Tag Archives: Cesar

Why dog trainers will have to change their ways

Finally a great article written by a scientist that confirms The DogSmith training methods are the way to go.

Professor John Bradshaw is leading a revolution in the study of canine behaviour. ‘Dogs don’t want to control people, they want to control their own lives,’ he says.

Professor John Bradshaw is holding out a clenched fist – you might see this as a novel way of greeting a stranger were it not that it is my dog, Lily, he is approaching. He is giving her a chance to have a good sniff at him. Before we go any further, it needs spelling out that Bradshaw is not a dog trainer. He has not come to my house to turn Lily into a reformed character. He is a scientist – founder and director of the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol – who has devoted the last 25 years to studying the domestic dog and has just written the most fantastic book, In Defence of the Dog, which is already on US bestseller lists and is about to become required reading for dog lovers everywhere. Bradshaw is not interested in canine hearsay. He does not peddle opinions. His style is tolerant, clear and benign and he is interested only in what science can support. His book is a revelation – a major rethink about the way we understand our dogs, an overturning of what one might call traditional dogma.

Read the full article here…



Lets Call Kicking a Dog What it Is: Abuse

Written by Deborah Flick at her blog Boulder Dog

Sourced March 22nd 2011

Denial. Denial. Denial. People who don’t see abuse and torture when they are looking right at it are in denial. Denial is a very dangerous state of mind, it allows for all sorts of atrocities to go unchecked.

I thought about this when I read the always-on-top-of-current-dog-news Mary Haight’s new post: “Cesar, Abuse Is Not a Training Tool.” She includes a video to back up her argument. It’s a must read.

Mary asks: “How can so many people, including professionals, watch him abuse, and yes, torture dogs, and think it’s okay?” This is a really important question that we need to deconstruct.

I took a crack at it the Bonfire of the Insanities: Dumbinance Strikes Again, a post that I wrote 16 months ago. It’s all about denial. You can read below.

It’s deja vu all over again. That’s what occurs to me lately when I reflect on the abusive treatment of dogs in the name of training.

In my previous life I founded Denver Safehouse for Battered Women and taught classes on violence against women at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Rapists don’t think they rape. They’re just have sex with a woman who really wants it anyway. Men who beat their wives aren’t committing felony assault, they’re just showing her who’s boss.

The perpetrators were not the only ones in denial. Our entire culture colluded with them.

Rape was just another name for sex, it wasn’t assault. Some scholars argued that rape was impossible. Not so many years ago in Colorado it was legal for a man to rape his wife because within marriage the law assumed that marriage was just another way of saying sex-on-demand.

Beating up one’s wife was an acceptable way for a man to manage his unruly woman. Police turned a blind eye to women beaten within a inch of their lives. I know this to be true because I was on the front lines at the beginning of the so-called battered women’s movement. Every place we turned to for help—police, social services, mental health—turned us away or gave the woman bad advice, namely, some version of “It’s for your own good.”

With both rape and battering people assumed “she was asking for it” and that it was “good for her.” As for the the man, well, he was just asserting his rightful superior role. And the few who said, well maybe he hit her a little too hard, quickly qualified their statement with “It wasn’t that bad. It didn’t really hurt. I mean he didn’t break any bones.” Sound familiar?

I know from that experience that changing the perceptions of a culture entrenched in denial is like trying to right a monster vessel adrift at sea. It’s slow going, but it can be done. And, it’s still a work-in-progress.

I am not equating rape and battering with kicking a dog. Actually, I just said that because I don’t want to offend people who might take offense at that analogy. In my heart of hearts, though, I see the abuse and torture of dogs in the name of training or behavior modification as criminal acts against sentient beings, and frankly I think those who commit those acts should be treated as criminals by the law.

We can be begin our rehabilitation by asking ourselves, those of us who see nothing wrong with kicking dogs for their own good: What would you lose if you saw CM kicking a dog as abuse, as the deliberate infliction of pain? What would change for you? How do you feel about that?

Bonfires of the Insanities: Duminance Strikes Again (Redux)

Dominance theory, or dumbinance theory as I prefer to call it, reared its howling head again, this time as a prescription for child rearing—“Becoming the Alpha Dog in Your Own Home.” (As of today, the most popular article in the NYT.) Meet Cesar Millan, the new no-nonsense nanny. Here. In the New York Times. Again. (In case you missed the last exercise in fawning over Millan by the national paper of record, go here.)

To mark this dubious occasion I decided to get out ye ol’ bellows and stir up some embers of thought ignited by this bonfire of the insanities.

Insanity? You betcha. It’s downright crazy to look at one thing and see another, or not to see anything at all. Take dog poop. Poop is poop. Not chocolate puddin’. If you think poop is puddin’, you are in denial.  And, I don’t mean you’re cruising in a river in Egypt.

My aim here is to clear the smoke from our eyes so we can see what’s what, and stop convincing ourselves that that stuff we’re eatin’ is puddin’ and not poop. It’s poop!

