Cesar Millan training techniques

Discussion in 'General Dog Training' started by marieke, Feb 20, 2008.

  1. marieke New Member

    This week I was watching Cesar Millan on Swedisch tv (the show is not on tv in Holland so I never heard of him before). I really liked the way he treats the dogs: as dogs. What do you think of him?


  2. CollieMan Experienced Member

    Cesar is a paradox to me. He boils the blood of many dog fanatics around the world, who claim he uses cruel and "out-dated" (how I loathe that latter notion) training techniques.

    He's a paradox to me because he could be a really great trainer, but he is so let down by his methods and his beliefs. At least in my view he is.

    He has, at times, simply an amazing ability to spot the smallest mistakes that the handler is making, and that is a valuable gift to have. He also manages to inspire confidence in people, where hope seems to been long lost. Again, that is another great asset to have.

    But then he makes some really fundamental and questionable errors and decisions. I've seen him declare a dog as accepting x, y, or z, when really it's sat there panting like a caged lion, and has just lost its will through exhaustion. It has, in effect, shut down. That, to me, is not training, it's bullying into submission.

    I wish he could merge his great, and frankly inspiring personal qualities, with some real training methods, that didn't involve force and bullying. If he could do that, he could be one of the greats.
  3. nereis Well-Known Member

    I think it's a shame that he is out there spreading all the wrong messages, when he has the ability to affect so many people. So many people watch his programme and follow his guidance. Some of his suggestions are obvious, such as exercising the dog, but some people need the obvious pointed out to them. And in that way, the dog benefits, as people realise how much dogs do need exercise.

    However, and this is a big however, I just don't agree with many of his other methods. Making dogs face up to their fears for example, by over-exposing them to whatever it is, is just cruelty in my book. In many cases I've watched the dog on screen just shut down completely. I've also seen dogs punished for growling, which is just asking for trouble. Growling is a dog's warning signal and if it can't give this signal for fear of punishment, then a bite could come totally unexpectedly and seem unprovoked. I'd just be interested to see the dog in a few months.

    I also disagree with the idea of a human/dog pack within the household, but that's an entirely different issue.
  4. Jean Cote Administrator

    Nice video, thanks :dogsmile:
  5. leema New Member

    I pretty much agree with what has been posted. I really feel that it is a shame that the program has ever made it on TV because his 'bad advice' really outweighs the good.
  6. l_l_a New Member

    Ah yes, Cesar Milan - many a dog forum has erupted into controversy over this topic!

    This is what I think about him:

    1. I love watching his show. I used to watch every episode

    2. I love the way he handles PEOPLE. He is very charismatic and very sympathetic and encouraging. He empowers people to take charge of their dogs and communicates his philosophies and techniques well with them. He does not judge them harshly or criticize them, and he listens well to what they are saying. I think all dog trainers should adopt his approach of dealing with clients.

    3. I love his mantra of "Exercise first, then discipline, then affection." And also that dogs need "rules, boundaries and limitations." I wholeheartedly agree with this and try to follow these principles as much as I can. these broad principles cross the boundaries of different training methods, they can still be applied regardless of the specific methods or techniques you use to train. I especially like his emphasis on exercising the dog daily to burn off energy.

    4. I read his first book and was very inspired by his life story. His was literally a rags to riches story and shows what determination, guts and hard work can accomplish. He started as an illegal immigrant in America, and didn't even learn English until he was in his 20's! (How many people can become fluent in a new language that they started learning as adults??) And now he's a world-famous celebrity.

    OK. Now having said all those things I like about him, I absolutely do NOT like the actual training methods and techniques he uses. Specifically, I don't like:

    1. His use of alpha rolling.

    2. His use of leash corrections (on choke collars) for teaching and reinforcing almost everything.

    3. His use of a technique called "flooding" to treat fear in dogs. This technique is controversial even when used on humans (i.e. as a form of psychiatric treatment)

    4. His tendency to diagnose every problem in every dog on his show, as being due to "dominance problem" or "lack of leadership" in the owner.

    As for whether his methods are outdated or old fashioned, fact is, they are. That does NOT mean that they don't still work!! They DO work, they have worked for generations of people and continue to work for those who can apply them correctly. I used to use those same techniques too because that's what I was taught. Most dog trainers in america teaching everyday obedience training to pet owners use methods very similar to Cesar Milan, in fact using clicker training and mainly positive reinforcement based training is not the norm in America, except for puppy kindergarten and sports like agility and rally and freestyle. But the average dog owner on the street (or in the dog park, or in the pet store) doesn't participate in canine sports and most trainers who teach everyday obedience training use methods similar to Cesar Milans and thus many if not most dog owners on the street (in america) do as well. many times other dog owners in public look at me like I'm crazy when I reward my dog with treats. This is not to say that it's hard to find trainers here who use clicker training or primarily positive reinforcement based methods, just that there are more who don't.

