On television later today, Cesar Millan is scheduled to take on psycho chihuahuas.
This should be amusing, not because the dogs have such terrible issues (although many do), but because the owners are often so terribly confused about who they are, what the dog is, and how to establish a caring, clear, consistent and coherent relationship between themselves and their animal.
And if you think attack chihuauas could not possibly do any real damage, be sure to send a get-well note to Jacques Chirac, who was recently hospitalized after his pet maltese attacked him. A small dog can still "bite you in the vagina."
Cesar Millan is generally working with dogs that have been seriously messed up by their owners.
I have very little time for folks who criticize his techniques because they themselves have managed to clicker train a labrador retriever puppy that they got at eight weeks of age and so, by extension, they assume they are experts on every aspect of canine training.
You will pardon me if I think I know one small thing about dangerous dogs and dangerous animals in general: popping a clicker while your neck bone is being chewed on is a sure-fire program for failure.
If you have never seen or worked with a truly dangerous dog (and Millan does it all the time), then please drink a nice warm cup of shut-the-fuck-up, and go play with your labrador retriever.
Ditto if you have never been seriously bitten by a dog, have never broken up a dog fight without being bitten yourself, or are an expert in primate and corvid behavior and assume -- by extension -- that you are an expert in canine behavior as well. You aren't.
The simple truth is that when most clicker trainers are faced with a really violent adult dog (big or little), they say the same thing: Put it to sleep.
To his credit, Cesar Millan does not. Instead, he has taken in hundreds of violent dogs over the years, and he has turned their lives around.
No, it's not pure-positive clicker training.
It's something much older than that -- something that has always worked and will always be in the repertoire of a true animal trainer: Calm assertive power, simple and consistent direction, a coherent message said in the language of the dog, and a level of caring that goes beyond click-and-treat and kill-it-if-it-ever-bites.
Millan is willing and able to do something few other wanna-be dog trainers are willing and able to do: take aggressive basket-case dogs, and prove most of them can be turned around and rehabilitated.
And yes he believes in the sensible use of choke chains, lots of excercise, and establishing a pecking order in the pack, in which he is the alpha.
For the record, he is also all for treats, cuddles, and scratches behind the ears. He's just not interested in doing that while the dog is gnawing on his bones and attacking the house guests.
For those interested in reading an earlier and longer post about what Cesar Millan does, why it works, and where most of the "clients" in these dog-training shows have gone wrong with their dogs, read >> A Balanced Trainer for Unbalanced Dogs.
And if you think you can do a better job with violent dogs than Cesar Millan is doing, then be sure to call up National Geographic. I am sure they can find a few red-zone Pit Bulls and Jack Russells for you to work with while their cameras are rolling.
Film at 11!