Friday, 4 March 2016

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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Graham Mann. said...

An excellent assessment of this "excuse for a dog trainer" ineptitude.and outdated barbaric methods.

Unknown said...

I suppose the person who wrote all this negative stuff about caesar Milan must be an expert dog trainer & animal physiologist or just far too judgemental; not that I've ever heard of you before. You may not approve of certain training methods of this dedicated dog lover, but this man has done wonders for dogs in allowing them to be animals & not treating them like humans as most humans do; hence causing the majority of the dogs behavioural issues in the first place....dogs brains may be smaller than humans but they are far more intelligent when it comes to animal instinct.....something humans no longer possess. It annoys me that people have nothing better to do than to spend so much energy on being so judgemental against other people. If he was inhuman to the dogs then he wouldn't be permitted to train then or make films of their training & help educate people on the true wildness of these animals. His methods may be different & he might not always get the results he would like for the dogs, but he tries to do his best in a way he believes is helpful to the dogs & from what I've seen, he is very successful the majority of the time. Its like humans; there are some that just can't be taught to behave no matter what you do & this can be the same in the dog world. I have great respect for Caesar & will always value his dedication.

Caroline said...

Oh shut up....he's done wonders for dogs. Its humans that are the problem & need the training.

Caroline said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nancy Milburn said...

Oh it is great television but very poor training. I have been using positive reinforcement training for a long time, works much better than all the leash 'corrections'. This dog would need a lot of work to undo all the negative behaviour and would have to be managed for a long time. Why put an animal through a stressful situation over and over again, when you are not getting the result you need. Humane training with out harsh corrections is what is needed.

Ems said...

For the anonymous poster..

I am a dog trainer and behaviour consultant, yes.

It isn't just me that disapproves of Millans methods - take a look here.

There are plenty of high profile and well respected trainers, behaviourists, veterinary behaviourists and animal welfare organisations who do not support nor recommend Millans methods, take a look here:

It may be your perception that Millan has 'done wonders for dogs' but that is not in my opinion, the case.

The stuff he says that make sense, for example treating dogs like dogs, giving them exercise and being consistent with them, - EVERY dog trainer and behaviourist worth their salt will tell you that. He is no special case in that respect.

The stuff he says that is dangerous, outdated, not based in any science at all however results in dogs with severe problems getting worse.

And thats not just the dogs HE treats (though dogs he has treated have become worse as a direct result of his methods, look up Cotton, who went on to be more aggressive and have his teeth filed down, look up Shadow the malamute/husky type dog he strangled on his show, who had to be rescued when HIS aggression got worse and the owner wanted him put down).

There is NO real evidence to suggest that Cesar saves dogs lives, and there is PLENTY of evidence to suggest the methods he uses makes dogs more aggressive and more unpredictable and more of a liability to their owners, the public and other animals.

I would say around 40% of the cases I see have been made worse by people using Cesars methods (which btw are not his methods at all, they were used long before he started up!) - but even if these methods did work, and did not make dogs worse in the long run the fact is they are NOT necessary. There is an alternative way, that does not cause dogs pain and distress and fear.

That being so, why would ANYONE want to use methods that do cause pain, fear and distress?

Anonymous said...

I find it hard to understand why anyone would still condone his methods The man is a danger

Blanche Axton said...

Well, the reality is Nat Geo knew his methods were problematic before the show began to be aired.....they sent clips to a number of experts...behaviour consultants, vet behaviourists, etc....who all pretty much said it was a very bad idea....but Nat Geo did it anyway.

Don't want to believe the science? Fine. Earth is flat, global warming is a lie, coconut oil cures cancer, etc....but on the off chance you might be interested in what the experts have to say....and said BEFORE the show you go: