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Cesar Millan: Saint or cult leader?

Oscar Isn't our penchant to follow Cesar Millan's lead into a utopia of dog ownership robbing us of the idiosyncratic, chaotic and just plain fantastic aspects of our furry children? Are our lives so out of control that we must stamp out the joie de vivre of our best friends?

My guy has responded wonderfully to Millan's techniques. I follow them religiously.

For those of you who are cat owners or have been living under a rock: Cesar Millan is the host of "Dog Whisperer" on the National Geographic Channel.  He takes dogs that are truly disturbed and reprograms them and their owners to create a balanced relationship.

Oscar's affliction was constantly pulling on the leash. The second we stepped out the door, he -- a 35-pounder with a suspiciously low center of gravity -- was off and I was taking up the rear at a fast clip. Drop the leash and Oscar scampered along at my side, with occasional dashes up trees after squirrels.

After much consistent walking following Millan's techniques, complete with positive, assertive energy, I have altered Oscar's behavior.  I rarely feel like I am going to have irreversible shoulder damage.  He's also improved with the 4 a.m. newspaper delivery.  He has stopped his wee-hour charges down the hall barking, howling and shocking me out of sleep.

When we get home from our constitutionals, he follows me into the house. When I leave the room, he leaves the room. When I go to bed, he goes to bed. He's a whole new dog.

Sort of a robot dog.

My Oscar used to dance when I returned from work.  Doesn't anymore. My Oscar used to scamper into the kitchen, take a bite of food, run back out to the living room to make sure everything was cool and jog back for another couple of chunks.  Not doing that.  My Oscar used to run down the hall ahead of me looking over his shoulder with a big old grin.  Doesn't do that anymore either.

Wasn't all his chaos part of his charm?

The shame of having Oscar pull me through the streets drove me into the waiting arms of the Millan cult. As he cured dog after dog, I found I was watching up to three hours a day thanks to TiVo. I observed him and copied his every move right down to the sound. I came to understand the calm energy he teaches owners to adopt.

Don't get me wrong. I believe Millan is a superhero.  He truly works miracles.

But there's a downside to all of this.  Millan is working with hard cases.  We, the viewers, are probably by and large pretty happy with our little guys and girls.  They have some issues, but we correct them when they step too far out of line.

Millan is inadvertently dulling some of the magic in our special relationships.  (Tell me it doesn't feel great when you make up.)  We're applying his red-zone lessons to our off-white buds.  (I say "we" because I've spoken to enough dog owners to know that you're in the sect too.)

It's part of the general trend.  Life is getting blander.  The recession has everyone down.  We're all worried about our jobs.  The end of the post-9/11 era can't even bring us true joy because we are witnessing the dawn of trillion-dollar deficits.  And now the one unconditional area of our lives is under siege.  O Cesar Millan!  I wish I had never gotten addicted to your program of living.

I'm racked with guilt because -- while I miss my monster -- I'm not going to stop drinking the Kool-Aid.

-- Sean Gallagher

Photo: Oscar, well-behaved following his owner's Kool-Aid consumption. Credit: Sean Gallagher / Los Angeles Times

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I work with overexcited, often untrained, and always under-exercised shelter dogs and the more I'm there the more I think Millan is a genius.

He takes a LOT of abuse, and sometimes I think it's more about people begrudging him his admittedly massive success ( a lot like J.K. Rowling). But when people accuse him of being abusive to dogs it reaches a point of absurdity. I've seen pretty much every episode and never have I seen a dog who was frightened of him after he's worked with the dog. I've certainly seen frightened dogs on the show, but they aren't scared of his training and psychological techniques. Those they understand.

Dogs desperately need a leader and Millan teaches people how to become a leader a dog can feel confidence in.

I meet a lot of people who think loving a dog means letting the dog take the lead. That's like saying loving your seven year-old means letting him drive the both of you home from school. Dogs are very, VERY relieved when you let them know you're the one who will be protecting them, and it doesn't need to be the other way around.

People who aren't good leaders to their dogs may love their dogs, but the dog is always going to be anxious and jumpy.

Really? You would prefer for your dog to be anxious and under stress because it was more fun for you? That sounds pretty selfish to me. The results of the DW techniques is that your being calm and assertive means Oscar is now a calmer, less chaotic dog. In the dog psychology world that's called progress, not a problem, and as a dog owner you should be proud of what you've both achieved. Might you be able to find other things to do with your dog, that the two of you can enjoy, besides just getting a kick out of his dysfunction?

I have seen quite a few of Cesar's shows amd I see nothing that I have not used on my dogs with success. Some dogs do not understand certain tones, or they will try and assert themselves over their owners. Well the owner has to be prepared to assert himself, or that dog is going to be a handful.
As for exercise, dogs need daily exercise - cause if they don't, they get destructive. My neighbors once had a female siberian - they seldom walked her and kept her in the house. Well one day she got into the owners diet pills - she died. If people have NO intentions of exercising their dogs, then they should NOT get one. A dog is a lot like having a child - they live for quite a long time and require love, care, and discipline as well as exercise. An unexercised dog is a ticking time bomb. They are nervous and when in placed in the wrong situation with the wrong person - can lead to biting or destructive behaviors.
I love Cesar and I hope he continues helping dogs and their owners! God Bless you Cesar!

Millan is liked by people who don't know a whole lot about dogs. His TV show is most conveniently edited, and sadly the fallout of his methods isn't shown. He *is*, unfortunately, a marketing genius.

He is not well thought of by many dog and behavior professionals, and for good reason.

