I confess, I'm not a Cesar Millan fan. I get tired of explaining why I'm not a "dog whisperer" and generally prefer to avoid the topic. But when I heard an ad for Cesar's new "Mastering Leadership" DVD on my favorite radio station I felt my blood pressure rise. The thought that thousands of people will be using his methods on their dogs made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Does this mean I don't think "leadership" is important? Absolutely not! It's just how we get there that makes a big difference to me.Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the man personally. In fact, I think he's witty, entertaining, and has done an excellent job of marketing himself and his program. And, he actually has some pretty valid points about the failings of the average human when it comes to understanding and interacting with dogs. Unfortunately, he also says some things that are completely false, or at best, inaccurate and many of his techniques are NOT dog-friendly. The big problem is that the average pet owner can't tell the difference between the "good" and the "bad" in what he says and does. They get swayed by his confidence and buy into the whole package, often to the detriment of themselves and their dogs. As appealing as a "quick and easy solution to all your dog problems" may be, I feel we owe it to our dogs to get to know them personally rather than imposing a "one size fits all" solution on them and hoping for the best. We need to be able to observe and "listen" to the feedback our dogs give us. That's really the only way we have of knowing we are on the right track. There are many ways to suppress behavior ("make my dog stop barking") and most of them are not very kind to the dogs. If we shift our focus away from stopping the bad behavior and instead focus on creating the behaviors we want, we will become better leaders and have happier dogs. You see, leaders lead. They don't follow behind and correct the mistakes we make or punish us for making mistakes.
If you're having trouble with your dog and think Cesar Millan may have the answer you've been looking for, I urge you to use the money you would have spent on his products to instead consult with a positive trainer in your area. Get some one-on-one time with someone who can evaluate your dog and your situation and help you learn to lead in a positive way. You and your dog will both be much happier in the long run.
It has been said that great leaders are not defined by their skills or their knowledge, but by their ability to promote feelings of confidence and security in others.