Pit Bulls » Training » Cesar Millan: The Good and the Bad

Cesar Millan: The Good and the Bad

Cesar Millan, a.k.a. “The Dog Whisperer,” is a controversial figure in pit bull circles (well, not just in pit bull circles, but that’s where our focus lies). On one side, there are those who believe that Millan is owed an enormous debt of gratitude by the pit bull community for his work with Daddy (Millan’s gentle pit bull who was instrumental in improving public perception of our breed), and that his training methods may be politically incorrect, but highly effective.

On the other side, there are those who call his methods abusive to dogs and dangerous to people, while accusing Millan of setting dog training back by at least twenty years. Who’s right and who’s wrong? We’ll explore the good and the bad about Cesar Millan.

Cesar Millan

Battle of the Dog Trainers

The first thing you need to know in order to understand the Cesar Millan controversy is that the world of professional dog training is sharply divided. It’s frequently stated that the divide is between trainers employing aversive techniques and trainers using reward-based methods, but that’s not entirely correct.

Most reward-based systems such as clicker training do utilize aversives. Turning around and walking 10 steps in the opposite direction when your pit bull starts pulling on her lead to greet an approaching canine friend is an aversive training technique (in operant conditioning, it’s what is known as negative punishment; see the preceding link for an explanation of the terminology).

What it is not is a pain, fear, or intimidation based technique. That and the fact that aversives constitute only a very small part of the training system, as opposed to being the main item on the menu, are where the real divide is.

Fifty years ago, nearly all dog trainers employed primarily aversive methods. Cattle prods, hanging dogs by their collars until they almost lost consciousness, holding their heads under water–these were considered acceptable “training methods” once upon a time.

By the mid-1970s, a new crop of dog training experts began to emerge. These new dog trainers were gentler than their predecessors and even incorporated some reward-based techniques. Their primary focus, however, was on dominance and pack leadership. In order to have a well-behaved dog, you had to be a strong pack leader, they told dog owners.

Supposedly dogs, like wolves, naturally lived in a strict hierarchy, and even the most innocuous behavior–such as an excited puppy rushing to run through a doorway ahead of his human–was actually an attempt by the dog to assert his dominance. Dog owners were advised to be vigilant about canine power plays at all times, and by feeding your dog before you sat down to enjoy your own meal or allowing your dog on the furniture, you were definitely inviting trouble.

In order to show their dogs who’s the boss, dog owners were told to use techniques such as “alpha rolls” and “scruff shakes” that were supposedly based on canine pack behavior.

Except that they really weren’t.

Pack hierarchy and dominance theories are derived from a few wolf studies from the 1930s and 1940s that were rife with supposition and misinterpretation. For instance, while a subordinate wolf may voluntarily roll over on his back to appease a higher-ranking pack member, the only time a wolf would forcibly roll another wolf on his back is when he intends to kill him. This explains the intense terror, fear, loss of trust, and sometimes aggression dogs experience when “alpha rolled” by their humans.

By the early 1990s a new approach to dog training started to emerge. Combining B. F. Skinner’s principles of operant conditioning with the latest research on canine behavior and psychology, animal trainers and behaviorists such as Karen Pryor, Jean Donaldson, and Dr. Ian Dunbar began demonstrating that dogs could be trained very effectively without the use of force, fear, or intimidation.

The reward-based techniques they employed weren’t actually new–they had been used for decades to train animals for the US Navy and the CIA as well as to train marine mammals at places like SeaWorld–but Pryor, Donaldson, and others were instrumental in introducing these training methods to dog owners. Meanwhile, evidence began to mount indicating that fear and pain based aversives could cause and aggravate the very behavior problems they were supposed to prevent or solve.

During the last two decades, positive reinforcement training has steadily picked up steam and pain/fear-based methods have increasingly fallen out of favor. This makes the success of Cesar Millan difficult to understand for many positive reinforcement trainers, and has even led some to speculate that we may be witnessing a backlash against reward-based training methods.

