Tuesday, 22 March 2016

We CAN make a difference...

Far too often we feel powerless, like the little people who alone, speaking as one lone voice, cannot change things.

But that's just not true - those of us involved in any way in the reaction to the Cesar911 episode involving Simon and the pig HAVE started something.. and that something will continue.

L A Animal Control are keeping the case open for a YEAR - please ignore any media coverage that suggests the investigation is coming to a close, this is not true.
The case remains open and now we are asking that anyone with FIRST HAND evidence, anyone who has witnessed activities, methods or practices at the Cesars DPC in L A that they now think perhaps weren't the kindest or most humane options available, to come forward.

Its your turn to speak out now.

Animal control have all the videos, they have expert statements from professionals but what they  need now is you, someone who has witnessed this, in person.

Did you go to the DPC and train there, did you work there in any capacity or volunteer, were you on the show?

Did you see things that with the benefit of hindsight or even at the time, you thought were distressing to animals, caused animals pain or discomfort or fear?

We are NOT necessarily asking you to state yourselves whether YOU think these things were either cruel, or justified, the D A and the court will decide that.

I'd like to clarify again this is NOT about having a pop at Millan, this is about improving the welfare and the safety of animals, not just the animals Millan deals with but all those belonging to people who watch his show and who emulate him.

Potential examples might be...

Dogs being shocked with shock collars causing them to yelp or scream.

Dogs being strung up and asphyxiated on slip leads.

Dogs being pulled off their feet by leash corrections.

Dogs being caused to urinate or defecate in fear.

Other animals being used to assist in training being caused fear or distress or actual pain/injury, such as sheep, goats, alpacas, horses, chickens, pigs etc being chased or caught by dogs.

Dog returning from the DPC's care injured or with signs of injury.

Training methods that you feel have subsequently caused your dog's behaviour to worsen.

Risks being taken with animal health or welfare that were unnecessary.

These are just examples, if you have ANY first hand account of potential cruelty or the causing of unnecessary suffering, please come forward and speak to the L A County Animal Control.

If you just aren't sure - come forward anyway, as long as you were there, at the DPC and  you saw it with your own eyes, Animal Control wants to hear from you.

You may have signed a non-disclosure order - if that is the case you can speak to your own lawyer, or contact Lindsey Laris at the Animal Legal Defense Fund to check that out ALDF

Once again, our objective is not to 'do down' Cesar Millan, it's to ensure that going forward, the methods used and advised are safe, humane and effective without risk to animals or people.

To that end we would like the American Humane Association to be present on set during filming, which currently they are not, and for Millan to update his methods in line with current science and modern understandings of animal behaviour.

We appreciate that this subject raises a lot of emotions - but please only contact Animal Control if you have first hand information. Animal Control HAVE all the video evidence from Cesar's TV shows that they require, and so bombarding them with passionate or angry emails won't help our case.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Canine Professionals Worldwide - Press Statement

Canine Professionals Worldwide -  Press Statement regarding Cesar Millan Animal Cruelty Investigation.

As professionals we work with dogs who are aggressive to people and other animals;  have displayed predatory behaviour towards other pets or wildlife;  have bitten people or other animals and who have killed other animals.
This is every day run of the mill work for us all – we are all dedicated to improving the lives of animals, and to that end we are all educated  professionals who work hard to ensure we follow best practice at all times.
Mr Millan is not following best practice:

  The episode in question showed Millan choosing not to take several safe options (work with a fence between the dog and the pigs, work the dog on a long line, work the dog muzzled or all three) – these risks were not necessary for effective training.
- Later, an assistant holds a pig, causing it to squeal, which causes the dog to bolt and attack – the assistant remains holding the pig as Cesar releases the dog a second time and the dog attacks again.
This course of action was not necessary for effective training or behaviour modification, and caused the pig distress and injury. Therefore,  it is our belief that Mr Millan’s decisions are based on what will make the best TV viewing and what will gain the best ratings, rather than what is in a particular animals best interest.

Our interest in the ongoing investigation is in seeing Mr Millan prevented from ignoring animal welfare laws surrounding cruelty and animal baiting.

The law states both in the UK and the USA, that it is not legal to permit unnecessary suffering, injury or distress to any mammal, and it is not legal to bait animals, i.e. to cause one animal to attack another.

There are alternative, scientifically proven, ways to train and modify animal behaviour – we are practitioners of those methods because they pose no risk to any animals’ welfare, whilst at the same time being more effective and easier to apply.

We ask that Mr Millan be held accountable to the laws in his own country and own state, have the AHA present during any and all filming, and cease using methods and practices that cause stress, distress and physical harm to the animals he works with.

Notes for editors:

‘Canine Professionals Worldwide’  are a number of professional dog trainers and behaviour consultants, working with dogs on a daily basis across the world.

Canine Professionals Worldwide are (full list at

Rick McGaw / At Your Bark and Call
P.A.C.E. Positive Approach Canine Education
Professional Trainer/Handler

Lindsay Porter / Owner/operator/dog handler - Driving Miss Doggy Pet Services, Lethbridge Alberta Canada.

Anna Bjurgård Compton / Compton's Harmony AnimalTraining
MSc Ethology, Certified Animal Behaviourist
Oslo, Norway

Cheri Burger CPDT-KA, owner Dog Lady Family Dog Training. Professional Member of the Pet Professional Guild. Business Member Force Free Trainers OS Wisconsin.

