BLOGS Ask the Animal Expert Ask Annie about animals – April 2016

Dear Annie,

My husband likes watching Cesar Millan and says that’s the real way dogs have to be trained or they won’t listen to you. I don’t like Cesar. I think he’s a bully. And now my husband is turning into one, too. Does Cesar really know what he’s doing?

My Husband is NOT Whispering!

Dear Whispering,

Cesar Millan is currently under investigation by law enforcement, AGAIN. This time it is allegations of animal cruelty stemming from a recent episode of his show. A dog with a history of pig killing is brought on-leash into a pen of pigs. Cesar then ‘evaluates’ the dog and lets it off leash. A melee ensues as the dog promptly attacks the pigs, causing injuries. Injuries included ripping off part of one pig’s ear. Cesar claims it was all part of desensitization and counter conditioning. He claims ‘no permanent damage’ was done, and the dog is now ‘cured’. There are so very many things wrong with Cesar’s mindset.

First, let’s start with a phrase you’ve probably seen a thousand times, “No animals were harmed during filming”. The American Humane Association is entrusted by the film industry worldwide to protect animal actors. American Humane asked National Geographic to stop airing Cesar. They cite the training methods used on the show as “inhumane, outdated, and improper”. They have documented instances of cruel and dangerous treatment of animals for the show, including at least one instance of near-asphyxiation of a dog. American Humane requested that National Geographic stop sending the message “that violent treatment of animals is acceptable”.

Next, let’s look at a couple of his other run-ins with the law. Cesar’s arrogance has him walking large groups of dogs off leash – even, per his own words, “troubled” dogs. While walking under Cesar’s “control”, a Great Dane bit a neighbor. Cesar’s “skill” at assessing danger and protecting individuals from harm appears to be nonexistent. In another case, a nurse was bitten, and allegedly permanently disfigured, by a dog that was “rehabilitated” at Millan’s “Dog Psychology Center”. Unfortunately for the people buying into his business model, there is NO oversight, certification, accreditation, or even testing of any kind in order to hang out a shingle saying “dog trainer” or “dog psychologist”.

Now, let’s look at Cesar’s claim of ‘desensitization and counter conditioning’. This method is an extremely valid and useful way to modify behavior. The problem is, Cesar doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. He likes to use terminology borrowed from other sources, but clearly doesn’t bother to actually educate himself on the method itself. Desensitization and counter conditioning is done slowly, gradually, over weeks and even months of work. The dog learns to tolerate, or even enjoy, a thing or event that previously caused distress, fear, or aggression. This method works wonderfully when applied to teaching your dog that the letter carrier or UPS driver are wonderful people! Real training isn’t a spectator sport. It’s Cesar’s showmanship that has people tuning in for his version of the gladiatorial games.

Finally, let’s look at the ‘no permanent damage’ claim. Perhaps he doesn’t consider the pigs’ plight because they are farm animals destined to be eaten. But what should be considered is the fact that this episode was viewed by people, like your husband, who now believe that Cesar’s methodology is acceptable and worthy of imitation. This IS permanent damage on a massive scale.


To be continued next month with more information, including dominance theory, the science of learning and “Cesar syndrome.”

Send your ‘Ask Annie About Animals’ questions to:
Wolf Song Enterprises, LLC
1657 S. Getty, Suite 28 Muskegon, MI 49442
or email your question to:

Annette_VidaAnnette Vida is a licensed veterinary technician with multi-species experience in day clinic, emergency clinic and mobile veterinary care facilities. She is also a certified dog trainer with 40 years experience. Annette has been involved with rescuing animals for decades and shares her home with her wonderful husband and many (rescued) animals. She owns and operates Wolf Song Enterprises, LLC, where she offers animal related consulting services and training. Her office is located at 1657 S. Getty, Ste 28, Muskegon, MI 49442. Call 231-740-3879 for an appointment—home consultations also available.

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