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Love the Dog Whisperer, Wouldn’t Let Cesar Millan Near My Dogs

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I would love to meet Cesar Millan.

I have a confession to make.  We’ve been watching the Dog Whisperer.  It’s not my fault.  My boyfriend sucked me in, because he watches it every now and then and I love the stories of difficult dogs and their humans being made happier.

The last time I saw a discussion of Cesar Millan was in a Facebook group where someone shared a really great article about walking multiple dogs effectively.  I’m the primary dog walker in our house and with 3 dogs, you KNOW I clicked the link.

When I returned to give thanks for the share; I saw that people had already started in on the Cesar Millan attacks.  He kicks dogs.  He’s abusive.  He killed a dog on his set once.  Good Gravy!  But the damage was done and I feel like a Biggest Loser contestant sneaking a candy bar whenever I watch Cesar Millan’s show.

A short time later, someone shared the video with me of Cesar Millan kicking a dog.  It wasn’t what I expected, but I didn’t agree with it as a training method.  I won’t bother sharing it here, because I think it’s time to move on.  I recently read a blog post that helped put things into perspective for me.

“Here’s the thing about Millan that his television show makes it easy to forget- he made his name not by working with pampered house pets of the upper middle class and celebrities, but instead working with dogs who, if their behavior didn’t change, would die.

Stop and think about those stakes. It wasn’t the carpet at risk. It wasn’t that they wouldn’t be able to go to the dog park. It was the dogs’ very lives. If what he was doing did not work, the dog would die. How many of us are training with those kinds of stakes?

Whether we like his methods or not, he found a way to keep dogs alive, to make them adoptable and able to go live in homes where they were loved and pampered.

In addition, in a time when the world wanted to ban Pit Bulls, he was a voice for them. He was their advocate, and showed the world that these were loving, wonderful dogs. He was their first celebrity voice, and was proud to feature his Pits on his show.”  ~ Life By Pets

I still love the Dog Whisperer program.  But I would not invite Cesar Milan to help us with our dogs, because my dogs don’t need to be rehabilitated.  I know my dogs and although they don’t always do what I’d like them to do when I’d like them to do it, they’re pretty good 95% of the time.

The other 5% of the time…

  • Blue is jumping on me when I get home from work.
  • Rodrigo is focused on something (probably a mole) and is going to dig it up; Blue and Sydney decide to help instead of coming inside.
  • Sydney is rolling in the foulest stench she could find.
  • The dogs forgot the truce they have with the cats and it’s Game On.
  • Rodrigo (or Blue or Sydney) is bounding down the stairs happily after having devoured all the cat food.

What I love most about our dogs is that they’re high energy and they’ll stay chill in the house until I say “wanna go outside and play?”  All of a sudden they wake up and when they hit the great outdoors, I’m thankful that I opened the door fast.  To have all that energy unleashed in our house would be a nightmare.

We have great dogs so I’m going to stick with the training method I learned from Shannon Finch; it comes with lots of love, treats, and snuggles.  It’s worked on 4 dogs (Riley will always get a mention)!  Plus, I shudder to think how much Milan will judge our living situation, i.e. the gorgeous sectional aka most expensive dog bed in Washington.


What style of dog training has worked for you and your dog?


  1. Kimberly, another great post. I have similar feelings about Cesar and admit I have watched most of his shows (and feel some guilt about it seeing how our community reacts to him). He can be harsh, very harsh but having fostered a really aggressive dog at one point, I know that sometimes treats, snuggles & love don’t always work…or at least not for me. If you look past some of his more harsh techniques there are nuggets of advice there that are useful. Like Cesar, I am a firm believer in the power of exercise and that a tired dog is a happier and an easier dog to handle – absolutely works with our labs, especially SlimDoggy Jack. I also believe in keeping them under some control on their walks…by walking next to me or behind me keeps them focused, my dogs don’t go out the door until I invite them, they always sit for their treats and I hand out only when they are calm. Little things like that help keep my rambunctious labs at a sane level in the house and paying attention to me. Having a good trainer for those trouble areas is essential. I also give kudos to Cesar for taking on the types of cases he did and for speaking out for pits…I don’t think I’d ever give “Daddy” or his brethren the benefit of the doubt if it wasn’t for Cesar. What a great dog and role model he was and you know, he loved Cesar, so maybe he’s not all that bad!

