrely, having to use a parrot to do it!

  5. I have the most wonderful Goldendoodle in the world. She weighs 64 pounds. I weigh 126. Lucy has been to classes and I’ve had private trainers come to the house. She lunges at other dogs and she is leash aggressive.

    If we’re at Starbucks and a small child runs at her to pet her, she growls, she sees the child as a threat. I’ve never had a dog that growled at strangers. Did I say that she’s gorgeous? Everyone wants to pet her. Sometimes shes good, sometimes not. I always say no if asked.

    She has become really good on the leash, but not always, and when it happens, she is very strong and on 7 occasions she has pulled me over on our walks. The last time this happened I had seven stitches on my face.

    We got a zap collar. We got a trainer who showed us how to use it. She’s a very smart dog. She responds to the tone now. We only had to zap her a few times at a very low level.The trainer showed us how.

    I can walk her now and know that if I see another dog walking towards us and that dog is not under control by their owner and Lucy isn’t responding to “leave it”, I can give her the tone, she doesn’t pay anymore attention to the other dog and I don’t hit the ground. We’re both safe.

    We love this dog, she loves us. I would never hurt her. Never.

    Nothing is black and white. Lucy has a Facebook page with 1040+ friends. And she has her own blog. Doesn’t every Goldendoodle? This dog is loved!

    • Cyndi, I have no doubt that you love your dog. My contention is that there are other ways to deal with a leash aggression other than zap collars. Specifically, BAT, developed by Grisha Stewart has produced excellent results for dealing with this type of behavior problem. Her website, has some great information and videos on this wonderful technique.

      I am glad that Lucy has become less reactive and allowed you both some enjoyable free time, I just wish the trainers you brought to her first had succeeded with methods like BAT so the collar would not be necessary.

      If you can respond with a link to her blog I would love to read it.

      Thanks for sharing your experience with us.


  6. Liked your analysis. I often feel sorry for those being interviewed when they are somewhat attacked by reporters, regardless of whether they are in the right or wrong. (That’s just me for the underdog at any given time!) You could almost say the same about the reporter – did he make Mr Milan aware of his views or what line the interview was going to take or did he also blindside him like a prong collar? I have no love for Mr Milan or his ways but we as an entire society need to change. Even our morning shows portray antibullying messages then turn around and attack someone for their choice of clothing. We are certainly an interesting, mixed up species and I think if the world was ending and I could room to save a few souls on my pretend spaceship none of them would be from the species homo-sapien 🙂

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