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Dog training gone bad
Many of you may be aware of a National Geographic television show featuring a charismatic individual who helps dog owners. I recently came across this video on the website and I urge you to watch it (preferably without the sound so as not to be distracted by his talking) and keep your eye on the dog. Here is what you will see:
Within the first 5 seconds, the handler kicks the dog in the abdomen. When the dog turns toward him he is jerked off his feet. A struggle ensues where the handler gets bitten several times and the dog is seen to be struggling for air. Finally he gets the dog onto the ground and the dogs tongue is blue and the dog is gasping for breath. When he finally gets the dog up it appears that there might be urine on the ground and that the dog voided his bladder in distress.
What you have witnessed is not dog training but abuse. Not only does the dog suffer, but clients are at risk if they attempt these interventions themselves. These are not appropriate measures and compromise the welfare of the dog and the safety of people. His explanations are false and not based on science as we know it. We as veterinarians must make our voices heard and let National Geographic and most importantly our clients know that these types of interventions are wrong and not in the best interest of dogs or people.
As a veterinary behaviorist I have dealt with behavior problems in companion animals for over 25 years and would never confront a dog this way. Not only would it be dangerous for me and the family, it would be harmful for the dog. My goal is diagnose the problem, and design humane treatment plans that help the family change the behavior of their dog so that they can safely live together. I hope all veterinarians can agree that this is the best approach.
I would love to hear your thoughts. Most importantly, go to the link and scroll down the page to “contact us” and click on that. Let National Geographic know what you think.
Thank you for your time
Debra F. Horwitz, DVM, DACVB
I am pleased that this video clip has generated so much discussion. My point was simple, we should not have to deprive dogs of air to get them to comply. To me it doesn't matter who does it, a celebrity, an owner, a veterinarian. I believe that as veterinarians we need to be at the forefront of animal welfare and choking animals is not good welfare pure and simple. There are many ways to reach your end, but using humane techniques should be what we do to get there.
Comments on the video
I firmly believe it's wrong to ever, every break a dogs spirit. I don't care what you use to justify the abuse. It's abuse. But ok, I tend towards emotional language, I can agree with that. But I do know a little bit about behavior.
Being "dominant" is a euphemism for intimidating, subduing into "submission". Don't get me wrong, I don't think that anyone can be 100% purely positive. Nor should be. There's a consequence for actions. They just don't have to be harshly punitive, or physical. There's a saying, "Violence begins where knowledge ends". There's always a way to create a change in behavior without using violence. Even aggression. How is meeting aggression with aggression actually solving the problem?
... I have had aggressive dogs in the past. Rotties. Unfortunately, I was given the advice to "dominate" them, and it made the situation much worse. Looking back, I would have handled things much differently.
My current dog has prey drive, that elevates with the sight of cats. What I do is make his brain think "see a cat, get something cool". I let him re-direct to tugging on his leash. There *are* boundaries. It's not ok to go after a cat. But I teach him what he *can* do instead. Rather than trying to dominate him and punish him into squashing the behavior. Because it's not going to go away, that desire. It's in the genes.
So many things are labeled "dominant". It becomes this huge umbrella for a lot of normal dog behavior. Dogs are opportunists. They try whatever works to get what they want. Yes, we have to have them fit into society, but again, there's plenty of ways of doing so that don't involve kicking butt. We *show* them how by reinforcing behavior that we want. We have the brains, the opposable thumbs. We control resources. That is what makes us leaders. (Let's drop "pack", since I doubt dogs see us as another dog).
I am a professional dog trainer who works with aggressive dogs and am NOT a Cesar Milan fan. I have seen an entire episode as well as this video of Cesar Milan nearly choking this dog (or wolf hybrid as some believe) to death.
First, working with aggression means keeping the dog under thier threshold so that there isnt an attack of redirected aggression. This attack was provoked by Cesar Milan and his poor methods. AND he continually choked the dog after he stopped the attack MULTIPLE times.
Punishment based training increases levels of aggression in many species. This is the result of fear, anxiety or frustration particularly if the dog does not understand why he is being punished. When he gets fed up with being punished, he may try aggression to make it stop.
