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What Went Wrong On Cesar 911: Simon Strikes Again (And How Dogs Should Be Set Up For Success)

What Went Wrong On Cesar 911: Simon Strikes Again (And How Dogs Should Be Set Up For Success)

In my previous post, you read about how I saw some good in Cesar Millan.

I felt he could use his influence for a world of good for dogs everywhere… if only he revised his methods.

After all, his downfall took a toll on him. The bad press, the protests, his show getting cancelled – that must have really discouraged him. It had to have inspired him to study with professional dog trainers, become educated in dog behavior and body language, and toss out his dependence on physical punishments and aversive tools. But it didn’t.

Recent events on Cesar Millan’s new show prove to me that he simply refuses to change.

What Happened On Cesar 911: Simon Strikes Again

You can watch a 5-minute clip on Youtube with play-by-play commentary from dog trainer Vicki Dawe. Or, watch the full episode of Cesar 911: Simon Strikes Again on the National Geographic website.

If you can’t tune in, here’s a rundown on what happened:

Photo courtesy of Dogster

Photo courtesy of Dogster

Simon, a French Bulldog-Boston terrier mix, attacked and killed his owner’s two pet pot-bellied pigs. The owner turned to Cesar Millan to cure Simon’s aggression towards pigs so she could one day own another. Millan said he planned to help Simon create a “positive memory” around pigs – and you can almost feel a glimmer of hope.

Millan brought Simon to his own pig pen on his property, where three medium-sized pigs were peacefully grazing, splashing about in their kiddie pool – unaware that they were about to have a very, very bad day.

At first, Millan had Simon on a slip lead – a leash that can tighten around the dog’s neck to correct it.

“He was so stressed the entire time Cesar had him on the leash,” says dog trainer Jill Breitner. 

Simon wasn’t attacking the pigs, or even looking at them. In fact, he was sniffing the ground and panting, avoiding the pigs. Simon looked toward the pigs, then turned his head away from them – only to receive a leash correction from Millan. Simon was showing signs of stress. His ears were stiff, his lips pulled back tight as he pants. He sniffed the ground as though to keep busy, and to avoid drawing attention to himself.

Simon is choosing to avoid the pigs – he’s being a good boy – yet nobody is acknowledging this.

Illustration by Lili Chin .

Illustration by Lili Chin.

At this point, Millan instructed Simon’s owner to let him loose, “…the worst thing he could have done,” notes Breitner. Simon licked his lips, held his ears back, and paced about, but he still did not attack the pigs. 

Behind a flower pot, one of the show producers restrained a pink pig by lifting it by its hind leg, causing it to squeal. This is where Simon got set off. He took off towards the pig as the producer continued to restrain it. Millan successful grabbed Simon, lost his grasp, and then grabbed him again.

The pig’s ear is bloodied; Simon had successfully ripped off a chunk.

Millan then held Simon by the collar and made him lay down, then shook his finger in the dog’s face and scolded with his famous tssst. 

Simon, agitated and over-aroused, immediately took off running again, this time towards a spotted pig. Millan leaped for Simon, falling on his side as the dog dashed beyond his reach.

Millan finally caught Simon again as the dog cowered, anticipating punishment. Millan hovered over the dog and pinned him on his side, and jabbed his face until the dog was finally too intimidated to resist.

Investigation Under Way Over ‘Simon Attacks Again’

At the time of this posting, Cesar Millan and his show crew are being investigated for possible animal cruelty, and will be questioned about the pigs’ location and well-being.

Cesar Millan and his employees may have committed the crime of using an animal as bait.

In the meantime, it’s about time Cesar Millan’s TV career came to an end.

The pigs, three stressed and one injured, aren’t the only victims of his “training.”

Thousands of dogs have been intimidated, pinned and jabbed by Millan. Hundreds of thousands more have been pinned and tsst-ed in the homes of Millan fans around the world as people try to replicate his outdated, dangerous training methods.

