If you know that I’m a positive-based trainer, and if you know anything about positive dog training, you’re probably taken aback by the title of this blog post. Or, you might think that it’s clickbait – a blog title meant to make people click on a blog post that has nothing to do with the title.
It’s actually neither.
There is one thing I absolutely love about Cesar Millan.
And it’s not the fact that he’s a stone-cold Silver Fox – I mean, he is, duh, but we’re not going to talk about that right now.
It’s the way he talks about energy. Energy is everything, says Cesar Millan.
Wait, human. Stop. Don’t go buy all of his DVDs. I can fit the entire basis of Cesar Millan’s good energy juju right here in this blog post. As for the rest of his work, the majority of his shows will not help you, and may even hurt you if you’re not yet knowledgeable about how a dog really thinks and feels. (Hint: Anything about alpha dogs and dominance is long outdated, disproven and dangerous.)
When To Stop And Take A Deep Breath
Whenever you’re training your dog, walking your dog, grooming your dog – be aware of your energy. Be conscious of your body language, your mental blocks, yours fears and your joy.
Have you ever been so nervous about clipping your dog’s nails, you held your breath the entire time? Felt so anxious about how your dog would react to the mailman, you were startled when he rang the doorbell to get your signature for a package delivery?
Being tense makes your dog nervous. Which results in unwanted behavior.
If you find your stomach muscles tense, your toes curled, your breath on hold – release. Take a deep breath.
When you’re in a nerve-wracking situation with your dog, you need to take control of it.
If the trigger is the dogs at the dog park, get out of there.
Hit rewind on the nail clipping, and reintroduce your dog to the tool with lots of treats and encouragement. Clip just one nail each day, with lots of praise and good feelings before, during and after.
Your Dog’s Aura of Energy
I bet you’re already pretty good at reading your dog.
Most people are. Especially when they look closely.
Here’s a fantastic article about dog facial expressions and body language. It’s full of photos of real dogs with real expressions.
If you know that body stiffness, whale eye, yawning and lip licking are all stress signs, you’re better off than anyone who depends on Cesar Millan to learn about dogs.
How Cesar Millan Ignores Dogs’ Nervous Energy
I just watched this video. I’d recommend it if you love reality TV drama. No other reason.
Here’s what I just loove about this video: a large black German Shepherd, Spike, is so sweet around his family, but attacks everyone else. He lives with little girls, who he kindly tolerates as they climb all over him, even when he eats. That’s not a mark of a good dog. I mean, it kind of is, but what I’m really seeing is a family that doesn’t respect their dog’s personal space and some very lucky girls.
Don’t be like them. Don’t disrespect your dog by letting your kids climb all over her. Even if she doesn’t seem to mind. Not a good dog. Especially not a dog with a history of aggression.
And especially not after Cesar Millan tugs, tugs, and tssts away. Oh, god. Spike is showing signs of stress, pinned ears, yawning and whale eye. So is Cesar’s dog. I’m not saying Spike will eventually maul the little girls or anyone else. But he might.
Cesar has rehabilitated hundreds of dogs, and only a few have attacked people afterwards. That says a lot about the resilience of the canine mind, even when it’s gravely misunderstood.
The few other Cesar episodes I’ve seen – especially the famous one where Holly the lab bites him, as he ignores all the warning signs – are perfect if you need to study the body language of nervous, confused dogs. I’ve never seen so much material for that in just 20 minutes.
When it comes down to it, Cesar is great at giving off an aura of calm energy. He’s horrible at reading a dog’s energy. Unless, in the past few years, he has worked with trainers and behaviorists and has changed his ways. I like to think he has changed. If not, he’s still a very sexy older man, and he has that going for him.
Sara @ BestPetReviews
Wednesday 24th of October 2018
Hmm interesting read. I agree that the energy you put off, the dogs take on. Your right, he is calm and has good intentions, but doesn't read dog energy very well. Thanks for those insights!
Tuesday 29th of August 2017
I love dogs bro!
Wednesday 12th of April 2017
I don't know much about Cesar. The one thing I read him say was that dogs shouldn't be allowed on the furniture, something about making sure the dogs respect the family's home. He's allowed his opinion, I'm allowed mine. To me, my family home means my dogs are allowed wherever they want, and we have no issues with "respecting" each other.
Saturday 22nd of April 2017
I agree! It makes sense when people don't want their dogs to ruin their clean, expensive furniture, but there's nothing disrespectful about our animals just wanting to spend time comfy and close to us.
The More I Learn About Dogs, The More I Like People - Little Dog Tips
Tuesday 11th of April 2017
[…] Phil may not be a real psychologist, and his qualifications eerily remind me of a Cesar Millan for humans… but he’s right about one […]
Sunday 20th of November 2016
I've not been hanging around here long but I know you're a science based force-free trainer. So when I first read the title to your article I had to do a double take!
I'll admit, I'm not a fan of CM and I'd go as far as saying he's a danger to dogs, owners and himself. I've watched appalling videos where he's placed so much pressure on an already stressed dog that the dog just shuts down in fear. It's heartbreaking to watch.
But, I do agree with you on the energy thing. It's all about being in the right mindset. I learned a lot about this from working with Charley my 9 year old GSD. She was severely abused by her breeder and she was literally afraid of her own shadow when she became part of our family 3 years ago.
Her fearfulness affected me a lot to the point where it would bring me to tears. And even my sadness would have an effect on her. So I had to quickly learn to be in the moment with her. The here and now is important with dogs.