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The Glamourised Cruelty

This article is about the outdated, aversive, intimidating, inhumane, violent, training methods of Cesar Millan and all his acolytes, that dare to call them selves “dog-trainers”.

Instances of cruel and dangerous “treatment” – promoted by Millan as acceptable training methods – were documented by the American Humane Association, including one in which a dog was partially asphyxiated, during an episode.

“In that particular instance, the dog was first hung by a collar, incrementally tightened by Millan and then pinned to the ground by its neck.”


His goal, to repress a bad-tempered animal, was accomplished by partially cutting off the blood supply to its brain.

What Mr Cesar Millan achieved with his tv-show, is to send the canine awareness backwards in time and glamourise cruelty.
For all of us who advocate the need of knowledge and proper education of the latest scientific findings, it is very disappointing to see these type of shows.
In fact, i find exasperating that National Geographic sponsors and promotes IGNORANCE.
This is really bad news for dog guardians/parents/trainers, but even worse for our poor dogs.

Here is an excerpt of the letter from Lisa Laney, Dip. DTBC, CPDT, CBC to National Geographic before airing “The Dog Whisperer”:

“The ignorance that this program perpetuates will give equally ignorant people the green light to subject their dogs to abuse.
In turn these dogs will react even more defensively, will bite more people – and end up dead.”

And this is in fact a sad reality, knowing that in the US, approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur each year. Of those, 80% cause little to no injury and require no medical treatment.
Dog aggression is the n°1 reason why dogs are re-homed or euthanised in USA.
With Millan’s intimidating “training” methods, flooding, leash jerks, kicks, snaps of the hand, choke-collars, alpha-roll and the rest of the fear-induced, training tool-kit he disposes, he causes chronic stress, more fear and learned helplessness.

The executive board of the American Veterinary Society of Animal behaviour is deeply troubled to learn that Merial, a leader in the Veterinary Healthcare industry, is using Cesar Millan in a promotional campaign for Heartgard and Frontline.

“We are even more disturbed to find that Merial is cross-promoting Mr. Millan’s behaviour video as part of this campaign. Merial’s executives may not be aware of the fact that the American College of Veterinary Behaviourists (ACVB), the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviour (AVSAB) and the Society of Veterinary Behaviour Technicians (SVBT) have uniformly spoken out against the punishment-based techniques employed by Mr. Millan on his television show “The Dog Whisperer.”

And they continue expressing their displeasure by citing that “Mr. Millan’s techniques and misinformation, have contributed to increased aggression and anxiety or resulted in physical injury to the pet and/or pet owner.”

A television producer sued Cesar Millan, claiming that his Labrador retriever was injured at Millan’s training facility:

“…after being suffocated by a choke collar and forced to run on a treadmill.”


The complaint claims breach of contract, fraud, animal cruelty and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other allegations. This person seeks more than 25,000$ in damages.

The problem is that “Cesar’s ways” according to experts, aren’t the best ways neither for dogs nor for humans.
His “alpha-dog” training tips make a “fancy” television show and may provide fast results. But what happens when the show’s over? What about the results in long-term ?
Dealing with behavioural problems, fear and aggression, is not done over a 30min tv-show nor a 2 hours session…
Mr Millan should be aware of the fact there is no “quick-fix” when a problem deriving from bad experiences, traumas or even worse, genetic inheritance, can be dealt within 1 hour and with aversive training methods.
You absolutely can’t punish a dog for being afraid of his environment.
And this is where Millan fails to understand, when he advocates “leadership” and “dominance” in order to submit the poor dog, because he manifests agonistic behaviours!!!
The proof he never read or studied about the scientific methods, the learning theory, the physiology of stress, the ethology or behaviourism, thus to comprehend that aggression is a defence reflex.
According to John Fischer – Dog Behaviourist Consultant:

“Dogs exhibit 3 defence reflexes, ADR (active defence reflex), PDR (passive defence reflex) & FR (freeze reflex).”

Under the ADR, the dog appears rather “aggressive” and confident, while lunging towards the trigger, but this is  misleading and can result to punish the poor individual, who tries to make the threat go away!