“Cesar Millan's methods are based on flooding and punishment. The results, though immediate, will be only transitory. His methods are misguided, outmoded, in some cases dangerous, and often inhumane. You would not want to be a dog under his sphere of influence. The sad thing is that the public does not recognize the error of his ways. My college thinks it is a travesty. We’ve written to National Geographic Channel and told them they have put dog training back 20 years.”
Dr. Nicholas Dodman - Professor and Head, Section of Animal Behavior
Director of Behavior Clinic, Tufts University - Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine

“Practices such as physically confronting aggressive dogs and using of choke collars for fearful dogs are outrageous by even the most diluted dog training standards. A profession that has been making steady gains in its professionalism, technical sophistication and humane standards has been greatly set back. I have long been deeply troubled by the popularity of Mr. Millan as so many will emulate him. To co-opt a word like ‘whispering’ for arcane, violent and technically unsound practice is unconscionable.”
Jean Donaldson, The San Francisco SPCA-Director of The Academy for Dog Trainers

"A number of qualified professionals have voiced concern for the welfare of pet dogs that experience the strong corrections administered by Mr. Millan. My concerns are based on his inappropriateness, inaccurate statements, and complete fabrications of explanations for dog behavior. His ideas, especially those about “dominance”, are completely disconnected from the sciences of ethology and animal learning, which are our best hope for understanding and training our dogs and meeting their behavioral needs. Many of the techniques he encourages the public to try are dangerous, and not good for dogs or our relationships with them ."
Dr. Suzanne Hetts, Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist
Co-owner of Animal Behavior Associates, Inc., Littleton, CO

"Cesar Millan employs outdated methods that are dangerous and inhumane. Using a choke chain and treadmill to treat fear of strangers and dogs is completely inappropriate. Hopefully the National Geographic Channel will listen to the scientific community and discontinue production of The Dog Whisperer."
Vyolet Michaels, CTC (Certified Dog Trainer and Behavior Counselor)
Owner of Urban Dawgs, LLC of Red Bank, NJ

"On his TV show, the main method Millan uses for aggression is aversives (leash jerks, kicks, snaps of the hand against the neck, and restraint, among others) applied non contingently. The aversives are non contingent because they are so frequent that they're not connected to any particular behavior on the part of the dog—the dog gets popped pretty much constantly. This results in a state called learned helplessness, which means the animal hunkers down and tries to do as little as possible. This is what Millan calls "calm submission." It's exactly the same thing you see in a rat in a Skinner box that is subjected to intermittent shocks it can do nothing to avoid. This can happen quite fast, by the way, shall we say in ten minutes? The dangers to the dog are obvious, ranging from chronic stress to exacerbating the aggression, i.e., some dogs fight back when attacked. This latter is the simplest reason that aversives are a bad idea in treating aggression. Even used technically correctly as positive punishment for specific behaviors like growling and snarling, aversives do nothing to change the underlying fear or hostility, so the best you can hope for, in the words of famed vet and behaviorist, Ian Dunbar, is "removing the ticker from the time bomb." Thus such methods substantially increase the risk to humans of getting bitten."
Janis Bradley, Instructor at The San Franciso SPCA Academy for Dog Trainers
Author of the book, "Dogs Bite"

Excerpt of letter from Lisa Laney, Dip. DTBC, CPDT, CBC to National Geographic before airing “The Dog Whisperer”:
“The intended program depicts aversive and abusive training methods - treatment for some serious anxiety and fear based issues - being administered by an individual with no formal education whatsoever in canine behavioral sciences. The "results" that are shown are more than likely not long lasting changes, but the result of learned helplessness, or fatigue, neither of which impact behavior to any significant long term degree - at least not in a good way. For those of us who are pioneering the effort to end the ignorance that drives the cruel treatment administered upon our canine companions, it is disappointing to see that this programming will reach the masses - especially on the NG Channel. The ignorance that this program perpetuates will give equally ignorant people the green light to subject their dogs to abuse. In turn these dogs will react even more defensively, will bite more people - and end up dead.”

"I have serious concerns because his methods are often intimidating rather than motivating. On TV, the dogs do comply but often they're being forced to - you can tell by their body language: tail down, mouth closed, ears back, eyes dilated... I argue that motivating leadership is far more effective than leading through intimidation."
Steve Dale

After watching most of the DW episodes, the consistent aspect is the owner's lack of providing "exercise, discipline, and affection, in that order." It is the owner that is responsible for giving the dog what it needs. It is the changes in the owner and their attitudes and approaches that make Cesar's techniques so successful.

In regards to the professional condemnation, could it be related to the fact that Cesar places the responsibility for the solution on the owner instead of relying on dog trainers? Nah, couldn't be that.

The bottom line here is anyone putting forth negative feedback about Cesar Millan is just plain jealous of his tremendous success. He is in the spotlight, so any 'ole person can take potshots at him without fearing retribution.

Alternatively, anyone putting forth negative feedback about Cesar Millan just plain does not get the point of his training method. Cesar's goal is for dogs and owners to have rewarding, loving, peaceful, non-chaotic relationships.

I have a rat terrier and she used to be the boss of the house, running around in a chaotic frenzy, and pawing me to the point of insanity. Cesar's techniques have helped immensely. Before this I was in chaotic state, as I did not have a clue as to how to address my dog's behavior in a sane manner.

The contributor who posted that Sean Gallagher is selfish for wishing his dog was still in a frenzy of stress and anxiety...hit it right on the spot. What Sean defines as joie de vivre for him...is not necessarily what his dog would define as joie de vivre.

Dear Steve Dale:

While everyone is entitled to their opinion - I have to tell you that you have no idea what you are talking about. Have you seen Cesar in action in person? I have. I've watched the show and I've spent many days with him and his crew as they helped many people around me with their dogs. You are ridiculous if you say he uses intimidation - that is completely false and extremely uneducated of you to say. You are completely off base and I'm offended by your nonsensical statements.

I am around dogs all day at work. The dogs Cesar helped (and their owners) are happier and healthier now that they've been "whispered." Fearful and aggressive dogs are now calm, social and happy. I am with these dogs every day and have seen the incredible changes that are having long term positive effects for everyone.

