Thursday, October 07, 2010

A Universal White House FAIL?

Sled dogging with Barry.

Today two people sent me the same article about Barack Obama, his dog Bo, and Cesar Millan, but after reading it, I am not sure what the author was trying to say, or why.

Apparently some guy named Steve Dale thinks Millan is "full of crap."  


Someone is throwing rocks to get attention for himself.  


Pathetic, but as common as ditch water.  This is how wannabe dog trainers get their air time now.   

What's funny here is that Steve Dale does not appear to be  a competent enough writer to start the fire, much less sustain it.

I read the piece slowly, trying to sort through the fractured sentence structure, and then I noticed that Dale never actually quotes Cesar Millan at all.

Hmmmmm.... This was from a TV interview? 


Who needs to actually look anything up, and put hard quote marks around it, when you can play kick the can?  Got it. 
No matter.  The sad part is that this article misses the real story, even if Cesar Millan does not.

You see, Barack Obama is not the first occupant of the White House to have too little control over his dogs

So too did Bush II, Bill Clinton, Bush I, Ronald Reagan, and Richard Nixon.

I know a little about such things, as I have written about dogs at the White House before, and yes there have been quite a lot of terriers.  

So how come no President in modern memory has ever had much control over his dogs?

Answer: No one at the White House has time for a dog.

That is the core problem.

In fact, no one at the White House has time to even read a book on dog training, much less follow up with reinforcement over a sustained three-month period. 

Walk the dog? 

That's a task generally delegated to a rotating pool of young, low-level interns, volunteers, or kind-hearted staffers with little or no dog training.   The President, First Lady and First Kids have a jaw-dropping number of appearances to make, all over the nation and all over the world. 

All the Presidents and all their families have meant well, but something has to give, and it's always the dog.

Of course, an "inconvenient dog" is a pretty big problem all over, isn't it? 

As I recently wrote in Dogs Today:

[M]ost people do not live lives very well-suited to dogs. Unlike a bicycle or a shotgun, a dog cannot be tucked into a storage closet, and forgotten. A dog requires attention several times a day, every day, rain or shine, vacation or not. Is your life really that stable? Is anyone’s these days?
.... If your living arrangements are unstable, skip a dog entirely and get a cat -- they won't mind long periods alone, and are much cheaper to care for.

I think that's a message that needs to be said more often!

Of course this is not the first time I have written about the need to "unsell" dog ownership.  

As I noted on this blog back in March of 2008:

To admit to all the liabilities of dog ownership is not to value them less. I love my dogs and spend a lot of time and money on them, but dogs have never been a surprise to me or anything less than a responsibility and a burden that I have cheerfully accepted on myself.

Dogs are not for everyone, and they are not a relationship anyone should enter into lightly. The more we dog owners tell that story often -- and loudly -- to new and prospective dog owners, the fewer dogs we will see in shelters. If pound pups are a disease, the remedy is a talking cure.


And guess what?   To some extent, that's a talk that Cesar Millan gives his viewers every show.  

"Exercise," he preaches.  You need to walk that dog for 30 to 45 minutes twice a day, every day.

Oh, and by the way, when you walk that day, shorten up on the leash

You are supposed to be walking the dog; the dog is not supposed to be walking you

And yes, that really is Dog Training 101. 

Apparently, however, its still news to some.

My recommendation for Mr. Dale:  Get a copy of Cesar Millan's new book, Cesar's Rules.  

There he can read Martin Deeley's excellent advice on training a dog to walk on leash, or read Ian Dunbar's good advice on walking a dog off-lead.  And he can read a few tips from Cesar too.... not that he is as gifted a dog man as Steve Dale, of course.  How could he be? 

Steve Dale takes the cake.


Viatecio said...

That article reminds me of the one that was going around about "Why veterinary behaviourists hate Cesar Millan." I believe I saw your comment on it, so you probably have an idea of what I'm talking about.

For those who don't, the basic premise and what seems to be the crux of the article starts with nothing having to do with Cesar Millan, and then makes an excuse to include him just for poops and giggles, because of course every story with an idiot behind it needs to have SOMEONE to blame.

Or, you can just read it yourself.

PBurns said...

Khuly can miss the mark in amazing ways.

I particularly loved it when she railed about Merial (maker of Heartgard) sponsoring Cesar Millan for something, and then she let it slip out out what she was REALLY pissed off about was that Merial was no longer allowing vets to get rich by "gray marketing" Merial products to PetMed Express and the like. Waaaaaaaahhhhh! "They aren't allowing us to get rich by being middle-men; they're doing it themselves."

I seriously doubt Khuly has actually read a single Millan book or seen more than one or two episodes of his show. There is certainly no evidence of if from her writing, that's for sure!

Lots of parrots out there, and the funniest part is that the so-called self-styled click and treaters are always the nastiest biters. Squaaaaawk.


The Dog House said...

Nothing drives me CRAZIER than people bringing up that "aggressive behaviour makes dogs aggressive" study.

Um... no shit.

When has CM been aggressive towards a dog? My alpha bitch corrects the other dogs with such power that these corrections would likely break human skin. Compared to CM's three favourite interrupters (noise, a touch or poke, or leash pop) none of which does ANY damage to the dog.

The POINT, however, is that Millan does not prescribe aggressive behaviour for rehabilitation purposes. In fact, the man is impossibly calm and very direct. THIS is why he gets such attention from dogs - why they immediately gravitate to him while at the same time showing him great respect.