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Cesar Millan: The Bad

Millan is a throwback to the 1970s pack leader/dominance school of dog training. However, the idea that canine packs have one leader who acts as a dictator has long been discredited. We now know that canine pack hierarchies are much more fluid and cooperative than we used to think. The alpha male and female are the breeding couple (although large packs may have more than one breeding pair), but different animals take the lead in different areas of pack life.

Millan’s training method is heavy on pain and fear based aversives, but use of force or intimidation are completely unnecessary to be a good pack leader. You can be a strong leader through simple control of resources. By making access to certain resources contingent on certain behavior, your dog learns that it pays to act the way you want him to act. Note that resources doesn’t just mean food or treats; it can mean access to the outdoors, getting to sit on the couch with you, being allowed to greet your guests, playtime with another dog, going on a walk, a round of tug–anything your dog wants to do can be used to reinforce the behavior you’re looking for.

And in the event that punishment is necessary, it can be achieved by removing a desired resource; there’s absolutely no need to resort to physical forms of punishment or intimidation.

Not only do dogs trained with reward-based methods typically learn faster and retain lessons longer (most likely because they are active participants in the learning process as opposed to just doing what they are forced to do), but studies indicate that one in four dogs trained with pain and fear based aversives will respond with aggression.

While such a response can occur even under the supervision of an experienced trainer (in one episode of Millan’s show a dog tormented by a shock collar turned to bite his owner in an act of desperation), it’s most likely to occur when pain and fear based techniques are attempted by non-professionals. Millan’s TV show does include constant admonitions to dog owners not to try what they see Millan do at home, but human nature being what it is, such warnings frequently fall on deaf ears.

After all, Millan does seem to get results and often in a very short period of time. This entices many into attempting his techniques on their own dogs–often with disastrous consequences. It’s not that pain and fear based aversives don’t work. They do. The problem is that they’re very difficult to administer correctly, and they can have extremely negative side effects.

Take leash corrections, for example. In order to be effective, they need to be applied in a fraction of a second with exactly the right amount and type of force. That’s not something an individual can learn from reading a book or watching a TV show. You need a trainer standing right next to you, demonstrating the technique and reviewing your performance. And even then, many people can’t do it right.

Even when pain and fear based aversives are applied correctly, there’s a substantial risk of aggression, loss of trust, and behavioral problems. We know of people who are still using daily counterconditioning exercises to repair the trust damaged by the “alpha rolls” they administered five years ago.  The relationship with their dog has never been the same since they used this antiquated, wrongheaded technique. Of course not all dogs will respond badly to Millan’s methods, but why take the chance?

Cesar Millan: The Good

Millan’s love of pit bulls and his work with Daddy, the gentle American Pit Bull Terrier who passed away earlier this year at the age of sixteen, have indeed helped to reshape the public’s perception of pit bulls. Millan has also done tremendous work with abused and abandoned dogs. Of course that does not mean that his training methods are ideal for pit bulls or even for pit bulls requiring rehabilitation. It’s worth noting that Michael Vick’s pit bulls were rehabilitated without the use of pain and fear based aversives.

Cesar Millan is right to emphasize the importance of exercise and the role insufficient physical activity plays in many canine behavioral problems. While not a cure-all, increasing the amount of exercise your dog gets almost always results in a happier and better behaved canine companion. And of course exercise is particularly important for high energy breeds such as pit bulls.

Millan is also absolutely right about the need for consistency and the importance of working with your dog every day. While he often says that there are no quick fixes, this message is undercut by his TV show, which routinely shows him seemingly solving major behavioral problems in the course of a single episode.

We also like his emphasis on dogs teaching other dogs. Many people realize that dogs can pick up bad habits from one another, but a well-behaved dog can also teach a new arrival what type of behavior is expected in your household. Millan is right that sometimes a dog’s best teacher is not a human, but another dog.

