In Which I Do A Written Two Finger Poke

Thank goodness I was able to find this article I’ve been looking for.  And I found, also, that other information on this topic isn’t tough to locate.  I wonder why the general public has somehow missed it.  😉  Actually, I’m being nasty and sarcastic.  I think, as I’ve said, that most people enjoy having an ostensible reason to throw their weight around and show their dog who’s boss, and so even scores of articles pointing out that the original research on pack hierarchical structure has been shown to be flawed might be conveniently ‘overlooked’.  But if you haven’t heard the news and would like to broaden your perspective, here’s a good explanation of what went wrong with the original studies:

And now here’s a Facebook thread from my page, which started after I posted a link to, ‘Holy Shih Tzu’, another blog entry I’d written.  This thread has probably raised my blood pressure.  Three days later, some of the things written here are still ‘repeating’ in my heart and mind like emotional acid reflux; word bile.  I wish I’d had the link to the above article all ready to post, the evening this thread opened up.  I’d like to be able to take a couple of Tums for my excess mental acid, and it occurred to me that addressing each of the things that really ‘got’ me here would be therapeutic.  So I’ll interrupt the thread and explain what has my mind roiling, and why.  My additions will be in italics.  I deleted a couple of lines from the thread that had nothing to do with dogs.

Starting 2 feel more & more convinced that the combination of the faddish cult of Cesar Millan-style dominance theory training, practiced by a nation of angry citizens who feel life is out of control & just want 2 control SOMEthing, is not only not helping R dogs with their behavioral issues, but is actually causing a great deal of canine aggression, 2 the point where I think R whole relationship w/ dogs is at risk.

Well, today seems like another good day for pissing people off, so I’m gonna do my first anti-Cesar Millan blog. He seems like a nice enough man, and I read his book, and I think he probably does…

    • Male Cesarite:  Cesar preaches calm leadership. His human model for this is Oprah Winfrey.

    • Cellopets:  Calm leadership is excellent, and I’m sure he’s great at it. Unfortunately, people who want to control others seem to see dominance theory training as their license to rule.

    • Male Cesarite:  I agree with you Cellopets. Most people probably resort to yelling and even hitting. Cesar never raises his voice and doesn’t hit the dogs. He pokes them with two fingers to get their attention. I’m just saying that Cesar is not preaching “discipline” to be some kind of angry, violent correction. In fact, quite the opposite, he insists you remain calm at all times because the dog will channel your negative energy.
    • Cellopets:  You know, that two finger poke isn’t such a great idea, though, for any dog who might someday fall into other hands. I’ve heard from a very good trainer (Victoria Stilwell) that it can cause real aggression in dogs, and it’s a big problem because kids tend to poke just like that. I THINK she said that dog bites to kids stats are rising. You really should not use any physical manipulation to correct a dog. And no, I would think Cesar doesn’t get angry. But calm, controlled punishment is still not the same as discipline, and I’m sure the correct word for what he meant is ‘punishment’. (In other words, not all punishment is angry or violent, but that doesn’t mean it’s not punishment.)