Let’s begin with this quote from the Times article exhorting you to be the alpha dog in your own home, Cesar-style. It’s attributed to Allison Pearson, author of the novel “I Don’t Know How She Does It” about the pressures of contemporary motherhood. She said, “Unlike modern parents…dog trainers don’t think discipline equals being mean.”

Ah. Come again? Cesar Millan doesn’t dish out mean “discipline”? Is there more than one Cesar Millan? Did I miss something? I don’t think so. I’ll make a bold statement here. I am not crazy. Cesar ain’t dishing out puddin’.

Just to be fair, if Pearson was referring to the likes of Ian Dunbar or Karen Pryor or Pat Miller or Trish King, to name just a handful of excellent dog trainers who don’t think discipline equals being mean, I’m with her. They rely on the science of behavior and research that shows, time and again, that putting your energy into positively reinforcing your dog for doing the behaviors that you like rather going on a search and destroy mission for the behaviors that you don’t like, not only gives you a well-mannered dog, or child for that matter, but a relationship based on trust, not fear.

But, given that the Times article was about Cesar Millan, presumably, that’s who Pearson was talking about. (Or, the author of the article, by leaving the reader to make her own inference, makes it appear Pearson was referring to Millan. Allison, who were you talking about?)

Am I saying that Cesar’s style of discipline is mean? In a word, yes. In fact, it’s beyond mean. It’s sometimes cruel and abusive. When Cesar forces a fearful dog-aggressive dog to confront his fear by bringing the dog face-to-face with another dog and then strangles the dog with a choke collar for struggling to get away, or for aggressing, that’s mean. When Cesar drags a Saint Bernard who is fearful of stairs up a flight of stairs by the neck to get him over his fear of stairs, that’s mean. When he wraps a shock collar on a dog’s neck and shocks it to make it stop chasing the cat as the owner looks on, visibly shaken, that’s mean.

Do I think Millan thinks he’s being mean? No, I don’t. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t.

I think Cesar Millan is in denial about what he’s doing to dogs in the name of “discipline”. And, his placid demeanor enhances the delusion. Think about it. If he yelled in anger as he kicked, slapped, pushed, and choked dogs, we’d be appalled. We’d call the SPCA. We’d boycott National Geographic Channel and it’s advertisers.

Let me be clear. Millan does deserve credit for not flying into a rage when he disciplines a dog. For that he is a decent role model. Indeed, the first rule of dog training is Do not rage at your dog. If you are frustrated, or angry just stop interacting with your dog until you calm down. (Take note. This is good advice to follow with your child or your spouse or your friends.)

But unfortunately Millan’s self-styled calm-assertive veneer polishes the illusion that his discipline does good, not harm. Choking a dog into submission while remaining bucolic makes it appear as if the medicine is going down like, well, puddin’. Presumably if Millan is placid and not acting out of anger then he’s not hurting the dog either.

So when his disciples repeat and repeat, as if in a trance, Cesar says anything that works is okay as along as you don’t harm the dog, they’re in denial too. And when the National Geographic Channel and the New York Times further aids and abets this lunacy, we are entering the realm of collective consensual denial of harm.

But, hey, so what?

Here’s what. Denial scrambles reality. Denial allows us to do harm without recognizing our actions as harmful. Denial invites us to rationalize harm away.

Take blame the victim, for example, as in “he’s a red zone dog.” Cesar’s methods are all that will work. (Not true).

Or, minimization as in it’s not so bad. That’s a good one. I wonder if Bella, the American Bull Dog, would agree that it wasn’t so bad when Millan activated the electric collar he put on her to teach her not to guard her food.

Denial also provides us with cover for not doing the right thing, for not taking a stand against harm.

We have a choice. We can clear the smoke from our eyes, point out poop when we see it and haul it away. Or, we can keep on chowin’ down the puddin’ around the bonfire of the insanities. What are you going to do?

Here is another interesting blog…..

Sourced Dancing Dog Blog The video shows Millan, over and over again with different dogs, kicking them. Millan says he doesn’t “kick” the dog but uses his foot to distract/correct–the sounds or extreme movement coming from most of the dogs leads me to believe otherwise.  When he is facing the back end of the dog I see that kick going to the groin. Thanks to Steve Dale at his Chicago Now blog for bringing this up and for the video.

Spare The Rod And Train The Dog, Punishment and Its Fallout

Have you ever asked yourself “why do we do what we do?”  All animals, including humans, demonstrate certain behaviors because they are reinforced in some way.  In many cases this characteristic is essential to our survival and helps us secure the necessities of life such as food, water, approval and safety. Reinforcement for behaviors that lead to these essentials helps us survive the perils of the world. Learning what not to do also helps us survive and our brain teaches these lessons through fear, pain and suffering.

If you consider an injury you have had you will find that it may have been brought about by your behavior and you hopefully learned from it and will make efforts in the future to avoid similar behavior. You may also be aware that much of the punishment inflicted on you is external, from the hands of other people (Time-outs as a child, detention in High School, speeding tickets). Most of us live in healthy, happy environments and receive far more reinforcement than punishment from those around us. But for some, life can be one punishing experience after another.  The world we live in is filled with aversive consequences that are imposed in an attempt to suppress unwanted behavior.  Many family pets live under constant fear of punishment when they are desperately seeking  the attention, approval and love from their family.