Shame on you. SHAME ON YOU for not knowing what you're talking about. Spend some actual time with Cesar and then live with the dogs he's helped and you'll change your tune.

Long Live Cesar and all our happy, calm dogs and the great owners that love them.

In response to Tony's comment, AMEN BROTHER!
people who take no responsibility for their companions need a People Whisperer to bop them in the head with a rolled up newspaper!

"After watching most of the DW episodes, the consistent aspect is the owner's lack of providing "exercise, discipline, and affection, in that order."...
In regards to the professional condemnation, could it be related to the fact that Cesar places the responsibility for the solution on the owner instead of relying on dog trainers? Nah, couldn't be that."

My dogs are all clicker trained. They are not terrorized into performing desired behaviors. I don't relate to them through fear and domination via the Gospel of Saint Cesar.

Yes he is charismatic, yes he is a good salesman, yes he gets results. So have other cult leaders.

I have used my brain and made the active choice not to beat down and terrorize my animals into desired behaviors. I instead use a method that not only works...and works fast...but encourages the animal to integrate with me (and vice versa), to use her mind, and to take control of her environment.

When they give me a desired behavior, they are instantly rewarded. The reward I offer is greater than anything else the dog provides herself; if it feels good to pull on lead (and I have Samoyeds who LIVE to pull!), it feels better to trot politely along and cause ane xternal reward from me as a result.

My dogs learn at mere weeks of age to run through their growing repertoire of behaviors until they hit on the right one resulting in the reward, then they never forget it.

Not as guaranteed to get good ratings on TV as a guy who talks nonstop, dominates his environment and everything/everyone in it, and terrorizes dogs into desired behavior. Not as much "fun" as watching a committed barker/leash puller become frightened and suspicious of a human's ever move, resulting in the dog riveting his eyes in fear on that person every second of the day.

The rewards here are for the humans who are desperate, clueless, or need another living thing to fall submissively at their feet every second of the day and night.

I appreciate my dogs for the "other" creatures they are. I love seeing a puppy's eyes light up when s/he "gets it" and has that "a-HA!" moment, offering a behavior that makes me provide that magic sound and the treat that goes with it.

"Hey! when I poke this bell with my nose instead of jumping against the door, I get a click, a treat...AND I get to go outside! COOL!"...a behavior my puppies all learn by 7 weeks of age.

i guess I'm just not good with cult leaders, hucksters, hustlers, slick salespeople, or pushy "stars" in general.

If you want your dog to be a "robot", fine, train your dog. If you want the same dog you've always had, don't do anything. It's as simple as that. People shouldn't be blaming their sources of information. Maybe they should blame themselves for making the wrong choice.

I made the mistake of "glorifying" Cesar Millan. I saw him speak, was captivated by his power and energy and tried his methods with my "aggressive dog". It ended up with me being bitten, just like Cesar has been bitten many times by an aggressive dog, because I pushed him beyond his thresholds. But the general dog public isn't that familiar with thresholds. And of course we don't allow our dogs to have them for fear of being sued.

I find it amazing that people expect dogs to have no emotions and to NEVER express or act out on them - calm submission 100% of the time is the model, I guess. They aren't allowed to be excited, happy, fearful, anxious, sad .... why? Why can I come home from work and yell at my spouse when I had a bad day, but my dog can't? Why can I jump around in uncontrollable excitement when something good happens, but my dog can't?

I converted to positive training methods and became a true "benevolent" leader for my dog. NEVER putting them in situations that they can't handle and NEVER forcing them to face their fears or else....a kick, pop, or the dreaded alpha roll.

I protect my dogs, recognize that they have emotions and try to be the fairest leader possible using positive motiviation to help them learn HUMAN rules. But I also set boundaries, limits, rules and expectations and make sure they truly understand those rules and don't physically punish them if they don't. Let's try to remember - THEY AREN'T BORN SPEAKING OUR LANGUAGE. But of course, we expect them to have FULL FLUENCY of our spoken language by what, 6 months of age?? Ridiculous. And how many dog owners actually spend the time and effort to learn and respect canine language? Well, in Cesar's philosphy - I guess you don't have to - they don't have any rights and aren't allowed to be anything but calm, submissive.

I am closer to my dogs now than I have ever been before and we are still learning every day. My dogs now respect and respond to me and they don't do it out of fear, they do it out of respect for benevolent leadership. They trust that I will PROTECT them in scary situations, not toss them into them and kick them when they don't comply. They LOVE working their brains and learning in positive environments - there is no end to what they can do. But that is only if you spend the time to get to know who they truly are - their strengths and weaknesses, and allow them to express themselves, while managing their weaknesses not just dominating them and expecting perfect behavior all the time. Oh, I guess that would take too much effort? From my experience, you get back from the relationship what you put in. And since converting to positive training, I have been rewarded with incredibly rich relationships with my dogs.

Honestly, how heartless can people be when it comes to training dogs to justify physical punishment to an animal that WE bring into OUR world and impose all of OUR rules and expectations and then don't take the time to teach them positively how to live in OUR world? That is what I define as selfish.

Put yourself in your DOG's shoes and think about it.

First, we are all entitled to our opinions, including "experts" like those cited by Steve Dale above. But to all those Cesar detractors out there, I'd love to share a personal experience: I'm a writer, and I've written a few articles about Cesar. I'm also a dog owner, and I've watched numerous hours of "The Dog Whisperer." To interview Cesar, I went to his Dog Psychology Center in East LA. I walked with him through his enormous pack of large- and strong-breed dogs. I sat with him in the yard, with the dogs, for about an hour. I watched as his happy, calm, friendly pack milled about without exhibiting any aggressive, antisocial, overly excited, intimidated or intimidating behavior. They were as healthy a group of dogs as I have ever seen -- and remember that these are all dogs with tragic pasts. In fact, most of them had already killed another animal by the time Cesar took them in. Now, they play, they exercise, they hang out, they relax, and they clearly love Cesar. I don't claim to be an animal behavior specialist, but common sense and dog ownership have taught me two things: Abused dogs do not behave like Cesar's pack, and when they see their abuser, abused dogs don't wag their tails -- and practically smile -- the way Cesar's dogs do when they see him.