    • Male Cesarite:  Dogs correct each other using soft bites. Cesar’s finger nip is supposed to mimic that natural dog correction. We can agree to disagree (as always! LOL) on that. Willie has done it to Keira and she’s no worse for it (IMHO). And I don’t about “punishment” vs “correction”. Every dog trainer I’ve ever had has physically put a dog in a sit or down to teach them.  (I’ve already addressed this in, ‘For Kim, Allison, and Keith’.  I am embarrassed on behalf of the trainers he’s seen, and I know who one of them is, since he mentions her later in the thread.  I already knew that she makes extensive use of shock collars, but here I learned that she needs to physically put a dog into a sit.  That’s embarrassing.)  Is that “punishment”? It is physical correction. Cesar doesn’t put the dogs in time out or physically punish them. If you watch his show it is somewhat amazing how little correction he actually uses. I agree that most people are not capable of maintaining the calm that Cesar does and they probably misapply his principles replacing his calm leadership and “correction” with more aggressive discipline. But I don’t blame Cesar for that, I blame the people misunderstanding/misapplyi​ng the idea of leadership.  (If Cesar cared more about dogs than he did about his bank balance, he’d take responsibility for the fact that thousands of people are misapplying his already scientifically flawed methods, and would think about changing his message, because clearly something is not working, and he appears to know it.*)  That’s really all he preaches: be the pack leader. Calmly, consistently, 24/7. It’s basic pack psychology really.
    • Cellopets:  Well, if you ever really go into this pack psychology thing you’ll find that it’s all based on flawed research. But let’s call it a day on this. You’re sure you’re right, and I’m sure you’re wrong, and I don’t see where we can get with that…
    • Male Cesarite:  Well the Purely Positives can’t be based on good pack psychology because I’ve never seen wolves handing out treats.  (There goes my blood pressure again…this is just too ignorant for someone who teaches science at the college level.  Treats are just a conveniently portable, dispensable form of positive reinforcement.  I’m sure wolves have many different options for giving positive reinforcement to one another.  Dogs do, too.  So do humans, to one another and to dogs–petting, grooming, playing, etc.)  I’m not sure what I said that would feel hopeless.  (The bit about having to physically place a dog into a ‘sit’ is what made me feel hopeless, about outdated training methods in our city.)  And I’m not sure why you feel that your view and mine are so different.  (Please, don’t try to take our differences away from me.  I’m very fond of them.)  How leadership is executed can be open to debate and I don’t know why anything I said would be so offensive.  (The thing about the ‘sit’ wasn’t offensive per se.  I’m just embarrassed that our city appears to be such a hick town that the shock collar peddlers are still the go-to trainers for many people.)  I’m not advocating punishing a dog just correcting bad behavior in a calm, consistent manner. I’m sure there are some flaws in studies of pack psychology as there are in many fields. But my own observations indicate that most packs have a tandem leadership with a male alpha and a female alpha.  (He must be…what?…using his vacation time to blend into packs of wolves or feral dogs, a la Romulus and Remus?)  And the alphas maintain their leadership by usually gentle correction. Mother dogs correct their young using soft bites. I’ve seen it. We can argue over how effective a mimic Cesar’s two finger “bite” is but it is hard to argue that it is without precedent in the dog world. Frankly, the problem with dogs from both a training and a veterinary standpoint is that everything is a matter of dogma and no one is willing to discuss it. Try discussing advantages/disadvantages of spay/neuter with your vet and see if you get anywhere despite legitimate veterinary studies that show it isn’t all positive and there are age considerations.  (MAJOR blood pressure spike at this.  You know, if you read much of my blog, how highly I think of my vet, MVDVM, Most Valued Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.  MVDMV most certainly DID talk through the pros and cons and scheduling options of sterilization; for instance, he took all the time we needed to explain to me which cancers seemed to be helped by early spaying, and which by late, and which they aren’t sure about yet.  So now I know about this Cesarite that he goes to what I consider lousy trainers, and he himself is saying here that he has a dogmatic vet, and yet he thinks he has the answers?)  Frankly, I’m frustrated with the dogma from all sides and I think the animals are the ones that suffer.  (Own your own dogma, buddy.)
