I’ve talked to lots of pet bloggers in the last couple of years, and seen all sorts of topics get discussed and dissected. Much like mommy bloggers learn early on to avoid lecturing on the merits of breastfeeding lest they actually enjoy getting called names, most pet bloggers have to step in it on a couple topics once or twice before realizing- oh. People get really upset about that one.
If you’re a pet enthusiast and really want to get people going, utter these two magic words: “Cesar Millan.” It’s kind of like putting on the One Ring- yeah, you’ll get attention, but it may not be the kind of attention you want. Be careful what you wish for, my friends.
Cesar is a bit of a polarizing figure, to put it mildly. Love him or hate him, he sure gets people going. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground.
Is that the gentle smile of a benevolent training saint with his beloved pet? Or an evil leer of a madman throttling a dog by the cheeks? I have no idea, but I am tired of living in fear.
I come to you today to tell you this: it is OK to neither love nor hate the man. It is OK to be utterly ambivalent. You can do that and still love animals. I fully admit I have no opinion on him since I don’t watch the show and I leave training questions to those with more knowledge than I. I am Ceswitzerland.
Therefore all those people who are eagerly waiting with their fingers poised over the keyboard to either vociferously disagree or strongly back me up on my opinion are going to be mightily disappointed. I have no opinion for you to tear apart.
I am sure both his supporters and detractors have some valid points, or else this discussion wouldn’t still be taking place. I guess my point is this: I don’t really care all that much, though I certainly respect that many of you do. I am simply much too busy arguing with people who think parvo vaccines cause parvo and that sibling cats will know not to mate with one another to get involved in this debate.
So what I really want to know is: does one need to actually take a side to invite the inevitable bloodbath? Or is his name so mythical that simply mentioning it in an entirely neutral manner enough to bring on the hordes? Is it possible to have a calm discussion of the guy?
What hijinks will ensue from the mere opinionless mention of the Grand Poobah of Pit bulls? And are there any other topics in pet blogdom that invite this level of Braveheart-esque battle?
(Interesting fact: if you rearrange the letters in his name, you get “I am Lord Voldemort” “Malice Snarl”, “A Cairn Smell”, and “Carnal Smile.” Make of that what you will.)
Deb Mendez says
Amen, Dr. V — I’m with you. Yet, so few take the middle ground on him.
Hee hee! I live in Ceswitzerland too!
First LotR references now Harry Potter? Please be my bff!
Anyway, I learned the hard way to stop posting stuff about what I feed Prudence on my facebook. Apparently I’ve friended really outspoken people who will bicker with me, and anyone else who comments, about the “right” and “wrong” ways to feed a dog. I’ve gotten responses on everything from the fact that I feed Honest Kitchen (“raw food?! You’re killing your dog!”) to my occasional feats of home cooking mastery (“variety is bad!”). There are just some things no one will ever agree on.
Annette Frey says
Ashley, don’t take it personally. I have a saying for people like that.
” If ignorance is bliss, you must be very blissful!”
It’s a little like “complaining”, if it’s done to effect change, it has value, but if it’s done just for the sake of complaining, it only brings more complaining (and misery). There is a way to have a valuable conversation on differences of opinion, where everyone learns but just to yell opinions — well that’s probably the person who complains just to hear their own voice.
Slightly confused.. am I the blissful one? Either way, not offended.
Anyway, the way I’ve learned about really digging into pet nutrition is from having discussions with people and really listening to their perspectives. My facebook friends (really not friends in the sense that I really like or want to hang out with them) don’t hear my side, they just like telling me I’m wrong.
Annette Frey says
Never, you’re the best Ashley! I mean people who want to yell at others – or you, in this case – for what “they” think they’re doing wrong.
I’m actually trying to reply to the bottom response but I can’t and thus I am sad. Anyway, you’re the best too Annette :D:D
Tabitha W says
I think its your blog and you have the power to post what ever you want.
I like to be a little more outspoken and opinionated so I will always say, go for it and stir the pot.
I have watched his show, it is pretty cool what he does, however I dont think he is the only one to do it. His tricks also get old fast. I prefer Dog town.
I’m there with you! I have seen him do some interesting things with out-of-control pets, but I have also heard that the actual owners start having the same problems again when CM goes home and leaves them to use his tactics. I, for one, can’t practice what he preaches. Not because I don’t believe in it (I’m sure it works for some people). Just because it doesn’t work for me. It’s hard for me to stand there and assert my “alpha-ness” when I have an 85-lb dog barking and lunging on his leash at another 85-lb dog heading toward us who is not on a leash.
I’m one of those people that cringes when I hear his name. I’m balanced enough to say some of his training does seem effective, he obviously does love dogs. But I’ve seen several things that just cross the line when it comes to his training methods. I’m a much bigger “Victoria” fan.
hidden exposures says
i’m not a huge fan but not a hater. i’ve always thought his “exercise, discipline, affection” mantra was a big “duh!” to me, but then again not everyone understands it. also some people think “discipline” means something harsh when in reality it can just be working on sitting, staying, etc. some dogs really need “exercise, discipline with treats, affection” 🙂
but like tabitha above, i massively prefer dogtown. cesar’s show always has made it seem like he can train these dogs instantly, thanks to the magic of editing. dogtown shows how long it truly takes just to make a tiny difference with some of these dogs, who in the end, only have humans to blame for their problems.
