Cesar Millan is a Hack and Everything You Know is Wrong
Well, probably not everything, but there are some serious issues in the dog training world right now and with the advent of t.v shows about dog training and social media it’s getting out of control.
First off, why call out Cesar Millan?
Because he’s one of the driving forces behind every misconception I’m about to lay out before you. In a nutshell, he has no understanding of dog behavior, he touts himself as a dog behaviorist when the only actual education on dogs he’s had is being a dog groomer, his training methods are misguided at best and abusive at worst. Most actual canine professionals can’t stand him for these reasons. Many, many professionals have written articles roasting him yet he still manages to hang on to his persona of ‘dog whisperer’ because people who don’t know any better mistake his pseudoscience for fact.
What pseudoscience? Let’s start with the absolute core of his, and many other misguided understandings of dog psychology: The dominance theory.
I hear it all the fucking time. At the dog park “Suzy, get down! Lol sorry, she’s just so dominant” “Aw, he’s so submissive!” “Cody is an alpha, so he’ll try to dominate other dogs at first”. It all makes me want to rip my teeth out with rusty iron chopsticks. Where did people get this idea that dogs naturally fall into dominant or submissive categories? This bullshit all started with, well, bullshit.
In 1974 a man named Rudolf Schenkel decided to study the social structure and behavior of wolf packs not by, idk, observing them in the wild, but by taking random adults from random packs and throwing them into the same zoo enclosure. Real scientific, right? He created the Alpha-Omega (I.E. Dominant/submissive) structure from the ensuing chaos he observed. In his paper, the man constantly compares dogs and wolves and this became an often sited work in studying dog behavior. In reality, wolves do have a complex social structure but it’s more easily compared to a family dynamic because essentially that’s what it is. This isn’t even that relevant to dog training, however, as dogs and wolves behave very differently. (This is, by the way, why the keeping of wolf dogs is extremely difficult and should only be done by professionals). Despite being debunked numerous times, this study continues to be used as a foundation of many dog training methods, and has been taken to truly bizarre and even sickening levels.
Check out these nuggets of “information” from a popular dog website. Not only is it dripping with completely unfounded dominance bullshit, but it also pushes the idea (as does Cesar) that dogs have a pack mentality. This isn’t really the case either. Dogs ARE social animals and having a social structure around them is VITAL, but this ‘pack’ mentality is being pushed in an unhealthy way. It follows the dominance theory and states that dogs must find their ‘rank’ in their ‘pack’ and that hyper-romanticized wolf pack structure “rules” must be followed. Here’s a debunking of them:
1. Dogs literally do not care who’s head is higher. This is a classic example of hyper-romanticized wolf behavior and is contracted many times on this site when they assert a small dog can be “dominant” over a big one. 2. Dogs are curious animals and have usually been socialized to think that humans = play and tummy rubs. Your dog is excited and curious about the newcomer and, if not trained otherwise wants to investigate (and possibly get those tummy rubs) asap. 3. More romanticized nonsense. If your dog acts adversely to being moved from where she’s resting, it’s because of a training issue (and likely lack of proper socialization) and not because she’s being “dominant”.
1. Dogs do not have starring contests. Looking away while being stared at isn’t your dog “submitting” to you. It’s a sign that the dog is uncomfortable and I would be too if someone was engaged me in an impromptu staring contest. It’s that dog’s way of saying “dude, can we not do this?” Also another behavior that I’ve seen people interpret as ‘submission’; opening the mouth and/or panting. This is indicative of stress. Think of how you might begin to sweat if you’re stressed. Same basic principle. 2. Dogs want to sleep in bed with you because the bed is comfortable and they like being around you. The position literally does not matter, though you may want to make the bed invitation only just as a general part of training. 3. This is a matter of preference. Personally, I allow my dogs to roughhouse with me and me alone because I don’t mind it and I can teach them a biting threshold so that they never hurt me. I find this lays a good foundation to make sure they’re gentle when I train them to bring me things, etc.
Ever seen a kid fall down, but not start crying until his mom freaks out? Same basic principal applies here. Your dog isn’t “instinctively understanding you’re the alpha”. You’re projecting confidence and because your dog looks to you to help her understand the world, you’re making her feel safe and assured. On the other hand, if you act fearful, like the kid who looks to his mom after he fell, your dog will look to you and see that something is not right and it’s time to be fearful. “Mom is upset and on edge so I should be too!”.