Lynn Dowrick, CPDT-KA, CBATI
The Happy Dog K9 Training, LLC
Professional Member, Pet Professional Guild
Professional Member, APDT

Briony Lazarides, independent behavioural dog trainer UK (original founder member APDTUK).. AMACC , DipCABT(COAPE)NOCN, C&G7407 www.behaviouraldogtrainer.co.uk

Jo Maisey FdSc CBT

Annie Phenix, CPDT-KA. Phenix Dogs, LLC Phenix Dogs Canine Behavior Experts, Author of; The Midnight Dog Walkers: Positive Training and Practical Advice for Living with a Reactive or Aggressive Dog
Ally Murdock- Member Pet Professionals Guild owner of Onward Bound Incredible Dog Training. Karen Sinovich
Animal Behaviour Practitioner
Doghub SA
CAPBT SA Practitioner Member

Peggy Scheidemann, Doglover and Owner

Dawn Gardener, CPDT-KA,  ABCDT
Full time dog trainer and behavior consultant, freelance writer, columnist, and host of podcast for Modern Dog Group. Member APDT, PPG, MDG, IAABC.
Darlene Arden, CABC (Certified Animal Behavior Consultant - Dogs and Cats)
Author of "Small Dogs, Big Hearts,"
"Rover, Get Off Her Leg!" "The Complete Cat's Meow”
Facebook: on.fb.me/1fnLlcP
Twitter: bit.ly/1tWMEzO
Blog: PerPETuallySpeaking.blogspot.com

Karen Tonge
Member APDT UK and PPG
Doggone Safe Member
Dog AID (Assistance in Disability) Trainer

Britt Merethe R Ekerhovd - International dogtrainer, Britt's hundeglede, norway

Anne Marit Stakkestad, Dog Behaviorist, KPA CTP, canine massage therapist and therapy dog handler, GoodDog and Raptus, Norway

Matt Rolfe, IMDT, www.spiffingdog.com

Sarah Groves, Dog Trainer,South Wales UK

Turid Dyvesveen Sunde. Dog Trainer and owner of www.Bamsekroken.com

Jackie Drakeford dog behaviour trainer specialising in aggression, KC accredited, West Sussex

Tiina Jor, Dog Trainer and owner of Bra! Hundetrening, Norway

Ruud Schoorl - Doglover and advocate of positive training methods.

Inger E. Berg, dog trainer, GoodDog Norway

Beathe Pilskog, Dog Behaviorist, Lykkelige Hunder / Canis Hundeskole , Norway

Nina Haaland, Dog Behaviorist, Hund i Fokus, Norway

Nina Sommer, DipCBST, CBATI Austria

Michelle L. Douglas, CPDT-KA, CDBC
Certified Professional Dog Trainer
Certified Dog Behavior Consultant
Licensed Family Paws Parent Educator
AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator
Animal Behavior College Mentor Trainer
Member - International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
Member - Association of Animal Behavior Professionals
Member - Association of Professional Humane Educators
Past President - Association of Professional Dog Trainers
Contributing author: Top Tips from Top Trainers (2010 TFH) and The Dog Trainer's Resource (2006 Dogwise)
Owner The Refined Canine, LLC

Tess Erngren, Dog Behaviorist, GoodDog Norway

Lisa Lyle Waggoner, CPDT-KA, CSAT, PMCT2
Certified Professional Dog Trainer, CPDT-KA
PMCT 2: Pat Miller Certified Trainer, Peaceable Paws
CSAT Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer
Faculty, Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training & Behavior
Professional Member, Pet Professional Guild
Professional Member, APDT
CGC Evaluator, American Kennel Club
Certified Dog Walker, dog*tec
Instructor dog∗tec Dog Walking Academy
Trained in Pet First Aid & CPR, PetTech

Tiffany Lovell, CPDT-KA, CSAT, AAI
Owner Cold Nose College, Space Coast, FL
Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed (CPDT) #2133321
Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT)
Associate in Applied Science-Human Services with specialty in Animal Assisted Interactions (AAI)
Certified in Low-Stress Handling by Dr. Sophia Yin
The Pet Professional Guild Associate Member Dog Training Professional (PPG) #9241395
Association of Professional Dog Trainers Professional Member (APDT) #80109
AKC CGC Evaluator
Pet Tech certified in Pet CPR & First Aid

Dawn Goehring
Animal Biz
25 years force free training
Member Pet Professional Guild, International Association of Behavior Consultants, and Association of Pet Dog Trainers

Robin Sweetapple ABCDT
owner operator @ Quality Dog Care
Pet sitting , Dog Walking, Training
March 15/2016
Fort McMurray AB

Donna Hill B.Sc.(zool) B.Ed. CHI
Owner Donna's Dog Training
Founder Vancouver Island Assistance Dogs
Co-founder and professional member of Vancouver Island Animal Training Association
Founder Admin Observation Skills for Training Dogs Facebook group
Behavior Interventionist for autistic teens
Owner Service Dog Training Institute

Paul G. Arrighie
Paul For Paws Training and Behaviour

Shannon B. Thier, CPDT-KA, CTDI, ABCDT
☆ K-949: Training for Humans with Dogs

• Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) #2133358
• Certified Trick Dog Instructor (CTDI)
• Animal Behavior College/Certified Dog Trainer (ABCDT)
• Animal Behavior College Mentor Trainer
• Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) Professional Member #79827
• The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) Member #7502508
• International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) Member
• National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW) Member #M005118
• AKC CGC and AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy Evaluator #89613
• 2015 & 2016 Co-Facilitator of Southern California Dog Trainer's Forum (SCDTF)
• PetTech Certified in CPR, First Aid & Safety

Vicky Alhadeff BA, DipCABT, TTouch P1, Member of CABT, IMDT and PPG
Owner: Happy Dogs and Cats: www.happydogsandcats.co.uk

Ellen Slater - Owner - Serenity Paws Small Animal Massage

Anke Maria Hofer, Student Dog Trainer at "cumcane", Germany
Administrator of "Gegen Cesar Millan "the dogwhisperer""-Group

Dawn Carnell -Owner Paws-Forward
Member PPGBI
member APDT
Member Doggonesafe
Pets As Therapy Assessor
Trainer Veterans With Dogs