Dana-- I think I'd take either an ill-behaved dog or a CM-dog over a human companion like you who thinks it's perfectly ok to "yell at your spouse" because you happen to have had a bad day.

Interesting blog posting and comments, thank you. Oscar sure is a cutie.

Some of the commenters appear to be discussing a different person altogether, describing things I've never seen on the Dog Whisperer show. Did they actually watch the show for more than a few seconds?

Your dog feels happier and you're angry? Nice priorities! Sean-go get fish for pets! HAIL CAESAR!

I like my dog just the way she is. She plays when she wants to play. Runs around when she wants to run around. Sleeps when she wants to sleep. And wags her tail when she wants to wag her tail. She's not out of control and has never given me a moment's trouble and I've never needed to discipline or train her. She's a dog. If I wanted a trained, obedient pet living in my house, i'd adopt a military recruit.

As is the case with EVERY instructional blanket policy, it must be viewed, considered and applied with a grain of salt and in accordance with what the situation demands. That said, my issue is that CM doesn't really relay the point that not every dog can be saved. His methods teach the followers that the snarly little beast is really a good dog inside when ultimately it is going to cause harm at some point. As sad as it is to say, some dogs are just not wired to be pets or were not allowed to become pets. We can't save them all.

That said, I simply wish there were a few more disclaimers other than "consult a professional".

Fact is people....dogs are animals first...how many times does Cesar have to remind people of that fact. They dont give a rip what anyone has done 5 mins ago. People that think they must coddle their dogs are clueless. Go to a 3rd world country and watch the dogs there. They are never coddled like the people in the USA coddle them. It's only people that hurt animals that treat them like they are made out of rice paper. Reading these comments about choking out a dog or rolling them...get a life! We are WAY easier on our pets then another dog would ever be!! If you have a bitch about Cesar then go to his facility and walk among his pack of Pits, Rotties and GSD's and tell me if you get attacked. IF YOU DONT TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR DOG, THEN THE DOG WILL TAKE CHARGE OF YOU, IT'S THAT SIMPLE. If you can live with your dog being a total wreck and possibly getting sued from biting someone then go for it. Amen to Ceasar because he actually works to correct messes that owners have made of their dogs. As for methods of training....to each his own! BUT dont put down someone elses methods just because you dont agree. I have seen them all myself and you use whatever works at the moment period. But to rip into Cesars methods is just plain ignorant! His dogs listen to him....you call Fluffy who has no recall that is chasing the cat across the street and you have Road Fluffy! It's pretty simple...control your dog or one way or the other it could be a dead Fluffy either getting hit from a car or having to be euthenized because it bit someone. Ceasar keep it up and keep OWNERS learning!!

"The bottom line here is anyone putting forth negative feedback about Cesar Millan is just plain jealous of his tremendous success. He is in the spotlight, so any 'ole person can take potshots at him without fearing retribution."

Oh wow -- this is precious. This proves it's a cult. The man can't be legitimately criticized. That does make him sound like a cult leader, absolutely.

I much prefer Victoria Stillwell. Cesar Milan's training is pretty one-note - he's mainly helpful in regards to aggressive and dominant dogs. For people who have sensitive and apprehensive pets that need confidence building and don't respond well to the flooding technique, I don't think his training is quite as effective.

Jeff, whether you realize it or not, you did train your dog!
"I like my dog just the way she is. She plays when she wants to play...." Still, she knows what you don't like. You have communicated that to her somehow. I like my dogs too! I have used Cesar Millan's techniques, I have used Ian Dunbar's techniques and I have used Fred Hassen's techniques. I think dogs, like people, are different kinds of learners. What works with some, may not work for others. Try everything and have fun in the process!!

i'm sure many "trainers" are beneficial and are great at what they do. One commenter talked about training their dog to respond to a clicker. But basically what they are doing is to do is "training" and instilling behaviors that benefit humans.

I think the reason why Cesar's methods work so well is that it's tapping into letting the dog be the dog, as a member of social pack with structure and discipline and addressing their needs as animals.

Don't see why anyone would have a problem with that.

Millan is obviously very "alpha", and that works for him.
I think most dogs should be clicker or reward trained, but in some cases, his way is the fastest way to help a dog.
Really, neither a Saint or a cult leader, just a guy good at marketing and dealing with dogs.
Anyhow its better than just leaving the dog to rampage and just complaining/dumping the poor thing as way too many people do.

Since Cesar first became known I have not been able to figure out how some people "see" negative things on his show and in his methods that simply are not there. "Experts" and well-experienced figures in the dog world come forward in a huff making absurd claims about him. Words like "cruel" and "abusive" are tossed around as if there is some powerful underground wave of fierce propaganda that just keeps surging forward, oblivious to fact or logic. Or even what these individuals could see with their naked eyes if they chose to open them. It's baffling. Is it mostly just professionals who are fearful that Cesar's natural gift with dogs will somehow diminish their own careers, or their confidence about their knowledge in the field of understanding dogs? Are they the ones spearheading this anti-Cesar stuff? Some people say it's all about jealousy but I don't believe it. I think people like Steve Dale are intelligent, mostly informed, and certainly dog-devoted. His reliance on others expertise and opinions suggest he's caught up in that wave of misinformation and personal concern I mentioned though. Most people who object to Milan have even less information or knowledge of Cesar -- but their "opinion" of him comes from the same place: ignorance about dogs or not understanding what is being taught. Thank goodness a majority of people who love dogs DO intuitively sense the uniqueness of what we're being exposed to --we know we're fortunate to see a legend in the making. The knowledge Cesar is bringing to the dog-human relationship goes SO far beyond clicker training, positive reinforcement and our embarrassingly selfish (but human) adoration of dog neurosis. I love how so many responders on here got that right away- that Sean Gallagher's mostly tongue in cheek article was about his quirks -- not his dog's ultimate well being.