    Even though he says his methods were derived from his own experience and not from being taught by mentors or being taught by professional trainers, his methods bear strong resemblance (though not identical) to those developed and popularized by Koehler (WW II era) and before that by Most (circa early 1900's). Whereas the principles of clicker training and positive reinforcement-based training date to 1940s (B.F. Skinner) for training other species of animals but not for training the average pet dog until around the 1980s. So I do think that it is safe to say that Cesar Milan's methods are "old fashioned". I'm not saying that because it's fashionable to say so, they really are so from a chronological and historical standpoint.

    nevertheless I love watching his show! just because you would not do things the same way someone else does, doesn't mean you can't appreciate their accomplishments and learn from them!
  7. CollieMan Experienced Member

    There is a difference between old-fashioned and outdated, and I was very careful to choose one over the other. :)
  8. lurchergirl New Member

    I fully agree what has been said so far.

    If anyone believes that the dogs are not frightened and shut down, then I suggest that you watch a couple of episodes with the sound turned off. If you don't have CM and the voice over telling you what is going on, you can suddenly see all the body language that the dogs show... which is usually not good, but simply scared, shut down and in some cases terrified. You will also spot other things that CM does which you would otherwise not notice.

    I do agree with CM though when it comes to exercise and giving dogs rules and boundaries.

  9. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    I 'm with |_|_a. ^^
    I applaud that he strives to have mentally and physically healthy dogs, despite the fact that his methods are not widely accepted anymore. When I came to DTA, I too used and agreed with his techniques simply because it was all I knew. Thanks to some good members(wink wink), I learned about people like Patricia McConnell. I like her approach much better, but I can still appreciate that his heart is in the right place. He's not just some cruel man that wants to "dominate" dogs. He truly loves all of his dogs, and watching one episode will show you that they enjoy his company, too. His Dog Psychology Center has opened doors for so many dogs that otherwise would've been euthanized or on the street. It was through his shows and books that I learned about canine body language. I applaud his efforts, even though I no longer agree with his techniques.
  10. marieke New Member

    I've only watched one show and my sisters internet (she lives in Sweden and I'm there visiting) is very slow so I cannot watch the youtube videos. Next week when I'm home I'll watch them, I'm curious about all the stuff you guys mentioned. The one episode I saw was quite good though. Didn't see any of the above mentioned "mistakes". Thanks for your feedback.
  11. l_l_a New Member

    I didn't know his shows or parts of them were available on YouTube. I tried to search for his shows on Youtube about a year ago but they said that clips had been removed because of copyright issues.

    the reason is, I saw an episode where he used the "flooding" technique. I saw the entire episode when it first aired on TV, and then some months later people were talking about it on another dog list that I used to be on, and someone had posted a link to a YouTube clip showing part of that episode. However, when I later went to find that clip that's when I found it had been removed from youtube.

    don't get me wrong, he is very good at using "those" methods, the way he does his techniques works on the dogs he handles (even though the dogs often look uncomfortable or stressed out when he is handling them, I've seen far worse from people trying to emulate his methods with less precision or skill). I've heard all kinds of "conspiracy theories" about how the dogs only look so good on the show because he really works them a lot "harder" off the camera, but assuming that's just a lot of hot air, the way he handles the dogs on the show is very intuitive so I think he is a good role model for the way that style of training should be done. (but also why I don't like that style of training in general, which is just my personal preference, because if the dogs look so uncomfortable and sometimes even upset when an expert trainer is doing it, then what more when inexperienced trainers like regular dog owners try to follow his methods but are not as good.)
  12. l_l_a New Member

    oh I was wrong about there being no YouTube videos of Cesar Milan (I should have known better!)

    Here is one that shows his alpha rolling, he is doing it on a pit bull who is being reactive (aggressive) to other dogs

    he rolls the dog onto its back at around 1:35, which actually doesn't look so bad there and then since the dog is complying. But then he does it again at around 2:38, and this time the dog is really putting up a struggle. I think the danger of getting bitten is quite high! especially if a non-expert trainer is attempting this. anyway, even if you don't get bitten, dealing with the dog's reactivity or aggression this way seems like it puts the dog through a lot of stress, but whether or not that's a negative or is OK is something that is up to the individual. Many people don't believe that it's a bad thing to subject dogs to this amount of stress. (I personally wouldn't want to do that myself....)

    So in the above clip, Cesar Milan deals with a dog's aggression by alpha rolling to intimidate the dog into complying with his commands.

    Here is a video of very different- and gentler - approach of dealing with aggression. the trainer in this video is Sophia Yin (she's also a vet and an author). This time the dog is aggressive to people not to other dogs as in the Cesar Milan video. (and many would say that aggression to people is a more serious problem than aggression to other dogs.....) This method is counterconditioning the aggressive response by using very positive associations - very high value food - to slowly overwrite the negative response bit by bit, in tiny steps, keeping the dog as calm and unstressed as possible at each step. (this is the approach I used for my dog's fear-aggression to people)
    (and by the way I find it ironic that the name of the aggressive dog is "Bambi"!! LOL!)