Louise Jones
Owner of Pawsitive Dog Training. www.pawsitivedogtraining.ie
Cert. Canine Behaviour & Training
O.A. Dip. Animal Psychology
Cert. Pedagogy
Cert. Evolution
Cert. EFR for Animals
Cert. Dogs & Children
Cert. Anatomy & Physiology
Cert. Animal Welfare
Cert. Animal Psychology
Cert. Dog Grooming
Cert. Animal Behaviour & Welfare
Cert. Companion Animal Zoonoses
Cert. Understanding What Makes Dogs Tick
Cert. Setting Up A Successful Training Class

Member of APDT Ireland
Member of PPGBI
Member of Doggone Safe

Ashley Oslund Altamirano CPDT-KA

Carol A. Byrnes, Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed and owner of Diamonds in the Ruff-Training for Dogs & Their People. Charter member of the Pet Professional Guild-The Association for Force-Free Pet Professionals; Professional Member Association of Professional Dog Trainers, IAABC associate member. Author: "What is My Dog Saying?" Canine Communication tool for trainers.

Rachel Hayball- Life Skills Dog Training. Member of the PPG, student member of INTO dogs. ISCP behavioural practitioner.

Kristin Gransbråten - Dog trainer and owner of Positivt Hundeliv, Pet Professional Guild member and force free advocate, Associate Dog Trainer student.

Holly Simmons
BSc Animal Behaviour and Welfare
Paws N Claws

Tracee Sule, CPDT-KA
Owner, Certified Professional Dog Trainer
Zoomeez Dog Training, LLC
Jacksonville, FL
Member, Association of Professional Dog Trainers
Member, Pet Professional Guild
Former Pet Partners Animal Therapy Team

James Butler - Barking with Butler dog training, PPG

Jill Breitner, Dog Body Language Expert
Author, Dog Decoder Smartphone App about dog body language

Patricia Calderone, CPDT-KA, DN-FSG1
Owner, Certified Professional Dog Trainer
Certified Fun Scent Games Instructor
Pet Professional Guild Member - The Association for Force-Free Pet Professionals
No Pain, No Force, No Fear

Laura Nativo, CPDT-KA "The Fairy Dogmother"
Pim Schuurmans, owner Dogs&Co.
Dogtrainer and dogbehaviourist.

Diane Garrod PCT-A, PPG accreditation
CA1 - Tellington Touch COmpanion Animals
BSc - Bachelor of Science Communication/Journalism
Certificates/diplomas: Animal Behavior; Writing for the Sciences: Fearful Dogs; Resource Guarding; Cujo vs. Pavlov; Emotion and Cognition
Owner/Behavior Trainer/Analyst/Consultant Canine Transformations
Creator of and Speaker worldwide on topics of "Solving the Aggression Puzzle" "Nulti-dog Households Fighting (ATA Dog process) and "Canine EMotional Detox: Stress release protocol for challenging canines
APDT C.L.A.S.S. Instructor
Founding member, Ethics Committe member Pet Professionals Guild: anassociation for force free pet professionals
Charter Member and Marketing Chair, National Association Treibball ENthusiasts
Certified Instructor and Judge American Treibball Association

Jessica Thovson - Owner Dog Training by Jess/Tia's Pet Place LLC, Licensed Family Paws Parent Education Presenter, AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator, AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy Evaluator, Member Association of Professional Dog Trainers, Member Pet Professional Guild, APDT C.L.A.S.S. Trainer and Evaluator, Member Doggone Safe, Animal Behavior College Mentor Trainer, Purina Certified Weight Coach, Trained "Sandy" for live theater production of Annie, Can Do Canines Field Trainer

Diane Purcell - Diane's Pet Sitting Services - Member Pet Professionals Guild & force-free advocate
Louise Thompson ABC of SA SABCAP Paws Abilities Behaviour & Learning Centre

Jelena Kallay, founder of Vagabond Positive Animal Communication, Dip.ABT, KPA CTP

Renea L. Dahms ~ Certified Dog Behavior Consultant

Marta Young, Barking Up the Right Tree, PPG

Debby McMullen, CDBC,Pawsitive Reactions, LLC,Professional member, APDT
Author:How Many Dogs? Using positive reinforcement training to manage a multiple dog household
Victoria Stilwell positively contributor

Sally Bradbury – Founder  of Scallywags School for Dogs , PPG

Stu Canavan - DWA, PPG, KCAI -Working towards accreditation

Denise O’Moore - ADipCBM, MISAP, MIACE, PPG, PPGBI Steering Committee, Doggone Safe

Vicki Dawe – Dawes Paws Dog Training - PPG

Emma Judson – Canine Consultant - IMDT, PPG, KCAI – working towards accreditation







Saturday, 12 March 2016

If You Keep Repeating A Thing Long Enough... no, it still doesn't become true!

I am getting pretty sick of the subject but I wanted to address some of the really commonly trotted out lines about Cesar Millan, and these are lines HE has been saying about himself in the last couple of days.

Of course he has, he's being investigated for animal cruelty and he has a brand image to protect.

But lets look at these claims in depth.

1. He treats only severe cases that other professionals cannot fix, or cases that they will not take on.

This is just not so. As part of Cesar's shows, you are only shown the more extreme behaviour that the animal will display, you are not shown how much time they spent provoking that animal to achieve that behaviour.

In a survey I recently carried out, polling a number of professionals who have an accumulative 200 YEARS worth of training behind them...

Guess how many of their cases were described by OWNERS as 'red-zone' (Cesars term for extreme behaviour, not mine!) or severe cases...

We estimated it at over 500 cases.

Guess how many of those cases really WERE serious, severe, 'red-zone' cases?

A fifth of that.

This should tell you that what OWNERS percieve is not what the professionals perceive. So when you see the owners on Cesar 911 or The Dog Whisperer, and they are telling you their dog is so severe and so bad and omg only Cesar can help and no other trainer would look at it...

Sorry folks, thats bullshit.