YES, if you bite your dog in the ear (particularly when that dog is suffering a medical condition that is the root of the behaviour) you're likely to get bit. All this proves is that owners are idiots.

Here are the issues cited:

* Hitting or kicking the dog (41% of owners reported aggression)
* Growling at the dog (41%)
* Forcing the dog to release an item from its mouth (38%)
* “Alpha roll” (forcing the dog onto its back and holding it down) (31%)
* “Dominance down” (forcing the dog onto its side) (29%)
* Grabbing the jowls or scruff (26%)
* Staring the dog down (staring at the dog until it looks away) (30%)
* Spraying the dog with water pistol or spray bottle (20%)
* Yelling “no” (15%)
* Forced exposure (forcibly exposing the dog to a stimulus – such as tile floors, noise or people – that frightens the dog) (12%)”

Continued on next post (character limits!)

The Dog House said...

Cont'd from previous post

Let's take them one at a time, shall we?

* Hitting or kicking the dog

You will not find a single piece of video tape that shows Millan practicing or preaching these methods. Exactly the opposite, in fact.

* Growling at the dog

Its safe to assume that the people in this survey did not just merely growl at the dog, but likely did so during a confrontation. Again, it's the aggression BEHIND the action more than the action itself.

* Forcing the dog to release an item from its mouth

Not only has Millan almost rarely ever done this, preferring to use body language and energy to pressure the dog to drop the object on its own.

* “Alpha roll” (forcing the dog onto its back and holding it down)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I've seen every single episode of his entire series and I have not once witnessed an Alpha Roll. The last people to recommend this move to my knowledge were the Monks of New Skete - and after enough people got bit they removed it from subsequent printings.

* “Dominance down” (forcing the dog onto its side)

Cesar clearly says that if your dog requires being physically manipulated into this position (if you watch the show you know the dogs most often take up this position on their own) you should seek professional instruction. He's also very clear that this is the "ultimate punishment" for a dog.

* Grabbing the jowls or scruff

Millan mainly uses the scruff move for dogs who are too difficult to control otherwise - like little dogs.

* Staring the dog down

Ummm... no touch, no talk, no eye contact anyone? Additionally, Millan requires eye contact from his dogs before receiving rewards like food or a ball toss. He uses eye contact positively, NEVER negatively. And frankly, if you got within a few inches of my face and tried to stare me down, I may react aggressively too.

* Spraying the dog with water pistol or spray bottle

Millan hates using tools such as these. Watch any episode where the owner uses a spray bottle and the first thing he does is prove its unnecessary. Personally, if it works for your dog, I think it's a great aversive - but let me tell you now, if you spray your dog with water and it reacts aggressively, you have bigger problems than a spray bottle.

* Yelling “no”

Millan does not yell, and in fact points out that this behaviour is counterproductive at best.

* Forced exposure (forcibly exposing the dog to a stimulus – such as tile floors, noise or people – that frightens the dog)

Sure, if done wrong. If done right, you can clear up a phobia in one session. But it's VERY easy to do it wrong. In fact, after 12 years of training, I still resort to conditioning in the majority of cases. However, I will use flooding if the situation suits the method.

The biggest point is that one can assume that the above behaviours were performed DURING an outburst by the dog. Who just walks up to their dog and hits/kicks/screams at him unless it's a reactive response to a negative behaviour.

Yes, if you have a dog exploding in front of you, and your reaction is to explode back, you don't have an ounce of my pity if you get bit. The point is that only two of these behaviours are performed by Millan (dominance down and flooding) and both are done with great care and incredible calm.

Aggression DOES breed aggression. The problem with this being used as an argument against Cesar Millan is that Cesar is never aggressive.

Viatecio said...

Just saw this in the comments (I hate reading comments, so usually pick through them at a later time): "What Millan also forgets is what we DON'T see in the photo--dozens of Secret Service, White House aides, cabinet members and other staff, reporters, gawkers and so on, all being a distraction to any dog, even a well-trained one."

I simply have no words for the sheer idiocy wafting from this comment. It's like trying to be around my mother after she's eaten prunes and cauliflower.

I'd say something akin to "This person should not own dogs, much less attempt to train them", but that would put me in the league of those who seriously do believe that I can drive a car, hold down a job and just shouldn't be allowed to own a dog because I use pinch collars in training. As a substitution, I will simply say that the person who wrote this is short of experience, as well as a few brain cells.

Anonymous said...

About that study that found that "aggressive behavior made dogs more aggressive" - it's basically crap:

That Dogma Won't Hunt

The Dog House said...

Smartdogs - thanks for that link, it's now a permanent bookmark and I'll be adding it as a special notation on my blogroll.

Honestly, there are holes in that study that Mastiffs could walk through.

Viatecio - I TOTALLY agree. The last public event we took our dogs to was an outdoor festival. About 25,000 people, food, beer, drunks, teens, kids screaming, two acres of farm animals, a stage playing everything from country to punk rock, a shooting range, and a thousand people who rush up cooing about the cute goggies.

With the exception of my youngest dog's obvious desire to herd a miniature horse - which she did NOT act upon - all three were perfect angels. They don't pull on leash, they don't forge ahead, they don't pick up food from the ground, and even when bumped into or molested by half-intoxicated passersby they kept their cool.

The bottom line is that there's no excuse. You can't convince me that they haven't had the time to properly train that dog when they have access to literally every single "expert" in the world.