1. Good feeding habits are a must, but eating before your dog is not. Dogs are not wolves and even wild wolves (and lions for that matter) the leader usually eats first along with the pups/cubs and they usually don’t eat their fill before the others are allowed to eat. 2. Appearing to eat out of his bowl is completely unnecessary and is usually only done when trying to correct resource guarding behaviors. 3. There’s a difference between begging for food/being disruptive and not even allowed to be excited to eat. This is the line that made me want to punch this woman in the face. Imagine being psychologically abused to the point where a dog isn’t even allowed to wag it’s tail when it knows it’s about to be fed. A dog who sits down without intensely staring or turns away isn’t being ‘respectful’; in this case it’s likely been abused and is avoiding a stimulus that’s been paired with abuse (the preparation of food).
Using these methods to train a dog can produce a well behaved dog like child abuse can produce a well behaved child. They may appear to work, but the subject in question will not be happy or well adjusted.
Why do people keep flocking to this bullshit? For the same reason they love to reblog outlandish “facts” on this hellsite (Like, does anyone else remember that “did you know” post that claimed there was a recessive gene that made a woman’s eyes purple, have no period yet be fertile, and grow no body hair? Seriously) and unfortunately some people flat out use it to justify abusing their dogs. It puts people as the “alpha” and makes them feel powerful. It sounds scientific to people who don’t know any better. Mr. Dog-groomer chinstrap says it’s good on T.V.
So what’s a better frame of mind to be in when you train dogs? Remember there’s no one set of ‘rules’ that will result in the perfectly trained dog and remember that every dog is different. Do all the research you can and remember your dog is…a dog. Your dog is not going to plot vengeance, nor is it always going to understand things that seem perfectly logical to you. Be patient, ask for help if you need it, don’t lose your shit, and again, learn absolutely everything you can.
Please fire me. I work in pet retail as a dog trainer and cashier when I don’t have classes. A customer came up with over $400 worth of new things for her dog. She was snobby the entire time, looking at me over her obnoxious sunglasses (on a cloudy, nearly overcast day). I pull through with a smile and when I tell her to swipe her card, she goes to do it, stops mid-swipe, and say “No. You do it.” With a smirk on her face. I politely tell her our systems don’t allow us to do that and she stares hard at me. This woman then decides she doesn’t want any of this stuff and wants to go to the competitor. Yeah, bitch. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
Guys, listen up! I recently saw a post about dog body language that was complete and utter crap. There is no such thing as a “dominant” or “submissive” dog. When a dog walks with its head and tail up, it’s not trying to be “dominant”, it’s exhibiting confidence in both itself and its handler. You want a confident dog. A dog walking with its head and tail down is not being “submissive” towards you, it’s showing calming signals (tail down, ears back, wide and squinted eyes, licking lips). This means the dog is insecure with you, itself, or in Jayne’s case, the environment (in this case a man working on the roof).
I can’t stress this enough: The top figure should be encouraged, not the bottom one. So please, Cesar Millan junkies and dominance-based trainers, think twice before you encourage your dog to be insecure.
Some guy on Oddities:
Yeah I've been collecting fossils and bones since I was a kid and I dunno what this is but I'm 100% sure its a fossilized dinosaur skull.
No. Its a hippo skull and there's no way in hell its fossilized at all are you kidding me.
Some guy on a supernatural investigation show:
Uyup I've been livin' in the wilds of Texas mah whole life and I ain't EVER seen a creature like this before. Its definitely some government experiment or Chupacabra!
Its a fucking coyote with horrific mange how the hell have you never seen that before?? Like I'm from urban New Jersey and even I know what mange looks like c'mon!!
*after abusing the hell out of a dog* See, he's submissive now!
I think one of my least favorite things about Cesar Milan (besides completely endorsing instilling fear and sometimes pain on your dog) is that he seriously considers pulling on the leash to be a dominance thing. That they’re doing it to be up front. It’s just bs. It’s really just not natural for a dog to be attached to a rope and not pull. They want to SEE and SNIFF everything and they also don’t understand why this annoying rope is pulling on them. Very few dogs get hooked up to a leash and don’t begin to pull. It’s just a natural instinct because it’s holding them back and the want to go forward. The dog doesn’t care about being in front because he wants to be dominant, he just wants to move fast and wants you to move fast with him and enjoy all the wonderful piles of animal shit he finds with him.