Sometimes thats because these people ARE genuinely very distraught and don't know what to do and are extremely distressed, sometimes its because it looks better for the cameras if they don't tell the viewer that actually they've been through several trainers before hand - like Simon's owner Sandy did... and the problem either got worse because the training was bad or because they didn't put in the work.

Sometimes, clients will pull out of a training program that IS working, just so they can take up a spot on a TV show. Human nature huh!

2. Cesar saves lives - we see countless owners telling us if this problem isn't fixed, the dog will be PTS.

As trainers we hear this a lot, again back to my survey where around 230 owners thought their dog needed euthanasia, but in fact the number of professionals who thought euthanasia MIGHT be an option was less than a fifth of that number... and of those animals more than half of those HAD no owners but lived in rescue shelters and had suspected neurological disorders or terminal illnesses.

Again demonstrating that a clients perception of the issues at hand tend to be somewhat more dramatic than the reality.

And these are of course, clients that have NOT been primed and scripted to say tear-jerking things for the camera.

Taking the latest case in hand, Sandy hints (she doesnt actually outright say that she WOULD have Simon put to sleep in fact she says she wouldn't) about euthanasia but lets get real folks, Simon killed those pigs way way back over 3 years ago... she doesn't have any pigs now, and so the reality is Simon is NOT at risk of being euthanised due to killing those pigs. If he was, that would have happened THREE YEARS AGO.

So you can pretty safely take THAT claim with a big ole pinch of salt too.

Still on the subject of Cesar saving lives - we actually have NO way of verifying that all the dogs he sees or even a reasonable proportion of them, are saved - we see them a few days or a week after the training and then thats it, we never hear from them again. Their owners have signed legal paperwork preventing them from publically discussing what happened on the show.

I am aware of three dogs trained by Cesar on Leader of the Pack - of those dogs, one is still VERY aggressive to other dogs and other animals, one of those dogs is still VERY fearful and reactive and one is fine... but then the problem she went in to the show with, wasn't really a problem at all!

We have never heard good things about the US dogs to my knowledge (And hell if you have the info, gimme), we only know about a couple that went badly wrong - Cotton and Shadow...

If he really saves lives and does so much good where ARE these dogs?

3. Cesar is special because he has dedicated his life to making dogs lives better.

Short response, so what, so do most dog trainers, behaviourists, behaviour consultants and rescue employees I know - my survey says that 99% of people would agree that statement applies to them.

So no, he ain't special on THAT score either.

4. Cesar tells people to treat dogs like dogs, to meet their needs for sensible boundaries and household rules, provide the things they need such as exercise and outlets for mental activity...

Again, 100% of respondants to my survey do the same - he is NOT special, this is NOT something other trainers do not do.

My survey was only a fun little thing, filled out by a small group and no I don't claim it is proof or totally representative, I just took the answers I got over a 24 hour period.

You may be interested to know however, that over 85% of these trainers are members of a professional body that qualifies them to practice, and requires they do  CPD each year and reassess regularly.

The final question I asked was about what happens when they have a problem they cannot fix - we all know what Cesar does... he swaps the client a dog from his own pack. Or on one occasion, the client pulled out and Cesar told the camera the dog was too ill to continue filming...

Our respondants told us they would refer to another practitioner; they would work with the client with another practitioner, or they would give the client the option to be referred on, or continue working with them knowing that they were having to research the problem.

100% of our practitioners would NOT offer to SWAP a clients dog for one of their own animals - the reason why?

Because this is a horribly, wildly unprofessional and horrific attitude, the idea that a dog is a disposable item, to be traded in or swapped out for a better model... and this should REALLY tell you something about how Cesar views the dogs that make up his various 'packs'.. as disposable goods.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Open Letter to Cesar Millan...

Dear Cesar,

As a dog trainer and behaviourist, I hear a lot of people saying the following things:

"He's saved a lot of dogs that would otherwise be dead"

"If it were not for him these dogs would have been put down".

"He has done wonders for dogs".

We both work with dogs Cesar, but theres a difference between my clients and your clients.

My clients are free to talk about how I work with them, what methods I use, how they feel about that, they are free to talk about what happens in a consultation with me and how the training goes afterwards.

The same applies to every behaviour consultant and dog trainer across the country, in fact, across the world.

So Cesar, lets hear from your past clients shall we?

Lets let them tell it like it is, remove any gagging paperwork that prevents them talking about their experiences..

Where's Cotton, how did little Cotton's life pan out after he got more aggressive with you and then had to have his teeth filed off....

What about Shadow the husky mix you strangled into submissive urination, and was taken back by his former foster carer.. how'd it work out for him?

What about the wee Staffie from Leader of the Pack who last I saw was still fearful and reactive despite being 'fixed' on your show..

Why aren't all these owners of dogs you definitely saved, singing it from the rooftops? They are conspicuous by their silence...

Its really easy to make these claims, but it really is just your word for it... I've never seen you revisit old cases and they certainly don't seem to want to speak for themselves...

It's Not About You.. It's What You Do... Cesar Millan, Pig-Gate

So the piggy poo has undeniably hit the fan... man there's shit everywhere!

Cesar being investigated by L A County Animal Control...

I'd like to clarify some points that I think might be being missed in the general shitstorm..

  •  This is not about 'hating' on someone when they made a mistake. Cesar CHOSE to take the steps he did, in full knowledge of the dogs prior behaviour: 
  1. Put the dog in with pigs
  2. Not use a muzzle
  3. Take off the lead
  •  It was no accident that Simon chased and caught the pig - the pig was held by the hind leg, something that will guarantee a pig squeals blue-murder. The only reason this was done was to cause the dog to bolt, dramatically, and attack the pig. This was not a mistake, it was not an 'oops' moment, it was intentional and it constitutes animal baiting, which is not legal.

    In these frames you can see very clearly that the pig is held by the leg BEFORE Simon makes contact. The pig is struggling to get away and is held as Simon gets him.

