The world of dog training is so full of nonsense that it's sometimes hard to know if people are pulling my leg.
Someone on Facebook was bashing Cesar Millan and his "methods." I said most people who bashed Millan had never read even one of his books, or seen a full season of his various shows. I had a simple question for the person denouncing Cesar Millan's methods. What were those methods? I noted that he had detailed those in his book -- someone had put together a statistical analysis of what he actually did on his TV show. All this person had to do was quote the numbers back to me.
Of course that question was ignored. Instead, the person said she had read a Cesar Millan book.
Great, I said: Which one?
Again, no answer to that question. Instead, this person went off talking about "shaping."
Shaping? I guess I know a bit about that. Wonderful stuff for a lot of things that most people are not actually going to a dog trainer for. Most people are not going to a dog trainer to get a dog to do agility, run weave-poles, or compete in AKC obedience. They are mostly going to a dog trainer to get a dog to stop doing a negative behavior or to do a behavior reliably (i.e. every damn time). So I had a question: How do you do that? How do you stop a behavior NOW?
No answer to that question.
Instead, I was told that Cesar Millan is just a "TV trainer" and operates in a "niche market."
Millan is actually a guy who came to the US not knowing how to speak English and without a dime in his pocket. He made a business for himself, learned English, made a few million dollars, and did it all by proving, on a daily basis, that he can solve a lot of common problems that folks really have with dogs. Now Milan tours the globe and performs his schtick in front of live audiences, and with problem dogs he has never met before. Mostly, he is getting dogs to stop doing some sort of annoying or even dangerous behavior. So he's not "just a TV personality". And getting a dog to stop an unwanted behavior is not a "niche market." Training a dog for AKC agility and obedience contests is a niche market. Training dogs to stop doing a behavior so they do not end up as one of the two million dogs killed down at "the shelter" is a core competency of real world dog training and dog ownership. Twice as many dogs are killed every year for behavior problems than are registered by the AKC. Not a niche.
So, back to the question: What are Cesar Millan's methods? What is the ONE book this person had read of Cesar Millan's? And what is it that she herself DOES with dogs??
Again, no answers.
Instead I was told something about "string theory" as it related to shaping.
I assume this person meant chaining one behavior to another, but it reminded me of a funny post from the Science and Dogs blog about the use of the kind of bullshit terminology that Cesar Millan is also too prone to embrace.
The author of that blog post said she/he was so tired of mystical woo, that she/he had in mind creating and marketing Quantum String Dog Training® to sell to the gullible.
In it I will teach you to incorporate higher-order dimensions and non-linear space-time to produce self-emergent infinite Julia patterns so you can individuate your logic-loops into a deeper and eternal psycho-social connection. Quantum superpositioning yourself as the pack-leader is compared to the use of dominance to achieve the α-position and other hierarchical modalities. The goal and benefits of inhabiting the same quantum fields through Rindler space will be explored and contrasted to macro-scale focused ideologies. We also learn how to enhance emotional interconnectivity by avoiding entanglement entropy. At more advance levels we implement random pack walks and Bayesian approach to formulate a phylogeny of inter-specific and intra-specific semiotics.
This may all sound daunting and the idea of scrapping all you know is surely intimidating. At first you will feel confused as you struggle with these easy yet universal concepts. I urge you to persevere and achieve the infinite rewards that await.
For the record, instead of answering my simple questions, the Facebook person blocked me. Apparently this person could not tell me the name of the one Cesar Millan book she had read, could not tell me what she actually did with dogs, could not tell me what Cesar Millan's "methods" actually are, and could not tell me how to stop a behavior NOW.
Four simple questions were a bridge too far.
She parachuted out of the conversation. I laughed. One way or another, simple questions can tell you a lot!