The Bottom Line

Cesar Millan is a gifted dog trainer and a charismatic entertainer. He knows how to communicate with dogs, how to read dogs, and how to interact with dogs. The bottom line is that virtually any training method can yield good results when applied by a talented professional with a natural affinity for dogs.

The real test is how the method fares when applied by average dog owners, and this is where techniques based on pain and fear run into trouble. When reward-based techniques are administered incorrectly, the worst that can happen is that they will be ineffective. Pain and fear based techniques applied incorrectly, on the other hand, can put dogs and humans in danger and exacerbate behavioral problems.

One thing all dog trainers can agree on is that dogs need training, and Millan’s popularity and entertaining TV show have encouraged many more people to start working with their dogs. This is a good thing.

I don’t see Millan’s success as a backlash against positive reinforcement training. Those of us actively training our dogs–whether for competitive obedience, agility, etc. or just for good manners–sometimes have a tendency to overestimate how much the average American knows about the different dog training philosophies. People follow Millan’s advice because they haven’t heard a better alternative. The good news is that as his fans begin to learn more about dog training, there’s an excellent chance they will hear about and choose more enlightened methods.

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Author: Matthias

Hey all! I’m Matthias and I love Pit Bulls (as you probably can guess lol). Until a couple years ago I had Blaze next to me while writing the articles for this blog and he was my inspiration, he still is but - hopefully - from a better life 🙂

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23 thoughts on “Cesar Millan: The Good and the Bad”

  1. I have been training horses

    I have been training horses and dogs most of my life, and I can’t say I’ve ever subscribed to a single, silver-bullet, method of working with animals. Surely there is at least some value in nearly every approach, but I think the simple key lies in the acuity and intuition of the owner/trainer. One either has “good hands” or they don’t. A ham-handed dog walker who doesn’t know when to stop yanking when the dog has already yielded is simply a handler with “bad hands.” My sense of it is, you can either look into the face of an animal and know something special about her or him, or you can’t. I doubt that this can be taught, but it can be successfully demonstrated by a sincere, and honest person. I regret and resent the over-produced, staged and frankly dishonest Cesar Milan books and videos. You can’t turn this into, pun intended, dogma. It’s a lie and it will never replace real human/animal interaction, which is one of the more beautiful and precious relationships in life.

  2. Dogs aren’t wolves.

    Dogs aren’t wolves. Domestication has changed some things. Still, the idea that people’s misconceptions about wolf behavior are being applied to dogs remains valid.

  3. what about a 4 month old? its
    what about a 4 month old? its been 4 days and it seems like she’s not getting it. am i trying too many different things at once? cause i take her out side and she will only go pee outside and never poop. she always goes poop inside. and since i told her bad when she went inside its like shes confused and now i never know when shes going to go poop. its like she trys to sneak off to do it. can someone help me please.

    • Raisin had difficulty potty
      Raisin had difficulty potty training and still at times will have accidents and he is around 11 months old. Are you free feeding or are your feeding at a certain time each day. I had to time how long between when he ate and when he went. So what I did was take him out around that time, often times walking him so he would go. Then when he went outside I would give him tons of praise almost over dramatic and even a yummy treat. Maybe that will help. I read somewhere they say for every month your dog is they should be able to hold it for that many hours, so at four months she should be able to hold it around 4 hours. Its just alot of work in the begining but pays off in the end. Raisin now sits at the door to go out when he has to poop. Now pee whole diffrent story if he has to go he will run to door and sit. But if he has been playing and over stimulated he will just go pee on the floor almost like he didn’t even know he had to go.

    • Our pup is 5 mos old. We got
      Our pup is 5 mos old. We got him when he was 13 weeks.
      First thing to understand about potty training is that being on a schedule is Very important. Try taking the dog out numerous times a day at the same times daily. Secondly, around 4 mos, the ‘poop time’ is generally 5 mins to 20 mins after feeding. They metabolize quickly. Thirdly- find a spot that is the ‘poop’ spot. This is a area that you will take the dog every time after eating to relieve himself.
      We have our dog to a T with his poop habits- 10 mins after eating, we taking him out. Walk around the area that we designated and give the command for going poop- “Do your business” and he does his business.
      We have had our dog on the same schedule since getting him and have not had a accident since the second week of having him.
      We are now working on training him to ring a bell when its time for him to relieve himself. 🙂
      Good luck- Patience and persistence will get you through this.

  4. Interesting discussion
    Interesting discussion here.

    I did not say that not punishing a dog meant the dog was at liberty to do whatever it wanted. In fact I specifically stated that I did not think any kind of negative physical contact or even negative emotion was necessary. In fact my exact words were:
    “I do agree that punishment, aggression or any negative physical contact (Cesar’s ‘touch’ is not negative contact, people) sets you back in your relationship with your dog. Absolutely.”

    So let me be clear that I have trained my own dog with a ‘place’ command and with gestures and have never had to physically move her from anything. She understands verbal commands and wants so badly to do everything right that letting her know that say, eating a peanut butter sandwich I left out is not okay, but the bone I am handing her is, is plenty. I am literally saying ‘no this one thing is not an option, but here is a positive alternative.’

    My addressing the lack of discipline in this country in general comes from experience with dog training and working at a vet’s office. Even observing people walking down the street. Your dogs are just as happy walking next to you as they are lunging around at the end of the leash, so why not take the extra ounce of effort to let your dog know what you really want?

    My own training methods have been firm, but never ‘negative’ except in the sense that the undesirable thing is replaced with a desirable thing. And when I speak of cat chasing, I speak from experience. I rescued a dog that saw cats as prey because he had no other experience. He got a mouthful of fur as a cat jetted by in a tight space, the only reason he did not get more was that I was holding the leash. All I did was say NO, very firmly and hold his muzzle. I didn’t hurt him. I didn’t scare him, I only provided a quick reaction to his behavior that was not positive for either of us. He is a dog who wants to do what is right, so any disappointment from me is seen as a punishment. He learned from my resident cat that not all cats are afraid of dogs, therefor cats are not automatically prey, and he walks by the same cat he tried to eat on a daily basis with a studied focus on anything but the cat. But not in a worried way. Now if a cat runs by at high speed his first impulse is to think about chasing it, but just a word from me does the trick. I could have used treats but I didn’t need to. My being pleased with his behavior when he ignores a cat or investigates in a friendly way, is the best reward for him.

    So I don’t want people to assume that just because I am advocating discipline that I am saying you must punish your dog or never use treats, etc etc. I am just saying I see on a daily basis the consequences of owners who do not train their dogs at all, and the only thing standing between them and total ignorance sometimes is a TV show. If we can take away positive things from Cesar’s show, and there are many, you have to appreciate that he advocates staying calm, but being what he calls ‘assertive’ but what I would call ‘confident’. As long as you portray a balanced and calm nature and can be reliable for your dog you’re already making progress in training. But again, that kind of consistency is rare and takes patience.

    I do think the article makes a good point about the alpha roll. More often than not it terrifies a dog to be taken off of its feet. Discipline among a domestic dog pack does involve holding a fellow canine down, but only when it’s already in the motion of play. Any complete submissive roll usually comes in response to an imbalanced threat from another dog when the submissive dog has no option but to throw up the white flag.

    So all I am really saying is that there are many positive things that most of America can take away from a show like Cesar’s, and he does understand dogs very well. No one should ever take anything they see on TV as gospel, however; hello- aren’t we pit bull owners, doesn’t the news tell us every day how evil our dogs are?

    As for phrases being intelligible, I don’t think the last person is giving dogs enough credit. My dog, again, without physical movement from me, knows “go to your bed” “back” “out” “take it to the rug” and even “put it on your bed” for when she’s chewing a bone and it’s making a lot of noise on the hardwood floor. But it could be I just got blessed with a super smart pooch.