That’s why it’s time to take a stand for dogs everywhere.

Sign the petition to ban Cesar Millan from the National Geographic channel and cancel Cesar 911.

Why Intimidation Is The Worst Remedy For Fear

A screencap from Jill Breitner's dog body language app, Dog Decoder.

Screencap from Jill Breitner’s dog body language app, Dog Decoder.

Millan and his crew seemed to think the attack came out of nowhere. But any educated dog trainer could see it coming from a mile away, even in the show’s final cut.

Simon is stressed as soon as they enter the pig pen. His stress intensifies as he’s subjected to Millan’s leash corrections and punishments. “A real trainer would have noticed these body languages and either redirected the dog or removed him,” adds Breitner, “he was way too stressed and then became over threshold.”

Simon’s aggression towards pigs appears to be triggered by stress, not a craving for fresh bacon.
“It could have been that when he was young a pig might have scared or even attacked him. Prey drive is a very difficult thing to attach to aggression because every dog has a prey drive, it’s instinctual, part of their nature and why they fetch… [prey drive] has nothing to do with killing,” advises Breitner. “When an animal is bullied they tend to become bullies when they’re adults, just like abused children can be violent or bullies as adults. Fear is almost always a predecessor to aggression.”

How Simon Can Be Helped

For a dog with blood on his paws, management is the most likely long-term solution.

“Once an animal has actually killed another it’s most likely that it will be a dog that needs to be managed …never fully trusted,” says Breitner. As a professional dog trainer, she has successfully helped clients with dogs who have killed cats find teach their pets to live in harmony – without the use of force or intimidation.

Reversing fear-based aggression  requires consistent, positive training. The dog needs to be reintroduced to his fear little-by-little.

“If this foundation is laid in a trusting way, over much time, the dog can begin to trust its guardian and not become reactive – thereby become aggressive,” Breitner advises. It can take weeks or months to build a positive association and alleviate the dog’s fear.

Millan’s method in the video is best described as “flooding.” The dog was exposed to too much, way too soon. This put the dog in a stressed, over-aroused state, making learning impossible. Millan claims to intuitively understand a dog’s state of being, yet failed to notice that Simon was beyond his breaking point.

Simon needs to be praised and rewarded when he chooses to keep his cool around pigs. He needs to play games and enjoy his favorite things when he’s in the presence of his curly-tailed foes.

After the incident, Millan continued training with Simon at his Dog Psychology Center in California. If he continued to use intimidation and punishment – maybe even harsher punishments when the cameras aren’t rolling – Simon may feel just as untrusting of humans as he does pigs.

Update: Cesar Leaves Simon HangingCesar911: Simon Strikes Again, hanging the dog

I wish I had some good news to share.

But after watching the full episode, I can only hope the investigation extends to the physical abuse and negligence of Simon’s welfare – because this just ain’t right.

Early in the episode, Millan takes Simon for a walk to assess his condition.There’s a random guy walking his black lab off-leash across the street – a dangerous set-up. Millan and Simon approach the dog to about three feet away, and Simon doesn’t do anything wrong. He avoids the other dog. Cesar911: Frenchie mix hanged by his leash and collar

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 10.37.13Millan walks Simon up to the other dog again, this time, Simon begins growling and barking from a few feet away. So, Millan brings him even closer to the other dog. The black lab curiously approaches Simon, and now, Simon feels he has no choice but to attack the other dog before it attacks him.

Millan then yanks Simon up in the air by his leash and collar, and for a few moments, Simon is flailing around with all four paws off the ground, hanging by his neck.

To make things way worse, Simon is a mix of two brachycephalic breeds. These flat-faced dogs should always be walked with a harness to avoid airway collapse and dislocated eyes from the pressure of a flat collar. Being hanged like this was not only terrifying for Simon; it could have seriously injured, even killed him.

How To Help Dogs Everywhere

The pig commotion made for exciting, dramatic reality TV. It’s wasn’t only barbaric – it was harmful.