The next sequence is every bit as bad - Cesar had the dog under control and the pig could and SHOULD have been removed and checked for injury but instead, Cesars assistant continues to hold the pig, and Cesar chooses to let go of the dog again...

And the dog latches onto the pigs ear - and note this Nat Geo, this is NOT a 'nip', the dog has hold of the pigs ear until Cesar pulls him off. That is not a 'nip', that is a bite, and it resulted in real physical injury to the pig.

  • The pigs suffered not just a 'nip' to one pigs ear, they were chased, they were bitten repeatedly by the dog, and this was in addition to the pig who was held whilst Simon attacked, bit AND tore a chunk out of the pigs ear.
  • Simon suffered too - this is an old dog, he has a short muzzle, he was put in a slip lead that we can see on removal has become too tight for some time: The first still shows how tight the leash is, the second still shows his owner removing it, she is sliding down the stopper that prevents the leash loosening off here, showing this leash was intentionally very tight.

    Simon also suffered distress, and pain, which is not necessary and not acceptable in modern training.
  •   This whole procedure was not necessary. Simon was controllable on the lead around pigs, he never needed to be off lead with pigs.
  • Had it been necessary to teach Simon to be calm and responsive to a handler or owner around pigs, that could have been achieved without force, aversives or risk to either dog or pig.
  • The steps that were taken, the risks that were taken were not done out of any necessity within dog training or behaviour modification. They were taken purely and soley for the benefit of TV ratings, to make dramatic television. 
  • Nat Geo would like you to believe that those of us complaining do not understand the 'context' of what occurred - I have in fact seen the whole episode and I understand it perfectly, if it is not as portrayed then Nat Geo need to look at how they edit their footage (for example, using out of sequence shots) - but I fail to see how they can possibly have edited it to LOOK as though a man is restraining a pig to bait a dog with, inciting an attack, if that is not what occurred.

    They also claim that Millan took 'necessary precautions' prior to the incident - again, what precautions? No lead, no muzzle, dog locked in a pen full of pigs, pig held to cause dog to attack, pig attacked again whilst still held...

    Where are these precautions Nat Geo?

    The footage NatGeo have subsequently released of Simon after the training does not, to any professional, paint Cesar in any better light. Simon displays severe avoidance behaviours, that in my professional opinion, are only found where a dog has been subjected to severe aversive conditioning - in otherwords, Simon now finds both Cesar and the proximity of pigs to be so deeply traumatising that he is severely shut down and non-responsive.

    Thats not humane training, it is not ethical training, and it is not training that will render Simon safe around other animals for life either, it isn't going to last and will need repeating - putting Simon through more distress and pain.

    And finally - to those people who think that because the pig only suffered a minor injury so its ok...

    No. The law does not determine cruelty on just the severity of the injury inflicted - cruelty can be carried out without ANY injury being inflicted at all.

    And ask yourself, how minor would you think it if part of your own ear were torn off by someone elses dog - would you be chilled out and happy about that, brush it off as its just a scratch, its only a nip?

    What about if Simon had torn part of a dogs ear off, or a horses, or a childs...

    The degree of injury is not whats relevant here, its the fact it was not just allowed to happen but set up to happen, for the benefit of television audience ratings and money.

    The bottom line is, if I see ANYONE attempting to train or handle dogs or other animals the way Millan does in this episode (or many others!), I will respond in the same way.

    It is not about him, it is about what he chooses to do. Anyone choosing to use outdated methods that put animals at risk and work by causing fear, pain and distress, needs to be stopped.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Open Letter to the Producer of Cesar 911 and National Geographic Channels US

Dear Sirs,

The television entertainment show 'Cesar 911' featuring Cesar Millan recently depicted scenes that at the very least, contravene California State Law regarding animal cruelty.

The program clearly evidences Mr Millan actively choosing to put another animal (a pig) through a stressful and potentially dangerous experience in the name of animal training and entertainment.

Mr Millan was fully aware that the dog he was working with, a French Bulldog x named Simon, had previously carried out vicious and deadly attacks on pigs in the past.

Mr Millan then set Simon up to attack two dogs, after being told he was dog aggressive and would fight with them.

After witnessing these attacks and in the full knowledge that Simon would be out of control if off leash and would inflict physical injury if unmuzzled, he chose to let Simon off leash and unmuzzled whilst locked in a pen with a number of pigs.

Mr Millan allowed Simon to chase, make contact with the pigs and grab a pig by the ear inflicting a bloody wound.

It is clear from slow-motion footage of the 'training' session that one of Mr Millans assistant crew incited the dog to attack by restraining a pig by a hind leg - it is reasonable to assume that this was done at Mr Millans instruction, and that this was done to ensure some 'exciting' footage for the tv program.

The pig can clearly be seen, held by a back leg and squealing BEFORE the off leash and unmuzzled dog reaches him - Mr Millan makes chase and attempts to grab the dog but fails to do so before contact is made. Once he does get the dog under control instead of putting the dog on a lead and muzzling it, he chooses again to let go of the dog, who almost immediately attacks the pig (still held by the assistant crew member despite its attempts to escape) again, causing it a bloody injury to its left ear.

According to California State Law

West's Annotated California Codes. Penal Code. Part 1. Of Crimes and Punishments. Title 14. Malicious Mischief. § 597. Cruelty to animals

..."(a) Except as provided in subdivision (c) of this section or Section 599c, every person who maliciously and intentionally maims, mutilates, tortures, or wounds a living animal, or maliciously and intentionally kills an animal, is guilty of a crime punishable pursuant to subdivision (d).
(b) Except as otherwise provided in subdivision (a) or (c), every person who overdrives, overloads, drives when overloaded, overworks, tortures, torments, deprives of necessary sustenance, drink, or shelter, cruelly beats, mutilates, or cruelly kills any animal, or causes or procures any animal to be so overdriven, overloaded, driven when overloaded, overworked, tortured, tormented, deprived of necessary sustenance, drink, shelter, or to be cruelly beaten, mutilated, or cruelly killed; and whoever, having the charge or custody of any animal, either as owner or otherwise, subjects any animal to needless suffering, or inflicts unnecessary cruelty upon the animal, or in any manner abuses any animal, or fails to provide the animal with proper food, drink, or shelter or protection from the weather, or who drives, rides, or otherwise uses the animal when unfit for labor, is, for each offense, guilty of a crime punishable pursuant to subdivision (d)....