    • The one thing I learned from Cesar is confidence. Too many times I got frustrated or freaked out on walks with our dogs, they picked up on that energy, and things went to hell quickly. By truly being confident and calm and staying in the moment instead of worrying about what was going to happen our walks became a lot nicer.

      One thing that we do is stop on walks and make our dogs sit. If they get amped up, we make them sit until they settle down. This makes life for us a lot easier and it gives them guidelines on the walk.

      And, your right, a tired dog is a happier dog. I realized this once when I walked the dogs for 3 miles and toward the end, they were walking near me (off leash) and doing everything that I said. Love it!

    • Hi, when we talk dogs, we talk about real dogs, not labs and ankle biters, we talk about Dobermanns. With regards to treats (bribery with a dog is as useless as with bribery with humans. Don’t do it. And when it comes to training we talk William Koehler (unfortunately no longer with us), but his published books are available. Probably the best obedience training methods ever. So don’t criticise Cesar when it comes to controlling a dog. I’ve assessed his methods and like Koehler he treats the dogs with fairness and knowledge.

      • I don’t know much about the Koehler method of dog training, but I do appreciate the philosophy behind off leash training. Our dogs are great off leash on our property, but not in public. A couple weekends ago, they went after a rabbit (we have 4 dogs) and I had to either let go of the leash or be dragged down to the ground. There was no stopping them and I was lucky that the rabbit was running away from a busy road.

        I found a book about his training online, I’ll have to check it out.

  2. This is a great post. I’ve enjoyed and watched many Cesar Milan programs. I think there is something to say about different approaches for different dogs. I may not agree with all methods but even in my house of 3, all have different styles and personalities and need treated differently. I’ve learned a lot from him regarding the individual’s outlook and perspective with the calm, relaxed approach which I sometimes lack! :)

    • Absolutely, Abbi – that seems to be the common thing I hear people say when they mention Cesar Milan. He’s taught so many how to be present with their dogs. They look to us to lead them; if we’re stressed, they’re going to look for the cause and react. But if we’re calm, then they feel relaxed.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Hi Kim – you and I must have read the same post about Cesar. While I am not a fan of Milan, I do agree that he worked with dogs that might otherwise have been put down. I think people need to keep that in mind. On another note, after a 12 year hiatus, I am once again a dog mom! I recently “inherited” a dog, who while not badly behaved, does have some behavioral issues – so I will be looking for positive training tips! Vicki

  4. I have watched many of Cesar Milan’s shows and not once did I see him kick a dog. There was a viral video on Youtube, which made it appear that he kicks them. Far as I could tell, what he does is outstretch his foot to stop them from moving forward. As I recall, the subjects were dogs with serious behavioural problems. Much of his advice is completely valid. The “tired dog is a good dog” example; also it must be reinforced that you are the Alpha and not the dog, otherwise they won’t listen to your commands at all. I use the same tactic of saying “HEY!” in a sharp, authoritative voice. Works wonders in getting dogs to stop barking. As one of your other commentators said; each dog has a different personality and training methods should be geared to them individually. Your dogs sound like they are happy, well-adjusted furkids, Kimberly. All of our furniture serves as luxury dog beds. :-) In my life as a dogsitter, I have walked up to 6 dogs at a time. This involves frequent stops to regroup and untangle the leashes. Three is a piece of cake 😉

  5. I am pretty outspoken about my opinions on dog training but I won’t use your comment box as my forum, so don’t worry! The violent emotions people sometimes express in certain parts of the internet terrify me a little. I used to be a CM fan way back in the day before I had my own dog and before I learned everything I know now. I do think he has done some positive things, such as make dog training itself a more popular subject, but his methods are not for me.

    • LOL, Kristine – I’ve been meaning to respond to this for a while and completely spaced. Thank you so much for weighing in. I love having discussions and learning more and I so appreciate your comment!

  6. Thank you for the link, though my site is Life by Pets, (not Life with Dogs, which I think is another blog).
    I don’t and won’t use Cesar’s training methods, and my dogs sleep on the bed, under the covers with us, and sit on our laps or along the backs of the couches. They are spoiled, but they’re mostly good dogs.
    Still, I have watched The Dog Whisperer, and love or hate Cesar, he keeps people talking, and talking about what is best for the dogs. I can’t disagree with that.

    • Thanks for the correction, I’m so sorry. I agree, that’s a great POV on the show.