So what is punishment and how is punishment used to suppress a dog’s behavior? Punishment as described above is an event that takes place after a behavior AND that is likely to reduce the behavior in the future. The law of effect says that behavior is a function of its consequence. A punisher can be anything that reduces behavior; shouting, hitting, withholding something (such as a toy or affection). A punisher is something that your dog will seek to avoid or escape. However, if the punisher does not reduce the behavior then it stops being a punisher.  Sometimes things that we consider punishment may not actually be an aversive to our dog and vice-versa; things that we may consider a reward may actually be a punisher in the eyes of a dog. Whether something is a reward or a punisher will be determined by the person/dog receiving it and is defined by whether it is increasing or reducing the “unwanted” behavior.

There are two types of punishment, positive punishment and negative punishment. The ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ describes whether something has been added to the event after the behavior. If you walk in a park at night and you are mugged, you are less likely to walk in the park again at night. Your behavior (of walking in the park) was punished; an aversive event occurred (the mugging) which was added to the situation. If you drive too quickly and you are stopped by the police and fined, you will drive more slowly in the future (theoretically).  This is an example of your behavior being negatively punished. Something has been subtracted from the situation (the money you were fined). Negative punishment is also referred to as penalty training (Chance 2008).

Punishment is a simple concept.  However, the variables that determine if the punishment is effective are very complicated, and perhaps impossible to implement effectively.  One essential variable to effective punishment is the contingency; how and to what degree is the punishing event dependant on the behavior. If a dog is doing something wrong and only gets punished some of the time, then the dog will not relate their behavior to the punishment. It is virtually impossible for pet dog owners to be 100% consistent and therefore they cannot get the consistency required for the punishment to be contingent on the behavior.  The second variable is the contiguity which is the interval between the behavior and the punishment. Dogs are too often punished after (sometimes long after) an infraction and in their minds there is no connection between the punishment and the infraction, so they don’t know what they are being punished for.  In fact they will associate the punishment to what they happen to be doing at the exact moment the punishment is received. Most people cannot effectively apply punishment.  They either ignore the fact that in many cases the punishment was not contingent on the behavior and/or the timing of the punishment was wrong leaving the animal bewildered and confused (Chance 2008).

It is also nearly impossible to determine at what intensity punishment should be applied.  If the level of the punishment is wrong then the animal either receives too harsh a punishment or the punishment is sustained for too long as the person applying the punishment experiments with the intensity of the punishment in an attempt to get the desirable effect.

This is why “punishment” so often results in unintentional abuse of family pets.  Housetraining is an excellent case-in-point.  Consider a dog that is not housetrained and even though the owner is convinced they are addressing the problem and punishing the dog correctly, house soiling continues. There is a high probability that the punishment is not contingent on the behavior. If the animal is soiling the house without the owner knowing, then contingency is not effective or the animal is only being punished sometimes.  If the house soiling behavior is not punished immediately then there is not sufficient contiguity between the behavior and the punisher. As a result of this the owner increases the intensity of the punishment, labeling the animal stubborn, spiteful or stupid. The animal then seeks to escape or avoid the punishment which results in a breakdown of trust and feelings of insecurity and fear when the dog is with its owner.

So not only is punishment extremely difficult to apply it also has many unwanted, and often unanticipated, side effects. Pet dog owners will sometimes continue to punish their dogs because in the short term they may see what appears to be a result.  The application of the punishment is reinforcing to them (the owner) so they punish again. The potential fallout of punishment is that the dog seeks to avoid or escape the punishment.  Behaviors such as escape, apathy and aggression can result (Chance 2008).

Let’s look at each of these.  A dog can escape punishment without actually fleeing.  The dog becomes an expert at avoidance.  When dogs cannot escape or avoid punishment they become apathetic.  Their general demeanor and behavior is suppressed. It is often safer for the dog to do nothing in an environment where aversive treatment is common place. Aggression is an alternative to escaping punishment. If the dog cannot escape the punishment or the punisher they will resort to aggression and attack. Aggression my not always be directed at the immediate threat and can be redirected to a stationary object or someone else.

Because punishment is so difficult to implement and it has so many unwanted side effects it is not a wise choice if you want to change the behavior of your companion animal. There are so many other choices including response prevention and managing a dog’s environment so they cannot or choose not to engage in problem behaviors. Reinforcement training is a powerful alternative to punishment protocols. You teach your dog what you would like them to do rather than what not to do.  Remember, we all tend to choose behaviors that result in pleasant, desirable or safe outcomes. The huge benefit and positive side effect of using more appropriate training and behavior change methods is that your dog will actually  like, and not fear, you.  I don’t know about you, but I choose to have pets in my life so I can enjoy and benefit from a mutually rewarding relationship where we share our life together.

Chance, P. (2008) Learning and Behavior. Wadsworth Cengage Learning

Copyright Niki Tudge 2010