Dogs everywhere are getting alpha-rolled, pinned, jabbed and tsst-ed. All because Millan and his crew refuse to update their training techniques. Dog owners are being misinformed, on a worldwide scale, on how dog psychology really works, and how reactive, fearful behavior should be managed. Fear and punishment-based training methods are never effective or safe for use on any dog, let alone one that is already anxious.

Sign the petition to ban Cesar Millan from National Geographic.

Lindsay Pevny
Lindsay Pevny lives to help pet parents make the very best choices for their pets by providing actionable, science-based training and care tips and insightful pet product reviews.

She also uses her pet copywriting business to make sure the best pet products and services get found online through catchy copy and fun, informative blog posts. She also provides product description writing services for ecommerce companies.

As a dog mom to Matilda and Cow, she spends most of her days taking long walks and practicing new tricks, and most nights trying to make the best of a very modest portion of her bed.

You'll also find her baking bread and making homemade pizza, laughing, painting and shopping.

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Mari Fujimoto

Saturday 11th of April 2020

I saw the pig episode multiple times and it was clearly unfortunate accident. Yes, he should had used a muzzle but I am sure he never meant to hurt his pig. I have watched all his shows over years, I had never seen any participating animals being hurt like that. What is unfortunate is that it’s so easy for people to get lost in details and ignore a big picture, but it’s a fact that about 4 million dogs enter shelters and over a million dogs are still euthanized each year in US. I can’t imagine how many dogs’ lives were saved by Cesar. I personally know a dog that was given up by many animal trainers and going to be euthanized but successfully rehabilitated back by Cesar because he made the owner realized how much human actions were contributing to her dog’s problems. Not everyone could afford a dog trainer and a TV show can reach and affect millions of people. Even if it’s a tiny fraction, that could be hundreds of dogs. If I am a true animal lover who wants to save as many dogs’ lives as possible, then why shouldn’t I embrace anyone or anything to save dogs?

Lindsay Pevny

Monday 13th of April 2020

Hi Mari, Cesar Millan's shows are not meant to be used as a substitute for training or as guidance for at-home training - you've probably noticed the preface before each episode along the lines of "do not try this at home." Dog trainers certified by reputable organizations such as CCPDT, KPA and APDT, as well as veterinary behaviorists who have degrees in veterinary medicine, all save lives of dogs with behavior issues without using forceful methods or outdated ideologies - those of which have been shown to make fear-based aggression even worse. If you're interested in learning more about dog training and rehabilitation, stick around and feel free to get in touch if you have any questions. If I can't answer your questions, I'll ask one of my qualified, experienced contacts who can.

Chauntelle Russell

Wednesday 1st of April 2020

Cesar Milan has a Gift from God. MOST People of society are the Biggest Idiots of any species. They all follow like sheep without any real belief of their own. If the wind shifts so do they. Imo those ppl are a waste of space and fillers on this planet. And Those are the ppl that are the critics of Milan bc they fail to see his gift. Their opinions Do Not matter. Actually Nothing about them Matter. So keep it to urself plz. U know who u are.


Friday 25th of October 2019

Like above, I hope this will be posted.

Do outcomes concern us?

What is the outcome with the charges? "No animal cruelty charges will be brought". The officials responsible for identifying abuse said there was none.

The outcome for the dog: And a quote from the representative who brought a new foster dog to Simon's owner at the end of the episode... "It was such a miracle to see him [Simon] interacting with all the dogs, just so calmly".

Simon overcame his fear/aggression toward pigs/animals/dogs. He was even introduced to a new dog on his own turf at the end of the rehab period. And (way) more importantly, the dog was shown a Way Forward for other scenarios in which he feels out of control and therefore aggressive, etc. The way forward? Calm submission; a relationship-centered, empowered, healthy, happy, calm, submissive, trusting, relaxed, positive energetic state if being. And the courageous owner learned it too. Learned it and stuck with it. Where there used to be one pig-killing, dog-mauling monster wreaking havoc on self, home, owner, others... Three weeks later (shown at the end of the episode) the owner shows up to the Dog Psychology Center with a well adjusted 2 dog pack. Not a mistake. Not unique, considering this is the consistent result of Cesar's methods applied correctly.