  7. Am I the only one who’s never seen Cesar’s show? I’m feeling a bit deprived 😉 I don’t believe in harsh training…I’ve walked out of classes then the trainer brought out a choke collar, or ordered me to use a double ear pinch on my dog…I’ve seen hunters kick their hunting dogs on the grounds of an AKC hunt test and all it seemed to do was break the dog’s spirit…did nothing to improve performance…I see what you’re saying about harsh methods being used to save dogs in dire situations, but I still can’t approve of it

    • I see what you mean. I think there’s a difference between out and out abuse and tougher training methods. Rodrigo was harder to train than Sydney. I butted heads with him for months before he accepted my leadership role. I never hit or kicked him, but I did have to be strong, confident and consistent. I learned a lot of great tips on the Dog Whisperer. What I like about the show is that he’s dealing with every day people. What cracks me up are how many people have their problem solved with just exercising the dog. I saw a guy give his dog an alpha roll over. The dog was crying and he was so proud until he looked up and saw the look on my face – a mixture of shock and disgust. He’s stayed away from me since and he never treats his dog like that in front of me. THAT is what I have an issue with – when inexperienced people hear about a training method and start using it without any understanding. Horrible man.

  8. I am definitely not a training person, in fact I’m pretty lacking in that department but I love the quote you use in this post and definitely agree with it. I think the training methods used just depend on the animal.

    • So very true, Ann

      A good trainer will not only evaluate the dog, but they’ll evaluate the owner too. We were just as exhausted as the dogs after our training session with our puppies – our trainer put us all through our paces. I couldn’t imagine what it takes to train a dog who’s been written off as too aggressive or unadoptable.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  9. My humans always had big strong dogs so training was a must, especially with Paco and Me, Rottweilers. Dad thinks that the best method is to use the chocker and to train at least 1-2 hours a day for the first 6 months of our lives to prevent bad habits.
    No treats, but a lot of positive reinforcement with cuddles and love and play! We now have a Doxie who was a lil devil in her old home and just by using the lil chocker and by letting her know who is the leader of the pack here, she’s way better just after 3 days with us so i guess his methid works!
    I guess that’s it. Show the dog who’s the alpha.

    • Thanks for sharing, Lulu – I love hearing from the canines on these topics!

  10. I used to watch “The Dog Whisperer” but it got repetitious and I haven’t watched in quite a while. What I came away with was: Dogs need exercise -most don’t get enough. Owners need to be trained. Dogs aren’t children, they’re dogs and need communication in dog-language. I have used his sharp “SHHHH” when Dakota is barking too much and it stops her. I’ve been very lucky in that I haven’t had dogs with serious issues that require intensive training. Love him or hate him, Cesar Milan has done some good.

    • So very true, Deena. I feel that it does get repetative. I am walking our dogs more. Especially my Princess who can shed a few. The walks help keep our boys in line.

  11. As a dog walker I don’t like his advice but it is useful to watch his techniques and see how often he gets bitten!

    • LOL, Jana

      Thanks for the laugh. Does he get bitten? I shouldn’t laugh. But it’s funny to think about.

  12. I think the thing that bothers me most about the show in general is the fact that I KNOW that people who have no idea what they are doing and are watching the show are all of a sudden going to become ‘experts’ because they watched the show and are going to try and mimic his behavior and might get seriously hurt. In some of the shows he pushes an aggressive dog to the point it is on the edge of biting or does bite. How many uneducated pet owners out there see that and try and correct their dog that way and end up in the emergency room with a face full of teeth holes. I do appreciated what he has done for dog awareness as a whole, but I agree, I wouldn’t let him near my dogs for anything.

    • That is sad, Amanda, and a very good point. I think TV dog trainers should be “For Entertainment Purposes Only,” because not everything they do will work for our dogs and how many people really experience and change in behavior in 30-60 minutes with commercials?

      I took from Cesar Milan what I was comfortable with and combined it with other styles of dog training to find something that worked for us. I don’t want our dogs to fear us, but I do want our dogs to follow our lead and to feel secure with us. I think it’s very easy to do with positive based training.

      What I was mostly impressed by, which is something I didn’t know, was that Milan has made such an impact in the lives of dogs who would have otherwise been euthanized.

      Thanks for stopping by!!!

  13. //What style of dog training has worked for you and your dog?//

    We’re a huge advocate for positive reinforcement, using the Clicker Training Method 😀

    • I’m so sorry for taking so long to respond! I love Clicker Training too!