I used to watch CM, thought he was great and decided that I wanted to learn more about dog training as, perhaps, a second career though I had no experience in the professional aspects of the dog world. I still believe that his most important message is telling people that they MUST exercise their dog. I enrolled in a Ttouch training in my area and was surprised and confused that the more experienced students didn't have much regard for his methods. Through Ttouch and reading books such as Bones Would Rain From the Sky, Calming Signals, The Power of Positive Dog Training, Adoptable Dog, Animals in Translation and others I have learned that many of his techniques are harsh and transitory. It doesn't matter whether I think a method is harsh or not-the only viewpoint that matters is the dog's and I am in training to observe the animal for stress signals and adjust my efforts to minimize stress in the short term and in the long term. Every dog is different and every dog deserves to be met where he is and taken, as stress-free as possible, to the best state for the dog. If you are interested in seeing positive, long-lasting techniques watch Victoria Stillwell on It's Me or the Dog(on Animal Planet) or Dogtown(National Geographic). Check out www.Ttouch.com and watch some of the videos linked to YouTube-especially the one of Alf, one of the Michael Vic dogs, to see what true, compassionate dog-LISTENING can achieve.

I just don't see anything cultish about Cesar or his methods. Its your choice if you use some or none of his methods which he himself says are not the only ones.
I grew up with dogs and made many mistakes over the years. But after picking up some useful tips from watching the TV show, I feel like the latest dog we rescued is going to be the best dog yet. Not because of the dog but because of me and what I've learned. Dogs to me are pure love, I'm the one who needs work. If you don't watch the show because of Cesar watch it for the dog. You can't go wrong.

None of our opinions on what is harsh or stress-inducing to an animal matter. The only point of view that matters is the animals. When I learned about calming signals and Ttouch it completely transformed my viewpoint. I still think that CM has value in teaching owners that they MUST exercise their dog. However, I now understand MANY more dog signals than he ever mentions or acknowledges. The techniques shown on Victoria Stillwell's show and on Dogtown are much more humane and long lasting. They make take longer for the human to get and implement so they aren't for anyone who wants instant compliance but the work is well worth it.- If you truly value your dog and your relationship, you'll expand your horizons and learn to be a dog LISTENER.


"I rehabilitate dogs... I TRAIN HUMANS"

His methods are kinda like doing a warm restart on a computer ithat s acting up.
Take the animal... I said animal, not fuzzy little human with four legs, and talk to it in the instinctual language the dog understands. English may be the up and comming language of the world, but most canine friends really don't understand our vocabulary.

They do understand energy. And only stable energy will survive. We as humans, are the only animals who will follow insecure energy, and do it willfully.

Training is promoting a behavior. Rehab is about becoming level again.

Stay Calm Assertive

I was still thinking about the question more and noticed I chose the cult part to refer to instead of the Saint part. Since I don't think of Cesar in a cultish way , I don't see him as a Saint either. Anyone who garners such attention bad or good still is up for evalution if people wish to do so.
I find the information from his show useful because I learn better visually. I know the TV show has edits and time constraints, which are captioned for the audience to note. But if I'm sitting down to eat and the dog is laying on my lap its too close for me personally, for others they may not mind in the least. Now all I have to do is give the dog a sideways look and the dog moves away and gives me space. There's no shouting or shoving, its just a look and no bad feelings.

Myself and my rescued dog, BABY GIRL, are recent clients of CESAR MILLAN.

I can't find enough descriptive adjectives to write here in praise of him as a PERSON, and his natural CONNECTEDNESS with the dogs he works with. I observed it in person.

BABY GIRL has been his toughest client, to date, as she came to me with phobias NOT NORMALLY SEEN in a canine.

I have had more years than I want to admit working with every kind of animal...domestic and feral. When I heard about Cesar, and saw his program, I knew HE was the person who could help my rescued Doberman.

Cesar worked MIRACLES with BABY GIRL!

His techniques, his psychology, and the treadmill-time gave BABY GIRL soooo much mental, and physical, relief.


She's a different dog INSIDE, and it shows to everyone who has ever 'met' her.

If I may, I'd like to comment about what the nay-saying 'professionals' had to say...it's NOT all about education and degrees; it's about an 'innate connectedness.'

Cesar may not have degrees dripping off both arms....neither do I....but, I must say that being IN TUNE with nature goes a long way when it comes to communicating with living things OTHER than humans.

I have been extremely successful in bringing totally feral cats into the fold of trusting humans so said cats could be adopted out, to name one species. Without knowing it at the time, my psychological methods were, and are, very much like Cesar's.

CESAR HAS IT IN SPADES. He is even more genuine than time allows you to see on air!

His whole TV crew are in sync with allowing him to do what is natural to him. There's no outward thought of what might look good to the audience out there......it is all about helping the pet right there, right then.
And, I'll add, that the production crew helps bring out what we, the client, feels has happened for the better to our pet.

BABY GIRL had not seen Cesar in some time, and when she heard him talking outside our house, she couldn't get to the front door, and him, soon enough to suit her. This is a dog who RARELY shows excitement about ANYTHING.

As far as programing is concerned, in my humble opinion, the editor of the program is in control of packaging the product for the time allotted, that's only logical, but watching Cesar in person, and in action, would nullify anyone out there who ASSUMES that any part of the program is 'staged', 'manipulated', or changed for the sake of ratings....seeing is believing, I say.