    Anyway, my criticism is more to the people who positively reinforce negative behavior either through ignoring it, or actively encouraging it. That’s another good point Cesar makes- you don’t want to reinforce a state of mind you are trying to discourage. It’s infuriating when people baby talk a dog that is barking aggressively and fearfully and pet it- effectively telling it that that behavior is correct. “Oh no foofie, it’s okay, sh sh be good, be nice now, please?” It’s going to get that dog in trouble someday. Simple distinctions like that are important. The dog is looking for guidance in a scary situation and the human is offering nothing but reassurance of the fear.

  5. Cesar Millan is not a normal
    Cesar Millan is not a normal dog trainer. Dog trainers basically teach dogs how to sit, stay, down, etc. Cesar Millan grew up with dog packs around him and developed a pretty unique insight into the psychological dynamic in dog packs, their social structure and how dogs relate to one another and maintain order and balance in a pack. He uses these great insights to train people on how to have a better relationship with their dogs by understanding them and addressing their needs from a dog’s point of view.

    In the western world people often have a tendency to view their dogs as another kid in the family. In my work (I am a dog trainer and rehabilitator myself) I find that to be one of the biggest problems. People spoil their dogs based on their selfish needs to shower them with love. And while most people have the best, most loving (from their point of view) intentions, they do not really love their dog in the true meaning of the word. Loving your dog means to accept his nature, seek to understand and provide him with what he needs and not what we think he should enjoy – this is what Cesar Millan advocates. He shows people how putting themselves in a state of calm-assertiveness their dogs will naturally follow them and behave better because it’s programmed in their DNA to seek out balance and stability and follow that naturally. Most people are not calm and relaxed (nor assertive) when they are with their dogs because of whatever is going on in their lives. Most people didn’t understand how this affected their dogs and what behavioral consequences it had. Cesar Millan has changed that and brought awareness to these connections to the general public. If you see a poorly behaved dog (pulling on the walk, jumping on people, excessive barking, aggression, etc.) there is always a person that is responsible for that dog’s condition (state of mind) as by nature dogs are balanced. It is not the dog. It is the owner who is responsible. Cesar Millan shows people that if they provide their dog with sufficient exercise, structure and affection (in that order) their dogs will naturally accept them as their leaders and return to a state of balance where most issues resolve themselves.

    Cesar Millan also does rehabilitation work that goes beyond what any normal dog owner can fix i.e. for severe aggression (dogs who want to kill), extreme anxiety, etc. He uses his own balanced dog pack in the Los Angeles Dog Psychology Center to bring these dogs back into their natural, balanced state with help of their doggy peers – ‘the power of the pack’ as he calls it. He has rehabilitated many dogs other trainers recommended to have euthanized as he understands dogs better than many. He does sometimes get criticized for his methodology and approach of ‘working with nature’ but that is usually by people who don’t quite grasp nature’s basic concepts when it comes to dogs.

    Cesar Millan has also founded the Cesar and Illusion Millan Foundation who is a non-profit organization that supports shelters, dog rescues etc. He is a big lover of dogs and has and continues to do what he can to help dogs wherever possible.

    In my view Cesar Millan has done more good for dogs and their owners than all of his critics combined.

  6. Armywife,
    Good point about

    Good point about “Pack Leader -vs- controling resources”. That is absolutely true. Don’t you love it when the articles contradict themselves? Good pick up, I missed it!
    In the end it’s all about willing compliance. If your dog/s don’t respect you as some kind of authority, they will not comply, that does not mean making them fear you, just acknowledge your advantages over them.
    Cesar makes a point of teaching people that dogs don’t follow an aggressive, violent leader. They will only follow a benevolent leader because it’s in their best interest to do so. This goes back to why humans and early canines hooked up in the first place – mutual benefits.