The law here seems to be pretty clear - if there were no intention to maim, mutilate, torture, or cause needless suffering or inflict unnecessary cruelty, then the pig in question would not have been held by the leg to cause it to scream and incite the dog to attack. The dog in question would have been wearing a muzzle and leash.

Mr Millan cannot possibly claim he was unaware of the dogs prior history, nor of its behaviour, having handled the animal himself prior to intentionally setting it loose on the pigs.

Furthermore, during the show Mr Millan made no obvious attempt to treat the injured pig, he does not halt the training and ask someone to attend to the injured animal, and you felt it acceptable to use background footage of the injured animal in other parts of the show.

I put it to you that the footage shows clear contravention of the law, and quite probably other laws that apply to that state and others.

Mr Millan and National Geographic US have a case to answer here as do the producers of the show and anyone else working on it. I would like to know what steps you intend to take to prevent such animal abuse in future ideally including an immediate severing of the relationship between Nat Geo and Mr Millan and legal action taken against those who made the decision to abuse animals in the name of entertainment AND those who took the decision to include and air that footage on television.

Friday, 4 March 2016

"Just pick out the bits that work for you..."... Why this makes trainers and behaviourists cry!

"Oh just pick out the bits that work for you and your dog and leave the rest..."...

 This is a comment I hear and see written all the time, and frankly it makes me want to bounce my head off the desk.

It is often said in reference to TV programs where trainers use less than humane methods, but its also applied randomly to any advice or training methodology.

There are major issues with this concept though!

Firstly, and I am going to try really hard not to make this sound mean or rude or patronising, because that is absolutely not my intention, to be able to 'pick out what works for you', you need to have a pretty decent knowledge of behaviour, of training, of learning theory.

You need to be able to identify WHY a particular method works, how it works, what the pro's and con's are, what are the potential risks, where is the fall-out, what do you need to look out for.

Then you need to know how you evaluate whether it will 'work for you' - this is something a lot of people don't actually understand, and thats because they don't know the previous stuff, the learning theory, the why's and hows and wherefores of behaviour modification and training.

So thats the first biggy really, you CANNOT pick out what works for you, if you don't have a thorough understanding of what is being done and why it is achieving the results it is ( or appears to be) achieving.

Is that dog quiet and calm now because his fear has been counter conditioned and he is being managed under threshold whilst the behaviour modification plan takes place, or is that dog quiet and 'calm' because he is shut down due to being flooded?

Is that bouncy excitable hooligan of a dog really as confident as he looks or is he really an edgey, nervous type who is constantly over threshold and can't calm down?

Has that dog stopped pulling on the lead because he's learned that walking beside his owner is rewarding, or has he stopped pulling on the lead because he's learned that it causes him severe pain from a shock collar?

Frankly, if you do know enough to be picking out the bits that work for you, you almost certainly wouldn't be asking for advice or watching TV trainers for help.

Secondly, and this is another area where I am aware of the need to tread carefully...

If you are getting great advice, if you have hired a brilliant trainer or behaviourist, and they give you a plan to work through...

Do not 'pick' and choose which bits of it you will follow.

Your trainer will make it clear to you which bits are optional and where you can make choices, if they have not done so, then just do exactly what you were told to do. Do all of it.

Do not leave out bits you do not fancy, do not skip the boring bits, or rush ahead. Please, please, do not miss out the bits you didn't quite understand or aren't sure why they are there.

If your trainer has told you to start crate training by lobbing a treat in the crate and allowing your puppy to wander in and find it, and then lobbing in another treat so your puppy stays in to eat that one, and then waiting a second and lobbing in a third treat... DO EXACTLY THAT..

Do not decide that your pup has been in the crate 10 seconds now and so its time to shut that door and leave the room for 10 minutes... do not decide that thats enough treats for today and shove the pup in without any reward...

When you find a really awesome trainer or behaviourist, really no matter WHAT the problem was you called them in for, its almost certain that the advice will NOT be to do just ONE thing, or change just ONE aspect of your dogs routine or handling.

They will look at your dogs ENTIRE routine, day to day life, every little detail, and every step of that training plan will be necessary. Not optional.

There is almost nothing worse as a behaviour consultant, to hear someone tell a client to just 'pick out the bits that work for you', when you know they have been given a detailed step by step plan.

All too often I hear people say that the positive reinforcement, force free steps they have been given 'do not work' or 'I have tried it all' or 'it doesn't work for my dog'...

In pretty much all the cases where I hear this I find that the owner has not done everything they were told to do, they have picked out the bits they fancy and skipped the rest, or they have skipped the boring beginning stages of the work and jumped in at the deep end.

If you have found yourself a fabulous, force free, positive reinforcement trainer, please do not pick and choose the bits of advice you will follow.

Instead if you find something is hard to do, speak to your trainer - get them to explain why you need to do it, how you might adapt what you need to do to your environment or particular situation.

A good trainer does NOT mind explaining to you in greater depth why something will work, how to adapt and tweak things to fit the environment you have to work in and the dog you are working with.

The above does assume you HAVE a brilliant trainer who is up to date on science and is teaching you how to use positive reinforcement and force free methods.

If you are not sure about your trainers methods - ask them a few simple questions.

What happens if my dog gets it right?
What happens if my dog gets it wrong?
Are there any less invasive alternatives to what you propose?

MY answers (in brief) to those questions are as follows.