If I was a 'follower', which I'm not, then Cesar Millan could be my GURU, without question.

Sincerely, Suzie/shadow

For those who don't know this side of Cesar Millan, here's a small piece out of one of his books:

Cesar Millan


In my last book, Cesar's Way, I thanked my
family, my role models, and all the people
who have helped me on my amazing journey to
becoming "the Dog Whisperer." Of course, I
remember them always, and without them this
book would not have been possible. For Be the
Pack Leader, however, I want to acknowledge
all women, and the special power that all
women hold¾even though they may not realize
it yet. I worry about the fact that my kids
are growing up in a very unstable world; a world that is going to require some incredible pack leaders if it is going to be made right again. I believe that women hold the key to helping put our world back into balance. But they can't do that until men truly acknowledge and honor the unique wisdom and the leadership women have to offer, and until women can embrace the pack leaders within themselves. More than most men, many women seem to instinctively know that
leadership doesn't mean negative energy.
It doesn't mean pitting one person against
another, one country against another, one religion against another. I also believe that women are more likely than men to act for the good of the pack. And like dogs, we humans need to remember that without the pack we are nothing. I have seen more compassion from women in my life than I have seen from men. Women have taught me true calm-assertive leadership, and because of them I have become a better, more balanced leader in all areas of my life, not just with dogs.

Dogs are all about the pack. They are guided
by an instinctual way of being that we humans
can have access to if we simply say, "I am here to live every moment to the fullest; to fulfill
my own life and to help fulfill everybody else
around me." I owe a huge debt of gratitude to
dogs for the values they have taught me, such
as honesty, integrity, consistency, and loyalty.
These are the qualities that make a true pack leader.

Hail Cesar. After a lifetime working with large livestock and small, Cesars techniques work.
As I am currently working with a Great Dane and an Anatolian Shepherd, they respect me and yes, even love me. Sorry if you don't want to hear that. The man knows what he is doing.
Anyone that doesn't see that knows nothing about animals and gee, maybe their PB will attack them because they are so "nice" to them. Kids and dogs need discipline-most of which is not given these days.

I am with Steve Dale on this, I rehab the SO called Red zone dogs and a lot of Mr Millans Red zones dogs are just average problem dogs in my book. And I still don't use his methods.. He's out of date and have no clue what he's really doing. It works cause it shuts the dogs down and create a passive dog, he's passive cause he don't want more of what he feels is scary.

My last case I worked I had for 7 motnhs, a 130 lbs rottweiler that did not like people to say the last. He tried to pin me and my ex husband against the wall... I never ONCE had to lay hand on this dog. Using clicker, hotdogs and positive reinforcement that dog is today safe with kids. The day you resort to Millans methods is the day you run a big risk of hurting yourself and your dog.

You can even see the electrical chock collars he is using in some episodes.They are just there for a mili second but they are there...

Any trainer that resorts to that isn't a real trainer nor behaviorist...

If a dog is afraid his pack leader's going to take off while he's eating, he's freaking out - not being cute and spirited. I feel sorry for your dog. (Wonder if he's got chronic soft poo from the anxiety??)

I stay with my dog while he's starting his dinner - I clean the kitchen or get a drink of water. Then if I go down the hall to start a load of laundry he doesn't have to worry that I've left him. He gets a hide-a-treat toy and then five to ten minutes of play time after every meal. The result? A dog with no anxiety.

You need to learn your dog's universal language - running around during dinner time is abnormal. It's stress. Please learn from Cesar, because he does know what he's doing.

To the poster who thinks it's good to yell at your spouse and that the same good behavior manifests in dogs as going nuts in the house: you're wrong.

interesting post and even more interesting comments...i watch all the episodes of the dog whisperer -after about 8 of them i realized i was focusing more on his psych techniques with the humans than the dogs... many of the posts here against him remind me of that type of parent that wants most of all to be their kids best friend rather than their parent....

I have just starting watching and reading CM. I havent yet seen him being cruel and abusive ( maybe he has been but I havent seen it yet). I have a friend who is a vet and she has been telling me to do things that he does for years ( that the dog has to work for what it wants.) I am not sure about the pack leader theory but kids have to know the rules so why shouldnt dogs? That being said, I am also a big believer in positive reinforcement (for children and dogs) and the biggest thing I take away from the DW is that dogs need excercise, dispcipline and affection. How about that... isnt that what kids need too?

We have an 11 1/2 year old Dobie. She has always been a great dog. Never snapped/growled or shown any aggressive sign to any living creature (human or animal). She is a very happy, tail wagging, smiling, and running in circles, well behaved dog (i.e. never jumps up on people or furniture, goes to her pillow when instructed to do so). Granted we do have to tell her twice when she’s excited, but in the end she does what’s expected.

When she was young we walked her 5 miles a day. When we give her a command we never relent until it’s completed (and then we praised her enthusiastically).

We started watching Cesar when she was about 6 years old and realized the methods for training was what we had been doing all along - loving Randi, exercising her, letting her be a dog (not our substitute children) and being her pack leaders.

When we take her out walking or people come to our home they are always amazed #1 that she is so well behaved and #2 that we had a Dobie that is so passive.

Randi is what we expect her to be, a socially adjusted, well controlled member of our pack. Who we can play with and pet for hours and also take to the dog pack (off lease) and feel confident that she is going to be toward other people and dogs the way we expect her to.

Cesar trains people. For all of you criticizing and judging, sit and watch a mother dog and her puppies for a while or a wild dog pack. They respect each other, they depend on each other, they "love" each other, but they each play their role and when one member steps out of bounds they're promptly put back in their place (with none suffering long-term psychological damage from the experience).

We will be getting another Dobie soon and will raise and treat him as we always have. Like a member of our pack, a beloved member of our family that we can depend on to be a contributing, controlled member of our home.

