BLOGS Ask the Animal Expert Ask Annie about Animals – June 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,

By utilizing the violent methods mentioned last month, Millan proves his lack of knowledge of the act of learning itself. Emotion influences the ability to learn. While attending a veterinary behavior seminar, a clip of Cesar goading a dog into biting was shown. Cesar’s comment: “I didn’t see that coming.” A collective groan erupted from the audience since that poor dog, Holly, had done everything in her power to communicate with Millan. When Cesar strung up Shadow on the show, he proclaimed that the dog had learned his lesson and was now being submissive. In reality, we can see that the dog is being strangled. His tongue is turning blue from lack of oxygen. There is no submission going on. He is nearly comatose. No learning is taking place, other than establishing a ‘people can’t be trusted’ PTSD-type of trigger, which resulted in Shadow’s owner being bitten a few weeks later while trying to ‘discipline’ him. These dogs had no further recourse than to bite after being forced into situations from which they could not flee. Under stress, the reptilian part of the brain kicks in and fight or flight is the only option. When flight is prevented, fight is all that’s left. And NO learning is taking place, other than a setting up for PTSD triggers.

Brains beat bullying when it comes to teaching. Classic conditioning occurs via association. Counter conditioning works on changing the association from bad to good. Operant conditioning allows the dog to influence the outcome. When the dog has some element of control over the situation, the result is a much happier and less stressed pet. Learning burns new neural pathways in the brain. Reduced stress leads to more learning taking place. It is up to you whether your dog is learning something good, or something bad. Is he learning that no matter how hard he tries, he cannot communicate with you? Is he learning that no matter what dog-inspired behavior he does, he experiences violent results? Or will you start teaching him what he should do instead? Will you teach him to think about what earns him a paycheck? Positive reinforcement, DONE PROPERLY, does NOT lead to a spoiled dog. There is nothing ‘permissive’ or ‘weak’ about positive reinforcement. It is a tool for communicating when something is done “right”. It is a paycheck for a job well done. And the results are amazing. “Red dogs” learn to settle down. Dogs don’t need to be exhausted to stay out of trouble, because they’ve been taught what TO DO. And regardless of Cesar’s beliefs, affection should never come last in any relationship.

Great leaders aren’t bullies. Bullies are feared, not respected, and those individuals that are bullied often rise up in retaliation. The symptoms of Caesar Syndrome are arrogance, failure to learn from mistakes, failure to educate yourself beyond what you already know, and not listening to others – especially those who may have a better view of the situation than you have. A great leader never attempts to force respect. Respect, from your dog – or your kids, your spouse, your boss, your employee – is earned, never forced.


P.S. If you really want to learn about ‘dog whispering’, look up Paul Owens. He wrote the book, The Dog Whisperer, years before Cesar Millan was picked up off the street and given a television show.

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