Thursday, May 11, 2006

Cesar Millan Update

Last week, we read that Cesar Millan, the “dog whisperer”, was being sued for allegedly injuring a dog at his training facility. Like I said then, it was better to withhold judgment of the case until we heard back from his people…

a.) A spokesman for the channel that airs dog trainer Cesar Millan's "Dog Whisperer" show denied that Millan injured a dog as claimed in a recent lawsuit… the dog's injury was not connected with the production of "Dog Whisperer."

b.) "From what we understand, Cesar was not there at the time the injury occurred, he never worked with this dog ...,"

c.) Workers at the facility were accused in the suit of placing a choke collar on the dog, pulling him onto a treadmill and forcing him to overwork.

So, here is my take on this, from what I have learned from studying Millan’s teachings, and from what I have read in the news:

What appears to have happened, at least from what is and isn’t being said, is that a dog was enrolled into the Dog Psychology Center, Millan’s dog training company. The dog had some kind of fearful behavior problem. Part of Millan’s behavioral modification program involves a significant amount of exercise, which normally involves taking a pack of dogs for a run in the Santa Monica hills. In addition, he advocates the use of treadmills to supplement the exercise for the dog. Apparently, the staff of his facility had this dog on a treadmill and the dog got injured. The claim is that the dog has severe neck and back injuries, and the skin on the underside of the dog was rubbed raw. It is also possible, and we won't know this until we get a report from a credible source, that the dog wasn’t in good health before the training began, which no one could have known or predicted.

My hypothesis is that the dog owner believes the staff at Millan’s facility weren’t somehow aware or watching as this dog got caught up in the machinery of a treadmill. So, the dog got injured. Millan’s spokespeople say he wasn’t there at the time of the incident and it didn’t happen during the filming of any TV episode. But, they don’t appear to deny, in these news stories, the dog was injured at the facility as claimed.

I still want to hear what Cesar Millan’s attorney has to say in response.

I do know this, regardless of what the truth here really is… I do believe that exercise can be useful in a program of behavior modification. I do believe that a treadmill can be useful in giving a dog focused exercise. However, a dog needs direct supervision on such a device. The dog can’t be tied to the machine and left unsupervised, and you have to be extra careful in how you introduce the dog to the treadmill, especially if you are dealing with a fearful dog, and consider which type of collar is the safest for that particular dog. And even with the best supervision, injuries can occur in dog training and exercise. Anyone who has owned enough dogs over time has seen their dogs get injured in some freaky way. I personally think that if this case against Millan is true, then it was a very unfortunate accident. Not malicious, but an accident.

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