I don’t care about his show or his methods. I just think he looks like a douche.. One might say, I have a problem with his looks.. LOL.. I do like that he has pibbles and for them any good press is welcome, even if their owner looks douchey.
I’ve never heard of Dogtown, but i’ll have to check it out. I watched Cesar’s show a few times a few years back, and while initially it seemed like he was doing amazing things, after a few episodes, a few things started to sink in.
1) Certain disciplining measures don’t work for all dogs
2) Training a dog their owners/handlers takes time (weeks and months versus the seeming hours and days of the show) and if you don’t spend enough time doing both, things can easily go backwards.
That said, it was interesting to see how some of the pointers he gave could be applied to general interaction with dogs. One of my friends has a rather vocal (read: yappy) dog, but now whenever I visit, my friend comments on how much more calm her dog is when I’m around.
Steph B says
I’m also not a fan, nor a hater. I think he’s right about some things – dogs need way more exercise than they get, giving a dog a job is a good idea, and organizing yourself so you know what the dog is and is not allowed to do (and then not wavering) is important. I think the idea that all dogs are trying to take over the world is a bit strange. His methods work for him, but I think it’s because he personally has a great understanding of body language and thresholds that the vast majority of other people don’t. No matter how big they make the “DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME” disclaimer at the beginning of the show, people will pull out the bits they think will work and try them. The results? Sometimes it works, sometimes you end up with my Saturday evening last week – my small dog was attacked and killed, with no warning, by my neighbors very large dog, who was “pretty sure she could controll him because she was doing ‘the Cesar Millan thing’ to stop him from lunging at other dogs.” What she had succeeded in doing was teaching her dog not to warn her when he was getting aggressive, instead….
Steph B, I am so sorry for your loss.
Love him or hate him, I think we can probably all agree with the last poster who said “these dogs . . . only have humans to blame for their problems.”
My husband and I try very hard NOT to be our dogs’ problem! I know we’ve learned a lot from MANY different and sometimes surprising sources over the years.
@Cathey, that is too true and I think that is an excellent way to view training.
The title of this post made me laugh as in most of my classes, as a student not a trainer, this seems to be true. Even the first syllable “Cee” will get you a dirty look. While I don’t think his methods are ones that should ever be used by the average dog owner, I do sometimes still watch the show. The one good thing I have to say about him is that – unlike other celebrity trainers out there – he doesn’t seem to judge anyone and will even branch out to more positive methods if that’s what works best for the camera.
Annette Frey says
Well I personally am loving Cesar – and his people at the moment because I have a full page in the feature article in the November issue of his magazine (just hit the stands)! The article has nothing to do with dog training btw.
That said, I have so many takes on the Cesar controversy. First, I have personal experience with “positive reinforcement” trainers sitting around and cursing him and his methods, only to manhandle my dog, worse than anything they talk about him doing (could have seriously injured her neck, taking her down to the ground by grabbing her muzzle, twisting her head by it and putting her to the ground), during agility – because the trainer was annoyed that Starr was overexcited by a doberman doing her run fast and hard. That was Starr’s last agility class thank you very much.
Then, there’s the issue of anyone who gets more and more popular is going to build more and more fans as well as enemies. Let’s face it, for many people it’s easier to become envious and attack someone who is in a place they want to be, rather than do the work and focus on reaching their own dream. Sad, but true.
Victoria’s “people” were interested in Starr for a show but since I wasn’t willing to say I would get rid of her if our few issues weren’t solved….. so remember, these are “shows” and they all need to need certain criteria and look for for cases that meet that criteria.
I can go on but I’ll stop here.
Annette Frey says
Oh, and I love the H.P. reference! And no, I don’t think there is any other name or word in the dog world that will bring on as much emotion from either side.
So I will have to say I had NO idea that CM and his show were that controversial. Interesting. I have only watched it a few times and been intrigued but I would have never guessed that there was such drama. I learn something new everyday!
Jeanne King says
I look at him as a resource like any other. You take what you need from him for your training arsenal and move on. I used his technique to train my terv nit go ballistic over the vacuum in about 2 minutes. And it did not involve pain or fear. The guy has some valid training tips – even for those of us without ‘red zone’ dogs. And if you don’t now, or never have had an agressive dog, how can you criticize? Take what works for you and your dog and leave the rest.
Barbara and Daisy says
I don’t think that any one person has ALL the answers … even ME! So why not take what’s useful and fits, and then leave in peace?
Annette Frey says
That is such a healthy and realistic attitude! Where’s the “Like” button? : )
Eric Goebelbecker says
Is there a middle ground? It seems hard to find. In one of the reviews I did of his show I complimented his coaching skills and a few of the decision he made and received some of the worst personal attacks I have ever experienced. Be careful when you dare to criticize the One True Dog Trainer.
