Cesar Millan is a well known dog behavior specialist. He has aided many people in overcoming behavior problems with their dogs, including fear and aggression. He is self-taught and boasts an extensive understanding of dogs and why they behave the way that they do. Now in it’s seventh season, The Dog Whisperer, a television show shown on The National Geographic Channel, is just one of many ways Cesar Millan teaches others about dog behavior. He is also the author of several books aimed at educating the public on proper care and training for dogs.
We’ve already written about the good and bad of Cesar Millan, but wanted to expand on the key good: his bringing more education about pit bulls to the general public.
Cesar Millan is a well-known advocate for pit bulls. He widely publicizes his ownership of several dogs of this breed. His best known pet was the pit bull he named “Daddy” who was his friend and his companion for over 16 years. Cesar often brought Daddy along with him when teaching owners and their pets behavior techniques. Cesar has often said, “There are no problem breeds, only problem owners.” He is very careful to let owners of all breeds know that he does not train dogs. In his words, ” I rehabilitate dogs. I train owners.”
Cesar works tirelessly to let people know that pit bulls have been given a bad reputation. The breed as a whole, are intensely loyal, and at one time were considered so good around children that they were referred to as “nanny dogs.” The beloved Petey from the television show The Little Rascals was a pit bull. Unfortunately, many people have subverted the pit bulls natural desire to please their owner, and have trained their dogs to be violent and to fight.
Millan’s goal is to not only educate people about the innate gentle nature of pit bulls, but to also educate people on proper care of the animals. He emphasizes the role that physical education and exercise play in keeping a dog happy, healthy, and well-behaved. Pit bulls are a breed of dog that are known to not only need, but to thrive on daily exercise. They are filled with energy and need an effective outlet for that energy. Energy that is not allowed to be expended can result in inappropriate behaviors by not only pit bulls, but all dogs. Walking and exercising pit bulls not only keeps the dogs healthy and burns off excess energy, owners who exercise with their pit bulls also get the opportunity to form a stronger bond with their dogs.
While Cesar believes that dogs should be loved, he also believes and advocates for boundaries in a human/ dog relationship. His belief is that a pit bull who recognizes boundaries is less likely to be aggressive or fearful. The mistake many people make when “loving” their dog, is to let the dog take liberties and do as it wants. This is a mistake with many breeds, but especially within the pit bull breed. Pit bulls do not know their own strength, so behavior that may be cute with a smaller dog, such as nipping, can have serious repercussions within a breed like the pit bull. Cesar recommends that the breed be shown love and affection, but that pit bull owners do not mistake love for letting their dogs run wild. Establishing the owner as the pack leader and setting clear behavior rules enable the dogs to be easily trained and handled.
Pit bulls are often mistakenly perceived as aggressive. Cesar has worked to do away with this misperception, by teaching people that in actuality, pit bulls are people loving and intelligent. It is only through mistreatment that they become hostile. The pit bull breed is very human oriented and loves to socialize. Pit bulls should be taught at a young age what is acceptable within their world and what is not. Most importantly, owners should never fear their dogs. Millan works hard to train owners to be good, responsible caregivers to their pit bulls.
One effective method of training that Cesar endorses is on how pit bull owners view their animals. This is a three point method of viewing their pit bull prior to training. Millan emphasizes that pit bull owners should see their animals as:
1. A canine- Millan explains that first and foremost, their animal is a dog with dog needs. The needs that a human experiences are different from those of a dog.
2. A breed- Pit bulls are a specific breed with specific dietary, instincts, behaviors, and energy needs. The pit bull breed needs to be taken into account when working with and training the animals.
3. An individual- While a pit bull is a canine and a breed, each pit bull is also an individual. Cesar encourages owners to plan a training and behavior program that is individually tailored to their pit bulls needs.
Cesar Millan is notable for teaching pit bull owners that their pit bulls have three primary needs. These are:
1. Exercise- As mentioned before, pit bulls have large amounts of energy and need a large amount of exercise. Exercise is an important need of pit bulls and cannot be over emphasized.
2. Discipline- Pit bulls are pack animals and need to know where they fit into the family hierarchy. Without well defined boundaries and behaviors set into place, pit bulls can become frustrated which is then displayed as aggression.
3. Affection- Pit bulls certainly need love and affection shown to them. They need to know that they are loved and accepted by their pack or family.
(It should be noted that the idea of “pack” is a discredited theory. Millan’s methods work, but not really for the reasons he suggests.)
Perhaps no other human has set out to educate the public on the bad reputation pit bulls have received and why this reputation is misinformation as Cesar Millan. Millan has crusaded tirelessly to promote pit bulls as dogs that have shown aggression due to their mistreatment or lack of proper training. By using his public personality to reach others, he has shown the public that given the proper nurturing environment, pit bulls can be recognized as gentle, loving, loyal dogs that make wonderful pets.