(Little social justice commentary here for a second ... This is a minority empowering almost exclusively women in an aspect of their lives that's very meaningful to them. Sounds 21st century to me.)

In the end, it's about whole dog-human relationship modification; Not just behavior modification. And please refrain from typing the term "learned helplessness". It's over applied like the conservatives comparing Obama to one of the 20th century's famous dictators. They don't compare, it doesn't apply. These dogs are vibrantly full of life.

So, please stop with the baseless claims that Cesar Milan's methods are ineffectual. That ship has sailed. It works. It's healthier psychologically than the alternative. It's relationally, instinctually right... and before too long lab researchers will find ways to test his actual way of relating to dogs and I'm betting then it will have scientific basis too. Even right now, there's too much positive, long-lasting proof "on the ground" to say out-of-hand, it doesn't work. There wouldn't be hoards of people like me trying to calmly spread the word about this beautiful way of being with a dog. We defend these methods both against the violent people that take it as permission to abuse their dog... and the people that refuse to actually accept that ownership of a dog implies the need to psychologically provide, in addition to food shelter, water. And in this instance, this dog was a pig killer already. Not theoretical.

How about this, send me even one link showing that his specific methods result in more relapses than other methods (not looking for your lab studies of "positive reinforcement vs other")... I mean actually numbers on actual dogs Cesar has worked with vs., let's say, the real world success/relapse rate of any well known positive-reinforcement-only trainer with 10+ years on the job)...

Do be careful here as well, because I've yet to see someone use 100% positive-only reinforcement training on all dogs. Invariably, certain poorly adjusted dogs receive some amount of positive punishment.

Why do I see Cesar Millan followers using positive reinforcement and positive punishment in tandem to help these problem dogs establish a new way of being.. And yet I hear most commonly from the positive reinforcement crowd is... "Well your aggressive dog is this way because the breed blah blah blah.. and this dogs background makes it blah blah blah... And it all just means that this dog will have to stay crated in the back room, put away when kids or dogs or even adults come, locked up until that time of day when you can be sure not to see another dog or person in the neighborhood." And they'll be double-leashed, harnessed, prong collared, choking themselves every step of the short frustrated walk." You all have such outrage. Well, I have mine too, and from my side of the fence, it looks a lot like your methods and way of being is much more the problem that Cesar Millan's

Lindsay Pevny

Tuesday 29th of October 2019

Hi Harvey, thanks for your very well thought out comment. A lot of it doesn't really make any sense, but thanks for reading my article and asking all of these questions! I may do a series on trainers who have rehabilitated aggressive dogs without force, but if you'd prefer to get your information from a reality show that's been hyper-edited and armed with NDAs, rather than scientific sources, industry professionals, organizations, and entire countries that have outlawed forceful methods and tools... well, best of luck! I think we all love dogs enough to feel relieved when we discover fun, force-free ways to train and rehabilitate them.


Thursday 1st of August 2019

This story is crazy - not sure how I missed this one. Thanks for sharing.

Victoria Ray

Wednesday 29th of August 2018

Bet this won't even get posted. You people are exactly the type of people that are bad for dogs and humans. You think anything that isn't treating a dog as a human is "cruelty". You nasty people want to destroy someone's career simply because you disagree with them and then label everything they do as harmful and wrong. Cesar is amazing and what he does is amazing. He's also a better person than most of you will ever be.

Lindsay Pevny

Wednesday 29th of August 2018

Obvious troll but, I'll bite. If you think it's nasty to write a blog post and write comments, but it's not nasty to physically abuse a dog on camera and spread misinformation to millions of people - and never apologize or correct any of it - I don't think you'll like the rest of my blog. :P

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