Ken Ramirez – Animal Behaviourist and Chief Animal Trainer at Chicago’s Shed Aquarium – argues that everyday dog owners need to learn how to better observe and understand their dogs’ behaviour.

“Then they can reward the behaviour they want and either ignore, avoid, or distract them from unwanted behaviour. It’s reinforcement versus enforcement.”

Millan portrays himself as the “alpha”, leader wolf. He practices and promotes, the “alpha-dog” theory of training, whereby he “joins the pack” and gains dominance over it.

Patricia McConnell, Ph.D. – Associate Professor of Zoology at the University of Wisconsin – cites:

“The cause of most behavioural problems is miscommunication and not dominance issues,”

Either dogs don’t know what their owners want, she says, or we inadvertently have taught them to do the wrong thing.

“Most behavioural problems can be solved by owners learning how to teach a dog what it is they want, by using the science of how animals learn.”

And last but not least, Mr. Millan’s sexism, although i would rather use the term “misogyny”, which touches me personally.
According to him, we women, are the worst offenders in his world. In one of the sequences included in the four-DVD set of the first season of “Dog Whisperer,” Mr. Millan explains that:

“A woman is “the only species that is wired different from the rest… a woman always applies affection before discipline…Man applies discipline then affection, so we’re more psychological than emotional. All animals follow dominant leaders; they don’t follow lovable leaders.”

I found demeaning and illogic, this direct attack towards women.
His sexism is laughable and his simplistic “philosophy” about “pack-leaders”, totally outdated.
The notion of the “alpha pack leader” dominating all other pack members, is derived from studies of captive and unrelated wolves, with no link to the social structure of natural packs, according to L. David Mech, one of the world’s leading wolf experts.
In the wild, the alpha wolves are merely the breeding pair, and the pack is generally comprised of their juvenile offspring and pups.
Dr. Mech wrote and explained in The Canadian Journal of Zoology in 1999, that:

“The typical wolf pack, is a family, with the adult parents guiding the activities of a group, in a division-of-labor system. In a natural wolf pack, “dominance contests with other wolves are rare, if they exist at all.”

He is really misled if “leadership” to him is a synonym to rule and dominate others.
I cite the author Simon Sinek here, to emphasise about what leadership should mean:

“Leadership is not about being in charge, is about taking care of those in your charge”.


Once again, Millan chooses to overlook the scientific research, because if not he should re-evaluate and radically change his training methods.

He often treats aggression by forcing the dog to exercise extensively on a treadmill, by asserting his authority over the dog by rolling it on its back in the “alpha rollover,” and through other forms of intimidation, including exposure to his pack of dogs.
His mantra is “exercise, discipline, affection,” where discipline means “rules, boundaries, limitations.”
Rewards are absent and praise scarce, presumably because they will upset the state of calm submission Mr. Millan wants in his dogs. 

Forcefully rolling a big dog on its back was once recommended as a way to establish dominance, but it is now recognized as a good way to get bitten.
People are advised not to try it.
Author Mark Derr says:

Mr. Millan training methods due to the lack of positive reinforcement or rewards, place him in a long tradition of punitive dog trainers.

In fact, many animal behaviourists believe that in the long-term,

Treating aggression with aggression, leads to more aggression.

About Post Author

Reactif canin

Passionate advocate of Positive Reinforcement, Operant Conditioning and force-free training methods. Studied at Karen Pryor Academy, Ethology Institute Cambridge, Canine Principles Academy and Centre Of Excellence. Being responsible for an animal, consists on creating scenarios that build his self-confidence, helps him to discover his strengths and competences, to trust us and not fear of us. After all, a dog is a dog, a unique individual, who needs and must act like one and by expressing his natural behaviours! We must consider the relationship with our dog as parental, rather than this of the master and subordinate. Dogs, similarly to children, see us as their "role model" for guiding them to their new life, with us. Our role is not to dominate them, but to establish a symbiotic relationship with them. Let us be worthy of this role!

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