Dog Whisperer: good,bad & should you practice it?

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”

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9 thoughts on “Dog Whisperer: good,bad & should you practice it?

  1. Great post. Why is it that people think they are professionals after watching a few episodes of a TV show. Ceaser is a great rehabilitation expert, and his methods do work, but only in the proper context and done by a competent professional! Professional training is the only way to go. If a dog need rehabilitation (which is rare if properly cared for from the start) it should be only be attempted by a seasoned professional. Never correct your dog in this manner without Ceaser standing right there beside you OK? I have used a method similar to this in ‘Red zone’ cases during a ‘Red zone’ moment, but in rare and extreme cases only. If this is being done on an ongoing basis for simple training…you are abusing your dog! Again great post. Thanks!

    1. Ems
      Thank you for your comment. I am glad you enjoyed the post. It is sad that so many people do not pay attention to the disclaimer that they have on the show.
      “Do not attempt these techniques at home, contact a professional”. Too many people are getting hurt, or hurting their dog’s chances of being rehabilitated correctly. I have had many people try to “bite” their dog with their hands, by “poking” them on the neck. A word of caution, if your dog is in an escalated state, your hand will be biten. Some dogs redirect aggression when in this state and should only be handled by a professional. Again, his show is educational but his techniques can be dangerous to you and your dog if you do not understand the entire situation.
      Thanks again for your comment!
      Tara

  2. I truly appreciated this blogpost. Many people hate Caesar because of the techniques he uses. But, like you said, he knows what he is doing and how to do it correctly. The problem is that people try to do this without the years of experience or his guidance. He extremely well-versed in his dog language.

    I remember thinking “how does he use this on every dog?” He doesn’t and sometimes instead of dog psychology he uses dog training!! For example, one bull terrier shut down on the leash and Caesar used lots of praise, butt scratches and Daddy to get him going. It was nice to see him change a little.

    With one point, I believe he doesn’t praise the client’s for a reason. He has got to teach them his way in less than a day. If he shows too much affection, the owners might become even more confused. The dog might even revert back into an excited state. Next time you watch the show, please watch how he is with his pack.

    1. Kaitlyn
      Thank you for reading my post. A few things I do feel I need to touch upon in your comment. There are many clients I also need to teach in one day due to financial hardships, but I always use praise to let the dog know it is performing the task I want. The praise I use is not the touchy feely praise but a simple “good job” to approve of the behavior at that moment. It is possible to praise a dog without reverting them back into an excited state, we have many aggression cases that remain calm with praise and after one session understand what is “right” and what is “wrong” not because it is magic but because they are conditioned by a correction for bad behavior and praise for appropriate behavior. Again I do appreciate the fact that Ceasar has brought to reality, that dogs should not be humanized, but at the same time dogs do need to know they are doing things right. In my years working with clients I find it easier to explain in detail what I am doing and why, so they do not seem confused. If they are left confused I only did half of my job, I trained the dog and not the owner. I have seen his behavior with his pack and yes there are a few things I disagree with, however, I would never pick apart his behavior as I would expect the same professionalism. My post is strictly aimed to the owners who feel it necessary to mimic his actions without proper knowledge of canine body language or behavior.
      Again thank you for your comment. 🙂
      Tara

  3. Great site this tarastermer.wordpress.com and I am really pleased to see you have what I am actually looking for here and this this post is exactly what I am interested in. I shall be pleased to become a regular visitor 🙂

  4. Great tip on praise after correction when the dog looks at you. I wasn’t clear about this so sometimes I correct then praise and sometimes I would correct and have the talk;) Now I will only praise with eye contact after the correction:)

  5. Do you know a good trainer in San Diego Ca? I have a boxer mastiff mix that is great with people a trained therapy dog even. But occasionally he gets aggressive with other dogs and it is very scary because of his size he never actually hurts the other dog. He is very well behaved otherwise.

    1. Diane
      Unfortunately I do not know any trainers in San Diego, but he may be reacting to “rude” behavior from another dog. Many people think their dog is dog-dog aggressive but they do not look at the whole picture. I am not sure if that is the case, as I am not there to see the altercations, but does it only happen if a dog comes up to his face? Is it “hit or miss” the dogs he reacts to? Sometimes another dog will give a challenging stare or body posture and if your dog has a high pack and defense fight drive he will take on a challenge if given. I would recommend trying to find a trainer that understands a dog’s drives before you work with them, many trainers label a dog as aggressive when in fact they are doing a job we mistakenly gave them. 🙂 If you have time, you can fill out and send us an aggression survey, https://tarastermer.wordpress.com/2009/05/27/aggression-research-study/ ,I may be able to help you with understanding his drives a bit more.
      Good luck!

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