April 20, 2012
Cesar’s Way: "Dogs Must Have Boundaries"
Most dog owners (especially those with, shall we say, “difficult” dogs) know who Cesar Millan is. Called the Dog Whisper, the self-taught Millan is well-known for his success in training particularly aggressive dogs. His methodology? Helping dogs find “balance” by utilizing his understanding of “dog psychology,” combined with “calm-assertive energy” and his “fulfillment forumula”: exercise, then discipline, then finally affection.
DogWatch dealer Dave Wingfield of Hudson Valley Boundaries was recently able to attend one of Millan’s seminars on his “Trust Your Instincts” tour, and had the chance to have a meet & greet with Millan backstage. During their chat, Millan noticed Wingfield’s DogWatch shirt. When Wingfield asked if he approved, Millan said, “Of course. Dogs must have boundaries.” That statement in and of itself sums up Millan’s ethos as a trainer: in order for dogs to be truly happy and healthy, they must have boundaries. DogWatch Hidden Fences, Indoor Boundaries, and Remote Trainers are all useful and appropriate components in providing such boundaries.
Here’s the quick breakdown of the Millan method:
To understand the mentality of a dog, the dog must be viewed as an animal first and foremost; not a pet, not a companion, and certainly not a person or child.
Millan asserts that a dog is an animal with a pack mentality and its own individual and breed-specific needs that can only be met by understanding how the dog would function without human interference. By nature, he says, dogs operate within a hierarchy of dominance; they find where they fit in the pack and their behavior adapts to suit that position. A dog that believes himself to be at the head of the pack will be more dominant, a leader, and potentially more aggressive. He will expect to get his way at all times, and will act in a manner to ensure that. A dog that feels he is at the bottom of the pack will be fearful, anxious, and unsure of himself, and be potentially prone to unstable and aggressive behavior as a result of this fear.
According to Millan, having this basic understanding of dog psychology can help owners to better interact with their dog and properly establish and assert the pack order.
When training a dog, Millan believes the trainer must use calm-assertive energy, wherein one remains calm and in control and does not give way to affection or anger or frustration or other emotions. The trainer must also be assertive and stick to his commands; he cannot give in when the dog “almost” performs the command or outright refuses, nor should he issue a command in a tone that conveys anything other than confidence. A command issued as a question or a plea will not work; it needs to be a statement, an order – hence why it’s called a command. The use of calm-assertive energy helps establish the trainer as the head of the pack and shows the dog where he fits in the pack hierarchy.
Don’t mistake assertiveness for aggression, however; aggression can be counterproductive and cause a whole other host of behavior problems. Cesar’s way dictates that cool, calm, collected, and confident is the way to go.
Consistency is also key here; calm-assertive energy must always be used when controlling your dog’s behavior. If you are not consistently the pack leader, the dog may become confused and begin acting out again, which, again, is counterproductive.
The Fulfillment Formula
First things first: exercise. A dog needs exercise to be healthy and happy. That’s a biological fact. Millan mandates walking your dog for at least an hour a day, and in the correct fashion.
Secondly, discipline. A dog needs rules, boundaries, restrictions. A dog is not a person or a child, and needs to know his place in the pack. Properly administered discipline is key in establishing this. Please note: discipline is NOT synonymous with punishment. On the contrary, discipline is simply treating and training the dog in that calm-assertive manner and using consistent corrections and commands to let the dog know when his behavior is unacceptable and let him know what the acceptable behavior is. Cruelty/abuse is NOT the same as discipline and is NEVER acceptable as a means of training.
Lastly, affection. Keeping affection as the lowest priority can be difficult, as of course we want to be affectionate with our dogs; after all, why would we get a dog if we didn’t want to show it affection? But in Millan’s method, one has to remember that affection is a reward, not a right. A well-behaved dog who maintains his place in the pack gets shown affection from his pack leader; if he steps out of line, he loses affection and is reprimanded for his insolence. Millan believes so should it be when the dog is in a domestic environment.
What do YOU think about Millan’s methods? Too strict? Just right? Need some tweaks? Sound off below!