Dog Whisperer Fans, please read!
On a daily basis, I hear from clients that they are big fans of the Dog Whisperer. While I am thankful Caesar Milan has raised awareness about the fact that corrections are necessary for dogs, there are a few things I really need to touch upon.
For years, I have been in some heated debates about correcting a dog instead of using strictly “positive/reward” based methods. I modify a dog’s behavior the way another dog would; they correct for bad pack manners and reward for good behavior. When was the last time you witnessed an alpha of a pack give a reward or affection to a pack member for challenging their rank? This being said, too many people are over-correcting their dogs because they watch Caesar and do not reward and praise behavior they want! I witness the clients who use Caesars methods of “shhing”, biting with their hands, rolling the dog on their side, and “kicking” them in the rump everyday. Most of these dogs are being corrected for fear or lack of leadership on the owner’s part!
While it seems that every dog Caesar works with miraculously turns good in one episode, I urge people to understand that this show is edited and certain cases are shown for a reason. Most of the cases that are aired are “hard” dogs, or dogs who “bounce” back from a correction quickly. He also understands a dog’s body language and personality before he begins his “treatment”, which he generally changes if the dog is weak nerved (although arguably not enough). I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have seen an owner use the “kick” method to a dog’s rump if they are barking at another dog. This is probably my biggest pet peeve about the show! There is no reason to ever “touch” your dog with your foot! If you cannot redirect your dog’s attention, you and your dog need more training! Countless people have turned their dogs into anxious messes because they are being over-corrected or misunderstood!
One case “Caesar” fan I worked with had been a dog with food obsession. The owner repeatedly scruffed the dog and forced him into a down position while he was eating because he was stiffening up by his bowl. Everyday this dog felt like eating was a battle and of course, became increasingly aggressive and anxious when feeding time came around. This made the battles worse and eventually, made the dog growl and challenge the owner for everything. Yet another was a fearful little dog that barked at other dogs out of fear and anxiety, the owner repeatedly “kicked” the dog in the rump to redirect her attention on him. This just made the dog more fearful of the owner and more reactive to any dog coming. The cases go on and on, really there are too many to list. The major problem with doing what you watch is the lack of knowledge he gives about why he performs his methods on certain dogs! Again as many trainers and behavior specialists in the field, this is where my frustration lies!
I do believe corrections are needed for bad behavior, but one good correction, not constant corrections. If your dog is not responding to one correction, you are doing it wrong! Stop and get help before things get worse and you lose the respect of a strong and fair leader. This is very important to remember, all dogs need a strong but fair leader (a leader that not only corrects, but rewards and communicates when they do something properly).
I rarely see clients praise the dog when it performs well. I do see people over-correcting and holding on to their anger even after the deed is done. You must remember your dog does not rationalize as we do. When your dog barks at another dog and you correct for it, don’t keep talking to them or try to explain why they can’t do this. After a correction if they look at you, this is what you want and they should get praise for eye contact with you, not more correcting! This is extremely important! How many times have you corrected your dog for something then had a long conversation with them as to why they can’t do that? Your dog cannot understand your lecture, but they can understand that you’re angry and now you are correcting them for looking at you!
Please continue to watch the Dog Whisperer as he is helping many people understand that dogs are not humans, but I urge you to not try his techniques unless you truly understand WHY your dog is doing what they are doing.
Tara,Brandie, Amanda & the “pack”