    • There’s no contradiction at
      There’s no contradiction at all. It’s the inaccurate terms Cesar uses. His methods work, but not for the reason he says its working. The whole notion of “pack leader” has been shown to be complete nonsense, and was based on a single, flawed study in the 70’s.

      Controlling resources has to do with positive reinforcement and negative punishment.

  7. (heavy sigh) How can anyone
    (heavy sigh) How can anyone write about a TV program they obviously haven’t watched? Cesar is only controversial because the uninformed don’t do anything about becoming less so.
    I’ll try to fix it some….
    1. Cesar does not claim to be a dog ‘trainer’, but a dog psychologist.
    2. Cesar does claim to being a people trainer. He teaches humans how to live with these animals – the dog.
    3. His ‘patients’, are the canine equivalent of criminally insane, and potential death row candidates. Or so crippled by problems their owners have given up on trying to resolve the dogs unhappiness.
    4. If anything his methods bridge the gap between positive only training of today and the force training of years ago. Positive training has in some cases become over-permissive.
    5. Cesar wants us to understand they are animals, dogs, not human. They don’t think or experience like we do. We have to work with who they are because we can’t change it.
    6. The word disipline…similar..disiple, the root word means “to teach”, not to punish.
    7. Keep in mind, ‘The Dog Whisperer’ TV show does not give us a whole picture. The people training is for the most part, not presented to the viewing audience, we won’t sit and watch that!

    After 5 or 6 years of the TV show, the people Cesar has helped have only praise and thanks for the change in their relationship with their dogs. His program is an educational resource for those who already have a good understanding of dogs. It’s a “teaser” for those who want and need to learn more. I have had dogs all my life, but was unaware of the body language of dogs. Same for the “spoken” language of vocalizations dogs make. Understanding the walk is vital!
    It does not negate conventional, positive training, but does augment it. Which we prove around my house every time my 3 dogs bark at something out the front window. Cesar’s way: Calmly and quietly acknowledge the alert, go and claim the space, send the dogs away from the window.
    Gee, no ‘alpha roll’ mentioned? Ah, right, Cesar says, it’s the ultimate consequence for biting and while he uses a touch, it’s not forced on the dog.

    To the Author, For talking out of your hat, you should be sentenced to watch all seasons of the ‘Dog Whisperer’, WITH COMMERCIALS, (unless they are for Purina).
    And please, as you were told in school – do your homework.

  8. By the way, I noticed one of
    By the way, I noticed one of the articles says not to be the pack leader but to be in control of resources. FYI in a pack system…the leader is in charge of the resources. The pack leader eats first, drinks first, and gets to breed. Being a pack leader isn’t about being mean or treating your dog badly, it’s about setting up rules so that you and your dog can live well together in your home and with other people and dogs.

    For example my dog is not allowed in my kitchen. The space is small and I don’t want her underfoot while I cook. The command is “Out of the kitchen”. At first I’d say it and grab her collar and walk her back onto the carpet. Then when she’d try to come back I’d block her way and repeat the command. Smart girl she caught on fast. Removing her wasn’t mean, it was simply enforcing a rule that I (as pack leader) expected to be followed. When I come home she greets me at the door. I say “Out of the kitchen” and she goes to the carpet and waits for me. In her excitement about my being home she forgets the rule, but responds to the command because she knows I’ll enforce it as her leader.

    • But you can do the same thing
      But you can do the same thing without ever touching or physically moving your dog simply by creating a place cue. Moreover, you can create going in the kitchen or coming into the house as the cue to go to place.

      And if you don’t think being grabbed by the collar and physically moved is positive punishment, imagine that from now on,every time you entered your kitchen, someone grabbed you by the shirt, removed you from the room and said some phrase you did not understand. Would you find that aversive?

      • This kind of thought is what

        This kind of thought is what creates a lot of trouble with dogs. Dogs are NOT humans, they do not think like us, feel like us, react like us and so on, so dont treat them like so.

