This canine training article was recently sent out by Terri Klimek, the Education Coordinator for As Good As Gold Golden Retriever Rescue, addressing Cesar Millan’s negative training methods. It mirrors our own particular bias. If you’ve ever thought that perhaps Cesar’s way could possibly be your own, please read the article below and follow the links to the other articles. You will be glad that you did.
Training. What a great field to be a part of and what great strides and enlightenment have taken place in the last 20+ years. Training has become so much more than just sit, down and stay. It’s a way of communicating with our companions so that we can live together with the least amount of stress and enjoy each other’s company. Dogs have become family members, not some mammal living the back yard that we expect to bark at strangers. The world of the dog and human is vastly different, yet we have so many things in common — response to kindness and pain being only two. Did you know that humans and canines are the only two species that will continue to play into adulthood and as senior citizens? Next time your at the zoo, take a look around — the only animals that are engaging in play are the adolescents and babies.Many of us on the Board are asked what we think of Cesar Millan. While many of his methods seem to work, how did they get there and what was sacrificed for the end result — usually the bond of trust between human and canine. I personally feel as a human being, not just as a dog trainer, that many of his techniques are cruel and should be considered abuse. Remember if you wouldn’t do it to a child, don’t do it to your animal companions.Below, is a response from Dr. Luescher who is an Veterinary Behaviorist from Purdue University, for whom I have the utmost respect. I believe his statement on Cesar is valid, to the point, and explains why physical punishment is counter-productive in training and can potentially ruin your relationship with your dog. After the following article from Dr. Luescher, check out the viewpoint of Jean Donaldson, who is one of the most respected trainers in the U.S. The links within Jean’s Viewpoint will give you lots of feedback from many authorities in the field. If you’ve ever thought that perhaps Cesar’s way could possibly be your way, I urge you to read the article below and follow the links to the other articles.
Response to Cesar Milan and his Methods from a Positive Dog Trainer/Behaviorist
By Andrew Luescher, DVM, Veterinary Behaviorist, Animal Behavior Clinic, Purdue University I reviewed the four preview-videotapes kindly submitted to me by National Geographic. I very much appreciate having gotten the opportunity to see these tapes before the program goes on the air. I will be happy to review any programs that deal with domestic animal behavior and training. I believe this is a responsibility of our profession.I have been involved in continuing education for dog trainers for over 10 years, first through the How Dogs Learn” program at the University of Guelph (Ontario Veterinary College) and then through the DOGS! Course at Purdue University. I therefore know very well where dog training stands today, and I must tell you that Millan’s techniques are outdated and unacceptable not only to the veterinary community, but also to dog trainers. The first question regarding the above mentioned tapes I have is this: The show repeatedly cautions the viewers not to attempt these techniques at home. What then is the purpose of this show? I think we have to be realistic: people will try these techniques at home, much to the detriment of their pets.Millan’s techniques are almost exclusively based on two techniques: Flooding and positive punishment. In flooding, an animal is exposed to a fear (or aggression) evoking stimulus and prevented from leaving the situation, until it stops reacting. To take a human example: arachnophobia would be treated by locking a person into a closet, releasing hundreds of spiders into that closet, and keeping the door shut until the person stops reacting. The person might be cured by that, but also might be severely disturbed and would have gone through an excessive amount of stress. Flooding has therefore always been considered a risky and cruel method of treatment.
Positive punishment refers to applying an aversive stimulus or correction as a consequence of a behavior. There are many concerns about punishment aside from its unpleasantness. Punishment is entirely inappropriate for most types of aggression and for any behavior that involves anxiety. Punishment can suppress most behavior but does not resolve the underlying problem, i.e., the fear or anxiety. Even in cases where correctly applied punishment might be considered appropriate, many conditions have to be met that most dog owners can’t meet: The punishment has to be applied every time the behavior is displayed, within ½ second of the behavior, and at the correct intensity.
Most of the theoretical explanations that Millan gives regarding causes of the behavior problems are wrong. Not one of these dogs had any issue with dominance. Not one of these dogs wanted to control their owners. What he was right about was that calmness and consistency are extremely important, but they don’t make the presented methods appropriate or justifiable.
The last episode (compulsive disorder) is particularly unsettling because compulsive disorder is related to an imbalance in neurotransmitter levels or receptors, and is therefore unequivocally a medical condition. Would it be appropriate to treat obsessive compulsive disorder in people with punishment? Or have a layperson go around treating such patients?
My colleagues and I and innumerable leaders in the dog training community have worked now for decades to eliminate such cruel, ineffective (in terms of true cure) and inappropriate techniques.