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.


Valerie Fry KPA CTP said...

Valerie Fry KPA CTP
Canine Behavior Specialist
Certified Dog Trainer
Owner Canine Solutions Dallas

Roger Bergez said...

Roger Bergez, CPDT-KSA (Upward Dog Training & Counseling, New Orleans, LA)