Here is a disturbing link featuring a clip from a Cesar Millan show where he semi-hangs/chokes a dog. Many of you have corresponded with me regarding Cesar's methods and you know I cannot advocate his training techniques, some of which are brutal and potentially permanently traumatizing.
You can see from commentary that the public responds in both directions and sadly, the bottom line for many is the most important, regardless of how spirit may be broken. Not to mention potential health risks from this method, including possible future eye damage, which is discussed in the accompanying articles. I have to point out that this dog's aggression is primarily due to the fact that he is, in his mind, truly fighting for his life and I would venture to guess that any of us in the same situation would respond in the same way. He seems to be walking just fine until Cesar triggers him with a quick kick to the abdomen in the presence of another dog. When on his side, this dog is not just 'tired', but is almost in a semi-conscious state as he has been severely choked. You'll notice, when he gets up, the wet pavement of urine he has left behind which speaks to his level of trauma.
So...this "professional" kicks the dog in the groin area, twirls around and chokes him with his leash, gets
bitten once or twice....the dog lies on the ground gasping for air and people buy this crap? I watched it first
with the sound and again as recommended, without the sound. Played back that swift kick a couple of times
too and would love to do the same to CM!
Randi, Quinn and Breena.
Glad I'm not the only one who saw that kick...ugh
It was fast and quick and aimed...that dog had been walking with his tail wagging just before that kick......my gawd that made me sick....I also had to view it 3 times
That poor poor dog...and stupid owners.....
Absolutely disgusting. That dogs tongue was blue. And the owners just stood there, watching it all. He freakin' kicked the dog, I cannot stress enough what a FOOL Cesar Millan is. Spit.
Four messages above from:
Regarding the Shadow episode, I cannot believe that CM has been at this as long as he has and he has STILL not figured out that aggression begets aggression, and the dog's mouth is four times faster than the human hand. I don't think I've ever seen anyone who works with dogs get bitten as much as this guy does - is that just for show so he can call every dog a "red zone" dog???
Comments: I watched the video of CM and that poor dog. Who could watch the dog on it's side gasping for air-watch the color of the tongue -and not see it for what it was. But for him to kick the dog to start with, then choke him and not let go. I am sorry but that is pure and simple abuse and lack of knowledge.
Then "he is still excited, because dominance is exciting" and a close up of his penis? I have really heard it all know. That man needs to be locked up for the abusive individual he is...
COMMENTS IN CM'S DEFENCE
From Tiffany Allen
Shadow: I first hear about a dog, Shadow, who has gone after another dog before, multiple times (the other dog in the clip). I see Cesar correct (with the leash) Shadow for showing the very first indication of paying attention to the other dog. Cesar didn't wait until Shadow went after the other dog (he knew it would happen as the owners called Cesar in for that reason) but corrected him at the very first sign according to Shadow's body language (ears, tail, eyes, body). I then see Shadow retaliate by going after Cesar. Cesar is moving around CALMLY, I see no anger, frusteration, nor do I hear it in his voice. Cesar is trying to stay out of harms way as best as he can, yet he knows if he backs down, Shadow wins and learns to get his way by biting. Yes, I do see the leash is tight but I see Cesar relax it slightly when Shadow sits, facing away from the other dog. I then see Cesar put his hand firmly on Shadow's neck, but not grabbing him nor pulling him. Cesar guides Shadow to the ground and in less than 2 seconds, Shadow is WILLINGLY laying on his side. During the initial struggle, yes it does look like Shadow's tongue is blue, however when on the ground and Shadow licks his lips, it looks pink again. If my dog were to take off to run after a squirrel across the street and ends up choking herself on the end of the leash, is it my fault because I was holding the leash or is it my dog's fault for doing something wrong? Shadow is then continueing to lay on the ground while Cesar has taken his hand away from his neck after just a few seconds. Shadow's eyes are closing, his tail is relaxed and not between his legs, his ears are relaxed and not being held down and back, he is not trying to get away from Cesar. Meanwhile Cesar is talking about how he does not come across many purely dominance cases like this one. The owners thought Shadow was an aggressive dog. Cesar taught them the difference-many of his cases on aggression are about fear, insecurity, anxiety, hyper (lack of exercise), etc., but not many are a case of dominance. He says Shadow would not go after the other dog to hurt him/her but rather to show dominance over him/her. I have not seen that entire epside and I'm curious, have you? What do the owners say about Shadow afterwards? Usually Cesar will do a follow up a couple weeks after his initial meeting.
In regards to Cesar apparently kicking Shadow-what I saw was Cesar walking Shadow. Shadow's tail is wagging, but a wagging tail does not always mean the dog is relaxed and happy. The tail is held high, which is often a sign of excitement or dominance in a dog (based on my own studying of dogs, books, articles, etc. by professionals and authors other than Cesar). Cesar lifts his heel to tap Shadow in the rump when Shadow looks at the other dog as Shadow takes a step towards the other dog, ears immediately going forward and tail possibly raising slightly higher. The kick is not forceful as Cesar does not rear back and then kick. His leg moves straight backwards and across. Shadow's body is not forced to the side (away from foot) in which a kick would do. As for the comment made about it looking like Shadow had released his bladder out of fear, you can also see that the pavement underneath the tree at the 1:53 time marker shows that it is wet as well as other places on the pavement. Also, again at 2:53 I do not see a wet spot directly beneath Shadow. To me, it looks like it had been raining recently.
I think a big problem with videos like this is the differences in opinion of Cesar before even watching. I feel a lot of comments I have read that are negative towards Cesar are by those who already have made up their mind about him-they don't like him based on other things they've read, what they've heard, etc. I first read Cesar's first book, Cesar's Way, and feel like everything I read I had already seen and made sense. For example, I had seen dogs correct each other. I had seen dogs live in a pecking order that was not run by aggression but rather by leader type energy. So of course when I look at these clips, I'm not going to see the negative aspect. Likewise those who already don't agree with Cesar are going to in fact see only the negative side. A big difference that I've seen, not only on your website, is that those who don't agree with Cesar are often rude and disrespectful. Of course I have also read comments in favor of Cesar that are just as disrespectful towards others. I find it extremely interesting though that Cesar himself NEVER disrespects others' ways besides his. He does not try to degrade other professionals. If nothing else, I think we all can learn something from that.
From Kaelinda Kaelindaria:
In the clip starring Shadow, the dog is clearly trying to hurt Cesar and Cesar is preventing that from happening. Cesar didn't hurt Shadow, but instead tried to keep Shadow from hurting him by keeping the leash shorter than his arms and keeping his arms out of Shadow's reach. What would you have had Cesar do instead - let Shadow
bite him instead of trying to prevent it? Try to bribe him to be less dominant? Put Shadow down for being too aggressive? Shadow wasn't hurt physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically, or any other way. He just learned that he isn't to bite his handler. The fact that only a minute or two was shown in the clip, and the rest of the episode wasn't shown, indicates that the whole objective was to display Cesar in the worst possible light. In the end, Shadow learned to walk nicely on the leash. He was not afraid of Cesar or any of the humans he met. He was a happier, more balanced dog.
If you watch the beginning of this episode, you would see that Shadow
exhibits similar behavior with the owner, struggling on the leash and
leaping up to attack the owner. The situation looks intense, but it is the
dog creating the intensity - not Cesar. Shadow is jumping up; Cesar is not
pulling him up.
As you can see in the video, Cesar doesn't directly confront Shadow.
Instead, he shows Shadow calm-assertive patience until he gives up and calms
down. Even though the dog comes after him to attack, he doesn't take it
personally or get angry. Instead, he keeps himself safe while not harming
Cesar does not kick dogs. He often says that kicking, hitting, or otherwise
harming a dog is not only inhumane but also ineffective. In fact, it can
make the situation worse. What Cesar does is tap Shadow with his foot in
order to redirect his attention. In this case, he is redirecting his
attention from the other dog, which he normally tries to attack.
When Cesar leaves the family, the dog is no longer exhibiting the same
intense symptoms, and the family has the knowledge they need to continue to
work through the issue. If Cesar had not corrected this dog's behavior, even
the owners admit that Shadow would have likely ended up euthanized. Instead,
this dog is living without aggressive behaviors today with a loving family.