Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Dog Whisperer? I'm Not Impressed

If we weren't so nuts over canines, there's no way dog-trainer-turned-TV-star Cesar Millan would be presiding over one of the opening news conferences at the semi-annual Television Critics Association press tour. Yet there he was, flanked by three clients and five shockingly well-behaved dogs — including one of his own pit bulls and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith's Lhasa Apso — to discuss the new season of his National Geographic hit Dog Whisperer.

Millan's show is so popular that it's expanding this season to a full prime-time Friday hour (8 ET/PT), even though, Millan concedes, the title is basically a lie. He never actually whispers to the dogs. "I would not be in business, because everyone can do that."

Nor, for that matter, does he really train dogs. He prefers to say he "rehabilitates" dogs and trains humans, which mostly means teaching us to treat our dogs like dogs.

"We humanize dogs," he says. "It's important for them to become dogs first, and fulfill being a dog."

What a dog wants, Millan says, is to follow along as part of your "pack." So he teaches his clients (who pay $350 an hour to get in person what we get free on TV) to take a leadership position and to give their dogs "exercise, discipline and affection on a daily basis.

I’ve never been impressed with this guy. I’ve watched him, and he’s just not that special. Amazing what a bit of publicity can do for someone’s pocketbook… $350 / hr just to let a dog run around with other dogs and be free? And he really doesn’t do all that much in terms of training… it is so basic, I am surprised that people fall for this kind of thing.

1 comment:

sugartruck said...

Not impressed? This is very typical of someone who does not understand canine psychology. What would you have him do? Teach them to read? Ride a unicycle? Or the typical sit, stay song and dance that even the most ill-tempered, dominant-aggressive dog can do? Cesar gets to the root of the dogs' problems which typically lie with the owners and their own hangups and frustrations. If you're not impressed by what he can do in a matter of minutes it's most likely due to the fact that you can't grasp the beautiful simplicity of what he does. This is typical of the 'dog lover' that would need his services- those who project human emotions onto their dogs. You're not impressed with a dog who attacks everything in site being able to walk next to or lie quietly with another dog? Or a dog whose anxiety and constant barking prevent him from being surrendered or euthanized and his owners from being evicted? You're not impressed by a dominant dog becoming submissive to other members of the family and not biting the hands that feed it? This man works with dogs that average folks throw away, that 'dog trainers' claim cannot be helped- and he gets results. He does all of this is in the most straightforward, firm but gentle, canine-friendly manner possible. So many dogs are out there suffering because their owners are uninformed or absolutely neurotic! Luckily for some of them Cesar is around. Cesar rehabilitates neurotic, anxious, antisocial, aggressive dogs into trusting and trustworthy companions and members of society. Shame on you for criticizing him or anyone else who aims to help animals!