GO Cesar (not a saint, sinner, cult leader or miracle worker - just a man with common sense who understands the animal word and has used that to his advantage).

BTW – I have raised 2 great kids, who were also very happy and healthy. They are now happy, healthy adults (they didn’t jump on the furniture either, did yours?). Any of you who have raised good children tell me honestly you if you were able to do that without boundaries and yes even sometimes stern rules (if you run across the street you get a time-out, etc.). You were the adult, the leader, sometimes the disciplinarian, but it didn’t mean you loved or cared for your children any less because you gave them rules and set boundaries.

Wow, so many people are ignorant about the effects of Cesar's training. They just don't know better.

Here are some points to remind people:

1. Cesar thinks that dogs are wolves and therefore alpha rolls are crucial to establish dominance. What? Dogs are not wolves. Their behavior is completely different from wolves. There are plenty of studies to show that. So what he is preaching to the public is not even valid.

2. What Cesar uses as "treatment" is physical and psychological intimidation. That's all he knows. He does not know anything about "learning theory" and how dogs learn. Learning theory consists of operant and classical conditioning. For instance, if the underlying cause of a dog's excessive barking is fear/anxiety in the presence of another dog, you would pair the presence of the dog with something pleasant to "countercondition". In the future, the dog will not be anxious in the presence of another dog because of positive association. There is no need for Cesar's sharp jab into a dog's neck or a choke chain.

3. Watch the episdoe with JonBee, a dog that was muzzled and lifted up high by a choke chain, a process called "stringing up." Now tell me that is not inhumane and not necessary. What Cesar practices is ANIMAL CRUELTY and it's shocking that the public doesn't know better and actually "approves" it. Shame on people who thinks the world of Cesar.

4. Finally, explain to me why shock/choke/prong collars and physical restraint is the only treatment for problem behaviors in dogs. If he does not know any other humane and effective ways to treat a dog's problem, he is not a "dog expert" nor "behaviorist." He's just as ignorant as the people who watch and enjoy his show.

Cesar is horribly cruel. If you want to see how proper dog training happens, watch Dogtown. No cruelty involved.

Writer says "Millan is working with hard cases. We, the viewers, are probably by and large pretty happy with our little guys and girls. They have some issues, but we correct them when they step too far out of line."

Dogtown (the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary) is the ABSOLUTE last chance motel for dogs. If they can't be fixed here, they can't be fixed. And they use only positive reinforcement methods.

CESAR MILAN is an animal abuser.

One more thing about Milan: read this article.


People who refuse to admit the problems with Cesar Milan are such lemmings. In one of the January posts "citydog" posted comments from respected experts that explained the dangers of Cesar's methods. The Cesar fans eagerly posted their opinions that the "experts" were clearly jealous of Cesar. Others posted their anecdotal evidence to support Cesar's methods. Get real, people. The experts that disagree with Cesar are scientists, not celebrities. I put Cesar Milan in the same category as Kevin Trudeau. Trudeau claims he can sure a whole host of diseases, including aids, with natural cures that doctors don't want you to know about. Millions of people have bought his book. If you're diagnosed with cancer, do you want an oncologist with a ph.d or some guy that claims to have the "natural cure" that the docs don't want you to have. REALLY, I'd like you to show me one prominent (legitimate) animal behaviorist that supports Cesar's methods. I'll bet you can't find one.

I have read all of the above posts including all the criticism of Cesar Milan's techniques. I have also watched his program for the past four years including numerous re-viewings and re-re-viewings of countless episodes, and I have yet to see any indication that he does any of those things of which he is accused. In addition, I have volunteered at the local Humane Society for over a year, and I have tested a lot of his techniques. His techniques work, and they are not abusive.

I have read above about his “use of shock and prong collars,” but in all of the episodes I have seen over the past four years—and I have not missed many and have recorded most on tape or DVR for later re-watching—I have seen no occasion on which he has advised the use of a shock collar. I have seen an occasion where he used a “Scat Mat” which delivers not a shock but a vibration. I have, in fact, seen him on numerous occasions discourage owners from using the prong collar; he considers it to be abusive and to be ineffective because the dog builds up scar tissue on the neck requiring subsequent use to require more and more choking. I have seen him ask an owner to put the collar around his own neck to see what it feels like. I have a very hard time seeing him as anywhere near “abusive.”

With regard to the poster who sees a shock collar hidden in the hair of the dogs’ neck, it is a preposterous accusation and obviously so to anyone who has spent any time watching the Dog Whisperer episodes. And a treadmill is abusive? Please. I take my eleven-year-old husky for runs on my bike. Is that abusive, too? I pay attention to the distance, the weather and the dog.

As far as the choke collar is concerned, people assume from its name that the intent is to choke the dog, but anyone who has spent any time at all watching the DW would know that he goes way over the top to show that he is not even pulling on the leash; he walks with the leash passing through the circle of his thumb and index finger with the other fingers exaggeratedly extended. I see a whole lot more choking going on by the owners in his episodes and by the people I see on our local streets who are being dragged down the sidewalk by their dog. I guess one could say that it is no more choking than the dog is willing to impose on himself, but it is certainly more than I have done with the equivalent of Cesar’s “thirty-five cent leash” by multiples. Regarding treats for desired behavior, I have seen him do that, too, so he is not anti-treats.

In the postings, I read a lot of criticism from “classically trained” people, and I detected a sense of what others have stated. I saw a lot of professional jealousy; I detected a sense of fear that their own expertise would be rendered useless and their livelihood threatened; and I see a certain snobbishness by those “educated” people towards an “uneducated” immigrant whose methods are successful and popular. There is also a fear among some that a person can learn from watching TV, DVDs and reading a few books a method that is considered by many to be more effective and more in tune with nature than what they spent a lot of money and time going too school for.