        Your dog does not feels the same by being taken out of the kitchen by the collar as a human would. Following your mentality, how much would you like to be putted on a leash and taken out for a walk, how about being fed kibbles or raw? not much i guess.

    • Ok. But the terminology and
      Ok. But the terminology and thinking behind “pack leader” is wrong and has been discredited time and time again. That is not really how dogs think when interacting with humans or their environment. All behavior is in essentially two categories:

      – Did I receive reinforcement for this behavior?
      – Did I receive punishment for this behavior?

      If the former, that behavior is more likely to happen again. If the latter, that behavior is less likely to happen again.

      The idea of “pack” really has nothing to do with anything and is an old myth, as even when interacting with the pack, these same principles hold true. Reinforcement or Punishment. Cesar would do well to actually use actual behavior terminology on his show (since he claims he’s a dog psychologist) instead of using explanations that, fundamentally, are wrong.

  9. Most of Cesar’s shows do not
    Most of Cesar’s shows do not show a dog experiencing fear, I worked with a professional trainer before I learned about Cesar, so I just watch his show primarily for entertainment. But he introduces a key concept that most dog owners do not use which is *discipline* which does not always mean punishment, but discipline DOES happen in the natural world and dogs absolutely use quick but strong gestures or sounds with one another to make a point and then they move on. Cesar isn’t imitating wolf packs he is using what real dogs use with one another. I see so many people pulled around by their dogs with the dog at the absolute end of the leash choking itself and paying no heed to the person on the other end, which is fine if you don’t care that your dog doesn’t respect you at all, but it might not be fine if your dog doesn’t want to listen when it involves not running into the street, or not chasing a cat/charging another dog, etc. I won’t vouch for all methods of any trainer, but each has their place. When you are dealing with serious issues- like a rescue dog that has only learned to chase and kill cats, giving the dog treats when he ignores the cat might be effective temporarily, but in a close call there absolutely has to be discipline. A dog has to know that some things are simply not acceptable! For people to suggest a dog’s life should contain no discipline whatsoever and only treats is why so many people have ill-behaved dogs. I do agree that punishment, aggression or any negative physical contact (Cesar’s ‘touch’ is not negative contact, people) sets you back in your relationship with your dog. Absolutely. A fearful dog isn’t trustworthy because he thinks you are not trustworthy. But there is a very solid line between hurting your dog and disciplining them. Again when I say discipline I do not mean physical or mental punishment, only making clear that a certain behavior is undesirable. More to the point however, we have to consider that what Cesar has done is more positive than negative. He has shown a nation of dog owners that training your dog makes your life and your dog’s life better. So many people buy dogs and don’t train them at all then drop them off at the pound or put them down when they can’t manage them. We have to consider that anyone getting their dog training tips from a television show still isn’t putting in the proper training effort, but at least they know they should be trying. A dog can learn boundaries without ever being punished, especially a pit bull. I can leave food out in easy reach because my female APBT knows that only her toys and treats are for her. People who are ruled by their dogs are asking for trouble and to suggest that a human doesn’t need to be the leader is going to create more problems. When you bring an animal into your home, unless that animal is going to work and feeding you, you are the one expected to educate your companion on the way things work. Being a leader doesn’t mean scaring or hurting or constantly showing your dominance, only the weak need to constantly challenge.

    Let’s just be careful what we suggest to people, especially pit bull owners. Pits are high-energy, stubborn and smart. As pit owners we all have a social responsibility to have well-behaved dogs to contribute to a positive breed image, and if someone doesn’t want the responsibility of owning a breed representative, they definitely should not own a pit bull. So love your dogs, but don’t forget that you do them no favors by letting them do whatever they want.