If your dog gets it right he gets a reward - this may be food or it may be a toy or it may be access to some environment or activity he really likes or it could be something else. The dog determines what he or she finds rewarding, it is not up to me to decide what that will be or impose MY preferences upon him.

Occasionally it may be necessary to increase or decrease the value of a reinforcer (for example a dog who is so nuts about squeaky balls that in the presence of one, he is blind to everything else - we would try to make balls a bit less valuable by perhaps giving him more access to them, or by using less exciting balls, ones that don't squeak or are not covered in yellow fur!).

If the dog gets it wrong - I look at what we were doing, why it went wrong and try a different approach. Perhaps we need to make the task easier, perhaps we need to make it harder, perhaps we need to do something else first.
Sometimes if the dog gets it wrong, nothing happens, he simply doesn't get the reward he was expecting. Your dog will never receive a positive punishment or aversive correction from me.

Are there any less invasive alternatives to what I am suggesting? As far as I am aware, no, however I keep researching, studying and learning and if I find a way that is less invasive, I will use it. I spend a lot of time and money every year ensuring I am keeping my skills up to date and in line with science and humane, force free 'best practice'.

If you ask a trainer or behaviour consultant these three questions and you do not get replies that are very much in line with mine, or you get a confused look or you get an angry or defensive response - walk away!

Cesar 911 - Simon Strikes Again.. and again and again and again.. a review! Updated!

Here we are again, these days I try not to look at what Cesar is doing because its almost certainly horrific, but I couldn't ignore it when I saw the promotional clip from NatGeo for this episode.

In this episode we meet Simon, a French Bulldog x Boston Terrier who has a history of dog aggression going back to when he was 9 weeks old.

We are not told whether any particular incident triggered this but in the years between then and now, Simon has escalated his aggression to include other animals and has killed two pet pigs, one outright and the other needed to be euthanised by a vet as it's injuries were too severe.

From the start of the episode it is clear that Sandy, Simon's owner has been following Cesars methods and attempting them herself - she gives him badly timed leash 'corrections' and is using a thin slip leash as is Cesar's preference.

This alone is likely to create a problem, as the dog associates the presence of another dog with the leash correction and for a brachycephalic breed a slip leash tight around the neck will cause even more distress as they already struggle to breathe!

Cesar sees a small amount of Simon's unwanted behaviour in the park and thinks Simon is not that bad - they go to Sandy's house and he watches from outside on a monitor as Sandy allows Simon to fence fight with a foster dog she has called Stella. After this Cesar declares that Simon is indeed a 'red zone' dog - the term 'red zone' is Cesars terminology for a dog that is over threshold and beyond the point of being capable of listening or calming down or thinking straight, but Cesar never mentions that and possibly isn't aware of it. He is aware and does state that a dog in this state is hard to get through to but then goes off into some waffle about energy.

The reality is that once a dog is over threshold you can't train, you can still apply harsh corrections but only the harshest will be noticed and these will just add to the dogs stress unless you are SO harsh that now you become the thing to avoid, rather than the original trigger.

This of course is Cesars stock in trade, physically and psychologically intimidate the animal until it shuts down.

This causes huge arousal in both dogs and Simon is very stressed as Cesar then enters and asks Sandy to let him take over, with Simon off the lead and Stella inside a wire pen.

Simon has another pop at Stella through the wire and Cesar delivers his TSST and finger clicking corrections which Simon tries to avoid - its worth keeping in mind that its highly likely Cesar has done some work with Simon before this meeting that we haven't seen.

Then Cesar goes into Stellas pen and brings her out - remember she's very over threshold already - on a slip lead, and immediately walks her to Simon, giving her leash corrections, TTSSTS and a backwards kick as well.

He starts to talk to camera whilst Simon is still trying to avoid him, off lead, and Simon sees his chance and flies at Stella and grabs her by the face which Cesar has to split up.

More tsst and punishment follows.

He takes Simon for a walk with Sandy and they find a property with some dogs Sandy says Simon hates - Cesar forces Simon to approach and punishes him when he reacts - he lets Sandy have a go and then describes Simon's avoidance behaviour as being calm submissive.

Lets be really clear here, at NO point in this training is Simon calm or submissive. Simon is starting to shut down and he is learning that when he is on a lead he cannot avoid the corrections so he is suppressing his behaviour.

At some point Cesar acknowledges that Simon IS insecure and this is what causes his aggressive behaviour - that is absolutely correct - but then goes on to discuss 'correcting insecure behaviour' - this is a massive heap of horseshit. Insecurity, fear, anxiety, these are emotional states they are not something the dog is in control of and they are not something that can be corrected by the use of punishment. All Cesar is doing is suppressing the behaviours that are a result of the insecurity, he is NOT making the dog feel any more confident, relaxed or happy when he does this, he is just stopping the dog communicating.

The next scene, Cesar spots a neighbour with his old black labrador off leash on his driveway. He asks if they can approach and corrects Simon as they do so at several points. He gets within five feet and again starts talking about insecurity and correcting Simon before he gets too alert or 'red zone'.

He has a second go and this time when he gets nearer the man allows his dog to approach Simon - Cesar has at NO POINT warned the man that this is a dog aggressive dog that can and already has, lunge really fast and will grab his dog. He has set this dog up to get bitten and predictably, Simon lunges and grabs the dogs face and has to be pulled off. Cesar apologises and punishes Simon again.

At this point, Simon has now been set up to fail on several occasions resulting in other dogs being attacked. Simon has been punished multiple times for being near other dogs BEFORE any move to use aggression was shown, and he has been punished after the fact which he can't possibly connect with his actions as the punishment is not timed well enough to be of use.

Cesar now suggests that Sandy bring Simon to the DPC to meet pigs, and this is where the real abuse of animals for the sake of entertainment occurs...

(Video edited by Vicki Dawe - thankyou Vicki :) )

Watch this video a few times...

Cesar is well aware that Simon will avoid him, and will lunge and attack when he sees an opportunity. Cesar has witnessed this behaviour already on two occasions.