    • Female Cesarite:  Cellopets, having spent some time watching both Victoria’s and Cesar’s shows as my husband and son were learning about dogs before and since we “rescued” ours a few years ago, I have to say I’m with Cesar. Dogs are dogs, not kids.  (The worst blood pressure spike of all.  ‘Dogs are dogs, not kids.’  Uh…were you having trouble distinguishing them, before you started watching Cesar’s show?  😉  Or are you saying you think I’M the one who has trouble?  Or, is it possible that you have the unmitigated gall (love that phrase) to be saying that VICTORIA STILWELL thinks dogs are kids?  And that’s all before we even get started on the implications of what she wrote–what it says about how she feels about dogs AND kids…)  Even some of Cesar’s shows have him dealing with people who thought they were using his methods but were actually way off base* (see above).  The simple fact is that discipline and punishment are not the same thing, though many people confuse that. The whole pack-leader/dominance thing is misunderstood and misused. I think, when utilized properly, Cesar’s methods are the simplest, most effective and humane methods out there. Victoria is a dog trainer. Cesar is a dog psychologist.  (This is so spurious that I almost can’t stand to address it.  Both people are trainers, and, although there’s no such thing as a dog psychologist, I believe she means, ‘behaviorist’, and I’m sure both of them would say, with good reason, that they’re behaviorists.)  They do not do the same thing and Cesar will say so.  (Well, that’s good, anyway.  I’d hate to think he was giving anyone the impression that Victoria has to use a two-finger poke to get a dog’s attention.)  I have heard Victoria badmouth Cesar (Good for her!  I hope many people join her, because it would be in the dogs’ best interests.  When I went to her seminar, she didn’t mention him at all, by the way.) but have never heard Cesar say anything bad about anyone.  (Well, that’s insincere of him, since he’s obviously not in agreement with the positive reinforcement, negative punishment trainers, but very clever–‘Look how nice I am!  I never say a mean word about anyone, and, as you see, people are impressed by it!  It’s great for the bank balance!)  I sincerely believe that the people who don’t believe Cesar’s methods work (Who said they didn’t work?  I sure didn’t.  I said they’re not humane.  Shock collars work, too.  All you have to do to use these quick-fix methods is agree to compromise the quality of the relationship possible between a human and a dog.  Simply sacrifice the dog’s right to choose.) don’t understand them (It’s you who don’t understand.  Talk to me again after you’ve read, ‘Bones Would Rain From The Sky’.) and their “evidence” against him is of people misusing his methods.  Cesar does not “punish” any animal.  (Yes, he does.  The word, ‘correction’, in the dog training world, means, ‘punishment’.)  He disciplines. There is a huge difference.  (Look up the word, ‘discipline’ in Merriam Webster.  Actually, two of the definitions are, ‘punish’, and, ‘punishment’.  And the other ones aren’t exactly what you seem to mean.  So what, really, are you saying?)  As musicians, we know a great deal about discipline (uh…that’s SELF discipline you’re talking about there, and doesn’t enter into this dog training discussion in any way) and would not/could not be successful without it.
    • Male Cesarite: @Female Cesarite I (obviously) agree with you for the most part. No “system” is every perfect and people are not dogs and I think the dogs kind of know that.  (KIND OF?  Ya THINK?  Burberry, tell me, have you penetrated my disguise and discovered I’m not a dog?  This is just one of the many flaws in the now-passe studies.  They apparently failed to think it mattered that dogs might not be expecting us to behave as they themselves did, having cleverly noticed that we smell funny and walk on only two of our legs and have no tails and hate rolling in dead fish and produce unusual mouth sounds.)  The hard part about Cesar’s program is the need to exercise leadership of the pack 24/7.  (I find no difficulty in this whatsoever.  Really.  And I somehow manage it without Cesar’s help!)  We all want to just spoil our fur babies (Speak for yourself.  I do NOT want to ‘spoil’ anyone.  I have never referred to my dogs as ‘fur babies’–I think it’s an old-maidish term, actually–anyway, my dogs are all adults, with fully adult intelligences–and have never even thought it.  If, by spoiling, you mean I feed my dogs unusually excellent food, give them more time and exercise, and more natural living conditions, than what many people do, I concede that that’s possible.  But I most certainly don’t treat them like children, except that I respect that they have their own unique, valid ways of looking at the world, as I would with kids.)  and cuddle them and love them and we sometimes don’t consider the implications of that for the dog.  (You think cuddling and loving a dog will have negative implications for it?  Like what?  Will it try to dominate you if you love it?)  To use Cesar’s method requires being a calm (hard to do when the dog shreds your favorite shoe) (I do agree it’s hard to always be calm.  Although chewed shoes don’t rile me, I’m far from perfect, and used to lose my temper often when trying to work on loose-leash walking with the then-adolescent Burb.  Losing your temper at a dog is pathetic and nasty, and I can’t excuse myself for that.  But having an actual policy of, ‘OK to dominate’–using alpha rolls, for instance–is much worse.  At least when I lost my temper it was an occasional failure of an otherwise good system, instead of just being a bad system.)  consistent leader not a task master. I think a lot of his method and success boils down to his simple idea that you should “master the walk”. You lead, the dog follows. He walks a dozen dogs off leash without trouble and without yelling or hitting or anything.  (This is much easier to do than most people realize.  I did it myself–although with only a half dozen or a little over–for years.)  If a dog misbehaves he just gives a little hiss and they fall back in line. I’ve seen a little fight break out in his pack when a new dog comes in and he just steps in and gives his “Zsh” and a dozen pits, Rotties and Shepherds all stop and lay down at once.  (Here he wrote a trainer’s name and business name, and I’m removing them because I don’t wish to be a source of negative publicity for this person) is a Cornell educated master trainer who uses methods similar to Cesar and who, in fact, recommends her clients read Cesar’s book. If you know anyone in the area that has used her for a dog, you’ll know how much they swear by her. (another name I want to protect) brought his bulldog there for a two week in-house rehab and when he got it back he said that if he didn’t know better he’d swear she had switched dogs on him.  (This is too sad…I BET he’d swear that.  You leave home and family and go away for two weeks to a place where someone administers shocks to modify your behavior, and you’ll come back quite different, too.  Poor bulldog…I was told by one of the trainer’s employees, a person who also advocates the use of shock collars, that what went on behind the scenes there, the high level of the shocks administered, was too much for (the employee) to be comfortable with.)  She takes the dogs on multiple daily walks where she is the alpha and then does hour-long training sessions with the dogs. Her idea (much like Cesar’s) is that dogs want leadership, most dogs are not themselves natural alphas and forcing them to be alphas by NOT leading them unbalances their pscyhes. By leading the walk and teaching the dog to look to you for commands to obey makes the dog himself much happier because he is a beta dog in a stable pack. I know some of the Purely Positives don’t like his methods because he does use his two finger poke to get the dogs attention (it really is fairly benign to my eye) (wonder if he’d think it benign if his supervisor poked him like that) and he will sometimes roll the dogs which the Purely Positives don’t like. (Neither do the dogs, which is much more important, or should be, if only for the reason that it will increase the possibility of their showing aggression to humans, which is liable to get them killed, and which might also harm the humans.) But there is precedence in dog behavior for both behaviors. I know it can be overdone and Cesar himself is constantly telling people they are sending the dog the wrong message and they are confusing the dog by not being consistent in the application of the boundaries. And it is hard to always know what the right thing to do is and you don’t want to teach a dog to not be a dog…like never barking. But you do want the dog to stop barking if you request it. I mean when you look at the very aggressive dogs that he has “rehabilitated” (his term, he doesn’t like “train” as he doesn’t consider himself a trainer), you have to give him credit for saving the lives of many, many dogs who would otherwise have been euthanized for aggression.  (Although I am thankful for any dog saved, he’s saved such a puny number, compared to the numbers of dogs becoming aggressive–and we all know where that often leads–because of the careless application by the general public of methods that aren’t scientifically sound nor psychologically safe to begin with.)  Is he perfect? Absolutely not. Do people misunderstand/misuse his advice? Absolutely. But I just hate to completely dismiss his message. He was immensely helpful to me in understanding and modifying Willie’s behavior when the Pyrenees in him came out (wonder if he thinks things about his students like, ‘uh oh, the Chinese in him is coming out–time for an alpha roll.’  It’s so easy to waste a lot of time judging your dog by its breed.  Please, SEE YOUR DOG.  Your individual dog, not its breed reputation.  Read the Clothier book.) It’s a tough breed and so many of them get put to sleep for aggression that is natural in the breed (uh…sorry to disagree, but that is NOT the right word to use for the Pyr characteristic I believe you mean–I think the word, ‘aggression’, is being used way too often to describe other things) when people are unable to control it. And I think much of his advice worked when I integrated Keira into the pack. And it worked wonders with Willie which is also part of what Cesar preaches: the power of the pack and the stability dogs gain from being a member of a pack.  (Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I do think that a great part of Cesar’s success has come from having a large number of dogs.  To me, my own success is proof of it.  But should I blow my own horn because of it?  I don’t think so.  I’m just lucky, and so is Cesar, to be able to have enough dogs to get the pack benefit.)  I might have accidentally deleted words here that I’ve got Willie is 1000% better with all other dogs since Keira became part of his pack. He is much calmer and friendlier and seems much better balanced and happy. (not surprising–dogs are gregarious animals, and I personally feel that it’s a form of deprivation to ask a dog to live at home without any other member of its species)  That’s why I can’t so easily dismiss Cesar’s Way even if people misuse it or misunderstand it. I’ve seen it work. (This is illogical.  He has just finished saying that one dog got 1000% better simply because another dog joined him in the household (giving credit to the comfort of a ‘pack’, even if it’s a pack of two), and then he says that the credit should go to Cesar.)
No more thinking about this for me.  This entry will do enough harm as it is.  I am tired of feeling so passionate about this…
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