I highly recommend Cesar’s techniques. But of course, I am not classically educated in “learning theory.” I have merely put into practice a lot of Cesar’s methods and found that they work. And I love dogs and detest those who abuse them.

If you are not classically educated in 'learning theory', then how can you argue that what he is practicing is the correct way to treat problem behaviors in dogs. Keep in mind, what Cesar does is punishment and punishment only SUPPRESSES the behavior at that moment, it doesn't teach a new behavior.

Also, you can't tell me that what Cesar did to JonBee (lifting the dog up high with a choke collar off the ground) is not abusive. Perhaps you should watch the episode again.

People are not aware of how dogs get hurt with Cesar's technique. One of the dogs got hurt at the psychology center and the story has been featured:


A very painful story that I hope no dogs have to go through. Now explain to me what happened was not abuse.

you should NEVER use punishment on an aggressive dog! It is very dangerous. How do you know the dog won't retaliate? Hardly aby of the dogs that are socalled "dominant agressive" in the dog whisperer shows actually want to dominate their owners, most of them are actually displaying aggression out of fear.
As for the claims that animal behaviourists are jealous, that is just ridiculous, vets are concerned for the welfare of the patients and owners. Many bahviourists see the result down the track of punishment based training and are righltly concerned about these methods being promoted on TV. Punishment can only suppress a behaviour- maybe forever, but then again, maybe not. There is always a risk that the dog will displace its fear and become even more aggressive later on.

My thoughts on Cesar:

1) HIs "pack theory" is ridiculous and has been disproved. When I watch his show I mentally subsitute the words "parent" for "pack leader", "territorial" for "dominant" and "wanting to please" for "submissive". I think it's partially his use of the "pack theory", semantic though it may be, that gets real experts so hot under the collar. It irks me, too, though I try to just ignore it.

2) That being said, his work with regular dogs, not "red zone" cases, is pretty admirable. Although Cesar's clearly learned a lot of wrong information about "packs", he has great instincts and with a basic dog is a fine trainer.

3) I turn the television off whenever he gets a red zone case. Most of the animals that he calls "agressive" are really "terrified", and some of the stuff he does, is, while maybe not abusive, idiotic. For instance, there was a pitbull who was scared of another dog and trying to attack it. The dog's tail was between its legs and its back was hunched, which Cesar correctly interpreted to mean the dog was scared, but to make the dog less fearful, he TUGGED THE DOG'S TAIL FROM ITS LEGS.

Wait, what? Body language doesn't work both ways. If I'm terrified and curled in a ball, shaking, stretching me out and forcing me still will make me more scared, not less.

5) He contradicts himself a lot. He'll say "dogs don't have emotions" and then he'll talk about a scared dog. Um, fear is an emotion. Again, not bad for the dogs or his methods, just annoying.

6) He constantly reminds us not to humanize dogs, and I guess he means the people that cradle their dog and call it their "baby" and feed it sweets, but he doesn't specifically say that, so I could take it to mean that dog behavior and human behavior work along completely different lines and motives and paradigms, which is silly and wrong, espescially when you consider that a lot of what we now take for granted about human behavior (conditioning, for example) was first observed in dogs.

So in conclusion, I don't like Cesar as a person because of silly contradictions that bother me, but I admire him as a dog trainer in working with run-of-the mill cases. I would really just like him to get a teensy bit of education behind his tremendous instincts, because he knows what to do, but his explanations for why he does it is awful and probably what pisses off the experts. (Who, incidentally should be respected as such because they have far more experience than we who know only through our limited experienc with our own dogs).

Oh, and I forgot to add that I effing hate his treadmill. Exercise your dog by running with them or playing a game, not by sitting back and making them do something so BORING. It might tire them physically, but it does nothing with them mentally and doesn't help you bond with your dog.

Also, treadmills are dangerous (relatively speaking, it's easy to fall off and hurt yourself if you're young or not human. I was thrown into a wall by one as a child, I think.) and should not be used for children or dogs. That is, or used to be, a pretty standard rule of thumb with treadmills.


I work with shelter dogs, was raised with hunting dogs, know many of the dog experts in the community and have several rescues of my own. I use Millan's philosophy and I completely disagree with the negative assessment of it, despite it being in print. Reality shows that dogs crave and love exercise and it does nothing but benefit them. Reality has also demonstrated to me that he is not flooding and punishing but clearly and irrevovacably showing what is and isn't wanted I've seen him be more gentle with shy dogs than ANY expert I've seen work with similar dogs. And, yes, with some of the rerally tough dogs, he has occasionally been a little tougher than I would have expected. But, when I'm in their with a dog who is about to be euthanized due to its aggression and frustration, I realize that sometimes to get the results, you need to get a dog's attention. Not by hurting them but by surprising them and as he says "snapping them out of it" like that scene from Monnstruck. In terms of long lasting, or temporary, sorry, I've seen the dogs turn into permamnently well adjusted dog-citizens with happy grins, tongue hanging out, etc. use the right energy and you don't lose the joi de vivre at all. In fact, you nurture it because they are less stressed, less unsure and less willing to take things into their own hands. I dion't really care what experts say in any field - dogs or otherwise -- I use my eye, ears and nose, and see that his approach is the most profoiund one I've come across.

You mention in your article that "we regular dog owners are using Cesar's methods that he uses on red-zone dogs on our white bud dogs". Well then doesn't this make it the owners fault because why use techniques that is only needed on a red zone dog on a dog who's not at that level. Why you correct a dog with that level if he/she is not there. If you truly do watch and learned what Cesar has to teach then you should of known that you should only use the level of correction that is needed to match the dog's intensity and not over correct or under correct a dog because that can create issues. I'm not trying to downplay or disrespect what you are trying to say but it seems that in this case that you are writing about it goes back to the owner not knowing what to do.

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