    • Aallegre you definitely know
      Aallegre you definitely know you’re stuff. It’s nice to hear someone talk about discipline in a positive light without saying it’s punishment. And you’re right, only a weak pack leader, or the owner of a stubborn dog that refuses to give up his assumed place, will have to repeatedly assert their dominance.

      As for your analogy of the cat killing dog, I disagree slightly. It’s not that rewarding no-chasing is only a temporary fix, it’s the fact that rewarding non-chasing is simply step one in the retraining process.

      Back to discipline and dominance, I once saw a girl take down her boxer for lunging at another dog on the beach. She simply reached under him from on his right side, grabbed his left front leg in one hand and his left back leg in the other, and pulled his legs through to her side. This effectively took him off his feet (into a submissive pose) and put her in immediate control. By being above him like this she asserted her dominance, and by taking him by surprise it was a quick reprimand. She added a stern “Leave it” and the she immediately let him back up and they continued on their walk.

      It sounds kind of rough I know, it’s hard to describe. I use it with my pit though. It doesn’t hurt her (vets and shelters often use this method to restrain dogs and I was taught it at college as a restraint method). I had never thought to use it as a reprimand but it’s so effective. It’s quick, makes the point, and the dog doesn’t dwell on it. Of course I’d only use this technique on my own personal dog, but to a dog being put into submissive translates as “I’ve done something wrong and been told not to do it again” which makes it a great tool.

    • It is interesting the people
      It is interesting the people who use Cesar’s methods are so reactive to the word punishment. In his first book, he clearly states that he had a long discussion with a professor and that he is aware that most of his methods are based in positive punishment. He goes on to say he does not like that word, so prefers to call it discipline. And his tactics must work because I see this type of reaction to the word punishment all the time from Cesar fans.

      Punishment is simply a consequence that reduces the strength of a behavior. It is not a good or a bad thing, just a definition. And it breaks down into two categories, positive punishment and negative punishment. Positive punishment is what Cesar uses most often, introducing a consequence that reduces the strength of a behavior. That is where the pain, fear or intimidation come in. To be effective, positive punishment must be the introduction of a consequence the dog does not like.

      As stated in the article, the exclusion of pain, fear and intimidation from a training regime does NOT mean our dogs are ill behaved. We DO provide consequences for bad behavior, they just don’t involve pain, fear or intimidation. Rather, we use the involve the removal of something the dog finds desirable. That is also punishment, but it is negative punishment. And it is quite effective, even for cat chasing.

      Positive Reinforcement based trainers, contrary to the above opinion, do NOT let our dogs do anything they want. We just do not play in two of the four quadrants of opernat conditioning.

    • Best comment/obsevation on
      Best comment/obsevation on here. Cesar’s techneic is not about being mean, hurtfull, or painfull. discipline is not to creat fear, but rather understanding. i use cesar’s methods with GREAT results.
      P.S. I love your final thoughts also, it’s SPOT ON!!!

    • I couldnt agree more, Ive had

      I couldnt agree more, Ive had the opportunity to work with him for a short period of time. He never physically hurt any dog.. and I live with 4 dogs and ive never punish but corrective disapline is needed sometimes, not hitting or kicking or anything abusive  but that TOUCH works,,  Love what you said.. thank you

  10. i don’t like him because he
    i don’t like him because he does use fear too freely… and to me and most dog trainors, a scared dog is not a healthy dog. a scared dog is more likely to show agressive behavior just out of fear, to protect his or herself. so my pit i just try to be patient, praise tons, treat whenever she does something i want to be repeated, and control our environment which i was told was a MAJOR part of pit training… so no food sitting on tables cause she will get it lol and whenever there’s another dog around i make sure i know about it before she does.

  11. I ‘accidentally’ acquired a
    I ‘accidentally’ acquired a pitty girl 3.5 yrs ago and now have a second one.
    All I use is award based training and heaps of love. Controlling resources is something I learned from a trainer. All this works great and we have two wonderful, sweet family dogs that love everything, but squirrels ;-).


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