While taking a firearms course a few years back, I was first introduced to the concept of "Trained by Hollywood". It sounded funny. The concept is, that people in dangerous or stressful situations often revert to what they have seen hundreds of times in the movies, TV, etc. This has lead to many people, from police officers confronting violent suspects, homeowners who are forced to confront an intruder in the middle of the night, to the woman jogging who was mistaken as an easy target by a rapist, to make tactically stupid decisions, especially when it comes to their firearms. They were inadvertently "trained" by watching hundreds of repetitions of stupidity on cop shows and military movies. It's entertainment folks, not real life.
This concept never really had an impact on my dog training business till now. Enter Cesar Milan. With the blessing of Oprah, Cesar came into the average Americans household. I'm convinced that if you owned a fence painting company, and Oprah endorsed you, you'd quickly have the first International fence painting company. Let's face it; the woman has a lot of influence.
So I get asked at least several times a week what I think of the "Dog Whisperer". My answer is "From what I can see on TV, he's a 1950's dog trainer with a modern name and packaged for today". I can only base my opinion from what I have seen, and that's on TV. I haven't met the man yet. I can tell you that there is a lot of missing footage on his show. Training, the nuts and bolts of it, is rarely an exciting, awe inspiring event. The results, or comparison, that training produces, can be. Cesar knows this, his producers certainly know it as well, and what you get to see is the hype and fluff that has made him so popular. What does this mean for you? You've got a cool TV show to watch, but that's about it.
Personally, I'm not a big fan of the whole alpha roll thing. We don't even teach the "Alpha" mindset because people spend so much time trying to be in charge of their dog, they don't just train the dog. I won't even go into the fact that if it's done with the wrong dog, you're in for a nice trip to the hospital. Many people believe dogs shouldn't ever bite. It's just not realistic. Dogs bite, Cats scratch, and Horses kick. If you take an older dog who you either don't know or you've let get away with everything for the past year, an you directly challenge the dog(ex. Alpha roll), please expect a fight and don't blame the dog when you get bit.
If you teach AND enforce commands like Sit, Down, Heel, and place, you've established the "Alpha" position with your dog without battling him. Teaching isn't enough. Many trainers don't understand this. Teaching AND enforcing is what's needed. This can be done without beating up the dog mentally or physically 99% of the time.
The other problem is "Is it transferable?" That's the question I ask trainers when ever they teach a great new technique. Can the single mother of two learn this, or can they enforce the situation once the trainer is gone. If the answer is sometimes, that's not good enough for me. Training often requires two things. 1) Getting the dog to understand what the owner wants, and 2) Training the owner enough so they can do it once you're gone. I don't know if Cesar does this with his clients. I do know that if you watched the show, you'll have enough information to try some things, but won't have enough information to get yourself out of them if and when things go wrong. If Cesar, me or my staf can do it, but you can't its worthless to you.
"Trained by Hollywood" is quickly being turned into "Trained by media". With the prevalence of books, video's, DVD's, TV show, movies, the internet, etc, many people try training on their own. Media can't cover all circumstances. Trainers help coach you through the tough times. If Cesar is your guy, call him, set up some training appointments and fly out to see the man. In person, one on one, I'm sure he can help you. His or anyone else's TV show...well, it doesn't usually work out so well.
The next article will be on aggression and what most trainers don't understand.
Have a great week,