    I wish the video were a bit more informative though, it shows the beginning state when the dog is aggressive to the stranger (the trainer), and it shows the dog 2 weeks later when it is now friendly and being perfectly comfortable with the trainer approaching and happily letting her take his leash, but it only shows the first step of the in-between work.

    Hmmm...OK I went off on a tangent there since this is not a thread about aggression per se, but about Cesar Milan! oh well, just to compare and contrast Cesar Milan's approach with something else!
  13. leema New Member

    lla - I agree the first alpha roll seemed like the dog was willing, the second the dog was not so much. However, both were a matter of restraint toward the dog... I don't find that so objective, but the idea that it's what you should do or the idea that this is what wolves do. ;) Or the idea that smothering the dog like this everytime a dog comes along is going to fix the problem. Dog seems more stressed about other dog than CM.

    His dog was beautifully well behaved. :)
  14. sassy263 New Member

    I am not a fan of CM. I believe there are way better trainers out there who should have their own show that would teach people safe ways of handling a dog.
  15. marieke New Member

    I did try something I saw in the one episode I watched. It was the way of using the leash: holding it in my left hand behind my back. My right arm just hanging down relax. Guus was always quite a good follower on the leash but I had to be very active in keeping his attention. But now: he follows me perfectly without pulling and I don't have to try and keep him near me. It's brillant!
  16. marieke New Member

    I don't know about the alfa roll, and I'm glad I don't need it with Guus. But I did like his tip on being more relaxed with your dog. I made my hand signals more relaxed and Guus responds better to them now. I learned to relax my whole body when I have him on the leash and he follows like he's part of me. So I'll just use what I like and forget about the more controversial stuff. I did buy his book though, expecting it in the mail today. I'll let you guys know what I thougt of it.
  17. bipa New Member

    Staying relaxed around your dog isn't really from Cesar Millan. It is a general principle when dealing with any animal, be it dogs, horses, sheep, bears, elephants or tigers. Any farmer will tell you that it is easier to milk a cow when everyone is relaxed rather than stressed out. And zoo workers practice staying relaxed around animals on a daily basis. So please don't attribute it to Cesar Millan when it is actually just part of the basics that everyone should know.

    I find that the "good parts" of the Cesar Millan Way are actually what is already widely known and practiced by almost all animal trainers. That means that you can get all the same info plus much more good stuff, for example, from Ian Dunbar and other decent trainers and behaviourists.

    If you really want to understand what has many of us so upset, then take the time while reading the book you bought and divide his advice into two groups. Group 1 is basic info that you will find in every other training book. Group 2 is stuff that only Cesar Millan and a few others are advocating, such as flooding, wrestling your dog to the ground in an alpha roll, and putting your dog into a state of learned helplessness. Then see how much of the group 2 stuff you'd really want to do with your dog.

    Frankly, I see little value in using any of the Cesar Millan specific techniques. He does a good job in explaining the basics, but almost every decent dog training book will give the same basics. It is the more advanced techniques which differ.
  18. achieve1dream Experienced Member

    Ceaser Milan

    I agree with a lot of what was posted. I kind of view his show more as entertainment than a training tool. I love watching it because of the owners mostly. Some of them are just downright silly. I also grew up using similar methods of dog training as it was how I was taught. That combined with the impatience and inexperience of a teenager is why Storm is very submissive and not very confident. I am so happy I learned about clicker training. It has really improved her confidence and general enjoyment of the training process.
  19. hivin New Member

    hmmm funny we just noticed this thread ... when we first started watching his show we really liked CM ... his "philosophy" ... but never really embraced his methods ... I love clicker training and positive reinforcement for desired behaviour and just don't think what he calls discipline ( looks a lot like punishment to me ) will achieve desired objective ... I mean do you want a dog that is eager to please, trusts you and strives to do what you've asked of them ... or, sorry for CM fans, it just seems he rules through fear and intimidation sometimes and ... I don't like it and really believe one will achieve greater, longer lasting accomplishments through a kinder, gentler approach that advocates positive teaching methods and reinforcement of appropriate and desired behaviour.

    That thing he calls a "touch" to the dogs neck and claims it's imitation of how one dog would bite another ... don't know, seen lots of clips where it just looks like he's cuffing the dog in the side of the head ... and a kick is a kick, maybe you're not breaking ribs but ... a kick is a kick.

    We approach our dog training the way we used to work with our students ... we've got a knowledge of many different philosophies and practices and we pick and choose what we like from the various methodologies and toss aside the stuff we don't like. Then tailor a training program based on the individual qualities of the animal and the desired results. It's what's worked best for us and our animals ( our students did pretty good too actually, never had any complaints ... well, not from the parents ... the kids complain constantly and call us all sorts of wonderfully unique names!!!!! )

    Generally we've got some pretty mixed feelings about CM ... started out really liking him and now we're definitely leaning to the other end of the scale ... the more we watch the show and him ... there is this ever increasing dislike of his approach and some of his "hands on" techniques.

    Nice thread and discussion, take care all: Hivin


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