Cesar is aware that Simon has torn the ear off a pig and killed two pigs, and he has seen Simon grab at other dogs faces, so he knows very well in what manner Simon attacks.

Even if this were the appropriate way to introduce Simon to pigs, which it is NOT, a muzzle would be the sensible course of action, but Cesar does not choose that option in fact he actively decides NOT to use a muzzle, stating that a long line is the equivalent to a muzzle. It is not, and in fact Cesar lets Simon off the leash anyway.

It is also clear from this video that one of the crew members causes the pig to squeal by grabbing it by a hind leg - this is for anyone who knows pigs, a sure fire way to get a high pitched scream out of a pig and the video shows very clearly that THIS is what triggers Simon to attack.

In other words, in order to entertain the viewers, Cesar Millan and his crew intentionally set a pig up to cause Simon to attack it. It is not an accident, it is intentional.

Simon is in fact permitted (and I say that because there were other options that Cesar chose not to take, such as the use of a muzzle, a long line, working the other side of the fence) to attack pigs on multiple occasions, chasing them and making contact with them, as well as the incident where Simon gets the pig by the ear and tears its ear open.

Cesar discusses how he wants to give Simon a new positive memory of pigs - it would appear from the full episode that he has done quite the opposite. In fact at at least one point, Cesar punishes Simon with such bad timing that he actually punishes him for making the RIGHT choice!

In later scenes in the full episode Simon is shown at the DPC without his owner, he is showing avoidance behaviour that is very severe, avoiding both Cesar and the pigs, standing very very still looking away from everyone.

Cesar has almost certainly achieved this behaviour through use of strong aversives, most likely a shock collar, as using a prong collar on an old brachycelphalic breed would be a pretty high risk.

It would appear that someone has noticed that Simon wearing a slip leash is a danger, as Simon is shown on a long line with a wide martingale collar on - still not safe but marginally less likely to kill Simon in the training process.

When Cesar takes Simon back to Sandy, Simon still looks pretty stressed to be greeting new dogs in her back yard.

At one point Cesar says she still has homework to do and has to watch Simon and correct him before he gets aroused - so he ISN'T actually cured... Cesar is here acknowledging that he will need to keep being punished and she will have to keep suppressing his behaviour.

There is a shot of Simon greeting the new dog in the yard where Cesar says he is relaxed and this is good, in fact Simon is VERY stiff and tense and looks like he is about to lunge at the other dog - we don't see if this in fact happens as the scene is cut rather quickly.... I suspect it did!

In summary:

Cesar has set out to create positive memories with other animals. In fact he has not achieved this but has suppressed Simons communicative behaviours via punishment.

In order to suppress Simons behaviour, Cesar has allowed at least two dogs and two pigs to be chased, grabbed and injured by Simon. One of those incidents was set up on purpose to cause Simon to attack.

Simon has been subjected to repeated, highly stressful experiences, and huge amounts of punishment.

Another dog (Stella) has also been subjected to high stress and punishments.

And at the end of it, Simon is in fact not 'fixed' but still requires close management and on going punishments.

Even if Simon WERE fixed completely and was genuinely relaxed and happy about the presence of other animals, the price this has come at is too high, far too high and not in any way acceptable.

This behavioural problem COULD have been handled using positive reinforcement and force free methods - there would still be a good deal of management of course, but dramatically less stress and of course, no aversives. It would have been far more effective than Cesar's way, but of course far less dramatic and 'entertaining' to watch.

Cesar MISSED multiple opportunities to reward Simon for making the right choices - I can only assume that his owner has done so as well as she is a fairly die-hard Cesar fan and has been using his methods on Simon all his life (so, if they are so great, why wasn't it working for her?).

This man is abusing animals for entertainment and he is teaching others to do so as well, this is unacceptable when we know there are better, safer, kinder ways that are FAR more effective.

In fact even if there WEREN'T a better way to do it, it is still unacceptable. Simon has suffered all this abuse, as have other dogs and the pigs, JUST so that his owner can continue bringing in foster dogs and presumably, keep pigs again.

The world would in fact not stop turning, and Simon could lead a perfectly happy life if his owner just stopped having foster dogs in (something that everyone acknowledged was causing Simon huge insecurity and stress) or pet pigs!


I add here a quote from someone who previously worked in the tv and film industry, who commented on the video shared on Facebook. For anyone who thinks I am jumping to conclusions because I am biased against Millan, or that he wouldn't compromise animal welfare for TV ratings and money.. please read the following!

"Before I became a dog trainer, I worked for many years as a sound editor in the entertainment industry. So I share this not to add any commentary about the "dog training" (there isn't any training going on), but to say something about TV.
Television is driven by one thing and one thing only: money. If enough viewers would watch a blank screen to bring in advertising revenue, networks would broadcast blank screens. But we won't. What we will watch is drama, stuff that appeals to our emotional brains, sucks us in to rooting for or against the characters. Most Reality TV seems to float between us caring for odd characters or being appalled by them--not that anyone making the shows cares which it is. As long as we watch, the dollars roll in.
Reality TV is less expensive to produce than original dramas--but it's still expensive. And you simply can't do an episode about a little dog that kills pigs and have your little dog walk around ignoring pigs. You need the "money shot": the shot where the dog attacks and the hero saves the day. The cameras are rolling, the clock is ticking, an entire crew is waiting and money is pouring down the drain and if you don't get the "money shot," you don't have a show. So you'll do what it takes to get it--provoke it, stage it or manufacture it somehow. No matter if it may be harmful to everyone involved. That's the Reality of Reality TV. It's about money, and viewers, and entertainment.
Unless you're the pigs or the little dog. Hmmm. *** I would advise everyone not to take behavior advice from anyone whose primary duty is to provide dramatic footage to TV producers. Please think deeply and critically--or better still, consult a qualified professional whose first duty is to do no harm to your dog." Emily Gaydos

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