That said, if you get a dog roused up enough that you have to choke it out to extricate yourself, you might want to stop strutting around for just a second and review how you got yourself there. You might even want to ask the crew to edit that segment out too….it’s possible that there are people out there that imitate you. Just maybe…..
I’m with you. I am not a regular viewer of his show, but I’ve seen a few episodes where he is choking the dogs to dominate them. The whole choking thing is not kosher with me, and for that reason I am not at a middle ground.
I know a pitbull rescuer that swears his techniques are the only ones that work for her pits, and yes, that includes CHOKING them. She freely admitted that to me. I cannot talk her out of that; she is convinced it is the only way to keep them under control because they can be aggressive.
I will never, ever think that is OK. I am not a professional dog trainer, nor am I a behaviorist, but I cannot condone choking a dog to control it. If there is no other way to get your dog under control, then the dog has serious issues, and I somehow doubt choking it is going to be the way to solve them.
I think the lack of middle ground is because it’s such a fundamental difference in how people view animals.
My animals have the right to say, as independent creatures with their own intrinsic value, that they don’t like something or don’t want to do something. If it’s something I would like them to like (or do) then I see it as my task to find a way to convince them, to motivate them, and to do it in a manner that respects their right to say ‘no’. Any moment I hear myself thinking “Well tough, just get on with it” is when I take a break. “How can I get you to want to do this” rather than “How can I get you to do this” I guess.
While Millan and followers seem to work almost exclusively from a ‘well tough, you have to’ point of view. I think it’s just two ways to view animals that aren’t compatible and that’s why there’s no middle ground.
I never watched his show but I did see them do a parody of him on South Park. So I can’t really speak with authority. Or authoritay, as they say: http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/155251/cartman-vs-the-dog-whisperer
Dr. V says
OMG- I haven’t seen that one! Awesome.
Stephanie Feldstein says
I have definite opinions, but I was with on board with you (and others) not caring one way or the other … until you called him the Grand Poobah of Pit bulls. Sure, he’s given pit bulls some positive exposure through his own dogs, but I have yet to meet a pit bull rescuer or trainer who would recommend his show. Definitely not deserving of being pit bull royalty!
this is like politics and child rearing to me ie some subjects are just hot buttons that people get passionate about, so you have to enter with caution (if at all). Dog training TOOLS are even more controversial subjects than the celebrity trainers, i think. I personally have seen ecollar training in the right hands under the care of a responsible loving owner and professional trainer be a wonderful tool in often “hopeless’ cases, but I can’t talk about that in public because people want to rip my head off as an animal abuser. A confident, happy, and in control animal is a thing of beauty to behold. And it’s alot of work to get there, moreso in some cases than others. I am a big proponent of the energy argument….Some people are just born alphas (and i do believe CM is one of them). I can control just about any dog or any kid but am scared to death of cats-and let me tell you, the cats get my number in 3 seconds flat every time. 🙂
I have to agree with you. I am one of the few middle grounders. Personally, I think you can take something positive away from almost any trainer. Even if it is “there is no way in HELL I would do THAT to my dog!”
You definitely hit the nail on the head with this one! I am not a complete hater nor do I love CM. Being that I’ve worked with dogs (and cats) a lot I just choose to take the things that CM says that are true for me. Pets do feel your energy. I’ve worked with my clients who have had fearful dogs and shown them how their reactions can feed a dog’s reaction. It’s amazing what a difference it makes. On the other had, being that I have a fearful dog and I don’t believe that pain should have to be involved to train a dog. Why choose pain and force first?
I thought this might bring an additional piece to the discussion. Dr. Jim Ha is an Ethologist and Behaviorist. I thought he offered some insight into CM’s techniques and why they work for the short-term, but don’t for the long term. A worthy read. http://bit.ly/cmwqnv
Shiba Tail says
I agree with you too. Although I can definitely see why Cesar is so polarizing, I too am one of those people who neither hates him nor loves him. I think some of his practices are great. He advocates how important exercising your dog is, which, if you’re a dog lover, you know already, but it’s something the average dog owner probably doesn’t take into account. I also think dogs read our energy, which is important to understand when training. However, I don’t agree with a lot of his practices. In his show, it looks like he is able to train dogs instantly. It takes a lot of time and dedication to train a dog and I feel like people watching his show might get frustrated and give up when their dog doesn’t immediately respond to Cesar’s methods.
Oh no, they apply them harder! Your dog doesn’t immediately become an angel when you poke or yank? He’s being dominant! Alpha roll him! Again! Again! Yank that leash harder! Choke-chain didn’t work? Get that super thin choke line on that dog. That’ll teach ‘im.
It makes me sad that CM promotes such an us-vs-dogs way of treating animals. Everything that goes wrong is because the dog is trying to take over. It’s never because it’s confused, or fearful, or simply hasn’t a clue what you want because nobody has ever taught it appropriate behaviour.
I personally think that CM should be tested to see whether or not he floats, per Monty Python, because he may very well be a witch. Or a duck. I don’t know.
Late reaction, but did you see this?
Dr. V says