this is the video from Cesar 911 that National Geographic has been taking down. it is being reposted here under the Fair Use law, because quite frankly this needs to be discussed. this video is somewhat graphic and contains images of a dog attacking a pig bloody.
this French Bulldog had killed a young pig before, and in this episode of Cesar 911, Millan unleashes the dog in an enclosed area with multiple piglets. what happens is exactly what anyone with any common sense regarding animals should expect to happen: the dog attacked one of the young pigs. Millan’s plan was to imprint a “positive experience” of pigs on the dog, but what ended up happening was the dog attacked a pig while another handler held the pig in place. in response to this, Millan puts the dog in a down and points at it while making his trademark TSST noise. he then releases the dog, who, to nobody’s surprise whatsoever, once again attacks the pigs.
this is not a man that deserves television shows or magazines telling the general public how to deal with their dogs aggression issues. this is nothing more than unnecessary torture for the sake of television. this is absolutely disgusting. shame on you Cesar Millan. shame on you National Geographic for trying to cover this up.
My mom, talking about how my intact male dog was humping another male at the dog park: “it’s just dominance”
Me, somebody who knows better: “you’ve gotta stop using that word, especially at the park. Dominance theory has been disproved. He’s either really gay or he’s just an over-excited/pushy asshole who fixates on other dogs”
Mom, getting snippy: “dominance has NOT been disproved okay you have to stop saying things just because you read ONE thing online somewhere–”
Me: *sighs in exasperation and walks away because she can’t be convinced that Ceaser Milan is bad or that dogs shouldn’t be eating grains or kibble*
Hey dogblr if you could link me to basically every article you can find regarding the disproval of dominance theory, why CM is a terrible “dog trainer”, and why dogs who hump aren’t just being “dominant” then that would be great. I’m terrible at keeping track of the articles I read. I really oughta bookmark this stuff. But yeah basically my mom challenges me on EVERYTHING I ever say that goes against the dog-raising myths that she grew up with/perpetuates. Every time I say something it’s always “you cab just believe something you read that one time on the internet” and it’s fucking terrible. I’m 22 and she treats any information regarding changing the way I raise my dog as if some uneducated schmuck wrote it and I’ve been tricked into believing it. I used to be a hardcore supporter of CM and even Tia Torres of “pitbulls and parolees” until I took a step back and really researched dog training and other stuff so every time I make a negative remark about them or their methods she gapes like a fish because she can’t comprehend that I dislike them because I learned better. She acts as if I’ve let “crap I read on tumblr” be my only source of information.
Uuggghhhh. Orion isn’t the best-trained dog by any means, and has shitty dog social skills and no I don’t /allow/ him to hump other dogs but he does it anyway and then he’ll fixate on doing it over and over and over again to that dog. It doesn’t matter what I do, either. I’ll put him on leash and get him into a down-stay so he can calm down bit the second I release him he goes straight back to the same dog. Is there even a reason for that aside from “he’s asserting his dominance” because Orion isn’t a “dominant dog” by any means. He’s an asshole, sure, but he doesn’t want to be “in charge”. He’s a 5 year old intact Labrador with shitty social skills. He just is really intent on humping certain dogs, most of which are males (intact or not; it doesn’t matter)
??? cesar millan is a known animal abuser? what did i miss?
Most animal behavior professionals consider Millan’s techniques to be misguided at best and abusive at worst. His techniques rely heavily on using physical force (hitting, choking) and psychological intimidation to force dogs into a state of learned helplessness, which I personally feel is unethical. Very briefly, here are the facts:
-Millan’s dominance theory is based on debunked research on wolves (not dogs) and has no scientific validity. This post discusses this in great detail, and this study discusses how the social dynamic of wolf packs actually works in the wild.
Man looking through these notes I cannot grasp how anyone can justify a trainer actually flipping a horse over backwards, which can cause serious injury let alone contribute to longterm fear and trauma, especially for a problem as small as a horse just not standing still for mounting.
And for anyone who wants to say ‘shit happens’, these are his official promotional videos. This is his ADVERTISING. He/his marketing team aren’t going 'yikes that was an undesirable surprise’, they are putting it in slow mo for everyone to watch. It’s just like Cesar riling up dogs until they become dangerous on camera. It’s NOT about training, it’s not even about 'getting results’, it’s about showing people something as dramatic as possible. It’s designed to make it seem like a trainer is magically taming a wild, dangerous beast when THEY were the one who created and escalated the dangerous situation in the first place.