There has been a lot of discussion about the famous TV dog trainer Cesar Milan recently especially since he’ll be coming to Canada for the first time. One daycare in Winnipeg has even gone so far as to start a petition to have him come to Winnipeg.
I, for one, will not be signing that petition.
Among many things, the greatest issue I have with Milan is that his pack leadership and alpha talk is based on old research, done on wolves. The fact of the matter is that while dogs are descents of wolves, they have been bred for attributes we humans like including behaviour for at least 10,000 years. Dogs are no more wolves than we are Chimpanzees. There has been a lot of behavioural science involving dogs in the past 30 years and now we know that there are better, more humane and more effective ways to be good leaders and to train our dogs without resorting to the use of physical punishment, force or intimidation.
The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (of which I am a member) has a number of statements available regarding dominance:
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) have also issued a number of position statements regarding the use of dominance theory in Dog Training and the use of punishment in behaviour modification:
Another reason I’m not a huge fan of TV dog training shows in general is the fact that we see pretty miraculous results within one hour show. We don’t see the hours (and days and weeks) of training – we see the bits that make for good TV. It has always seemed funny to me that when we watch reality TV programs like Biggest Loser and Intervention, we seem able to realise that weight loss and psychological issues need long-term commitments and help from professionals but when it comes to dog training, we seem to think watching an episode or even a season of any of a number of training shows qualifies them to solve major canine behavioural issues. I am not the only one that has been thinking about this because there’s a great article on the APDT website about TV dog training including some good points to consider while you watch any dog training show.
At Prairie Dog Daycare we use current training methods and take part in regular professional development to learn the latest in dog behaviour and dog training. Our goal is to make sure that we are interacting with your dogs fairly,consistently and respectfully. A lot of the foundation for how we interact with your dogs comes from established trainers, behaviorist and experts in the field including Karen Pryor, Karen Overall, Leslie McDevitt, Suzanne Clothier and Turid Rugaas.