  14. Hi Kimberly,

    Frankly, I’m a little disappointed. After sharing my story with you, I would think you would not like Cesar Millan. As you know, I used to love him. I have met him in person, read his books, and attended his seminars. See my article here:

    Cesar has NO formal education. His methods use intimidation and pain to control the dog. Yes, you can control anyone like that, but it does not improve your relationship with the being you are trying to “train”. Frankly, I don’t understand how you can watch that show. He uses shock collars and hand pokes to control dogs, how is that enjoyable? If you need help training your dogs, there are lots of great youtube videos (especially by Kikopup) to help you train your dogs without intimidation. There are MANY educated and trained professionals working with dangerous dogs everyday. The processes they use put much less stress on the dogs and therefore you don’t get outrageous reactions from the dogs. To the TV world, it means they are boring so unfortunately, they don’t get TV shows. Please take all this into consideration next time you watch his show…

    • I’m sorry that you feel that way. I’ve actually never seen an episode where he’s hurt a dog. I sent a call out for videos of these things happening and received only 1 of him kicking at a dog, which I didn’t agree with, but that’s all.

      My writing is based on my own experience with the programs I’ve seen, which have always stressed consistency, confidence and exercise and I think those are great and our own training taught us the same thing (she using a positive based system). I like to bring up these types of topics to spur on discussion and I really appreciate your thoughts although it saddens me that I may have lost you as a reader.

      The point of this article wasn’t to celebrate his training methods, but to point out something I learned on another site that really made me think. One thing that I always want to do is try and understand all sides of each topic and I know that I have readers who love Cesar Milan and this is me trying to understand so I started watching his show with my boyfriend a couple months ago and I read his book Leader of the Pack.

      Given that I believe in positive based training, I’m able to take from his show and book what will work for me and our dogs and toss the rest aside. I didn’t run out and buy a choke or shock collar, I don’t kick our dogs, and our dogs don’t fear us, because we love the and we believe in the training that we learned.

      Again, I’m sorry that you weren’t able to understand what I was trying to express in my article and I wish you all the best with your business.

      Thank you again for contributing to my blog.


  15. Hmm.. can’t find my original comment. Anyways, here is an article of mine where I go though and analyse, with a new perspective, his video.
    He hurts dogs in every episode. Maybe not physically, but mentally. Since when is intimidation harmless? It is not training. Professionals see right through his fancy music and edited clips. Try watching the show on mute and see if your response changes. It is really surprising how much the music changes the viewers experience.
    Read up on dog body language ( and then watch his show. You will see their (the dog’s) side of the story.
    Here is another article on observations on a “dangerous dog” that I made.

    • Ines – I just checked the post and your comment is there; there were 26 comments when I last checked, did you scroll to the next page. Thanks for sharing the links; it’s nice that this article encourage such great and respectful dialogue. I’ve seen articles about Cesar Milan on other sites that were reduced to insults and I’m happy that we’ve evolved to be able to explore differing points of view. The point of my article was to share what I learned about what Cesar Milan has done to rescue so many dogs who were deemed unadoptable and were put on death row. The idea that as I type this, hundreds of dogs (even more) are being put down, because people see them as uncontrollable breaks my heart. So although I don’t train our dogs using his methods, I appreciate what he’s done to educate people about dogs.

      And I have learned things from Cesar Milan that I think are very valuable. You may disagree, but that’s what’s so great about this forum – we can all bring to the table what we’ve learned. Regular exercise, confidence and consistency is what I took from his book Leader of the Pack – it’s been paramount in raising happy dogs. Our trainers are positive based trainers and they teach the same thing.

      What’s important to me is to look at the positive. As a person who’s been on the receiving end of nasty comments and character attacks, I learned that I want to try and find good qualities is people whom I connect with every day. Cesar Milan isn’t going away, so trying to understand him (to me) is better than waging a war against him.

    • Love love love this comment. It’s exactly how I feel every single time I see him attempt to interact with a dog. Kudos, Ines.

    • Ines, I guess you have a PHD in dog psychology or do you need to rely on the ” other” trainers who need to bash their competition. He has been successful in many cases with difficult dogs. Give him credit for that. If other trainers are successful with disobedient dogs, well good for them too.

  16. Good perspective. I have seen many episodes where the owners say things like “We’ve been through 3 trainers.” “Our vet keeps telling us to put him/her down.” “This is last chance our dog has…if this doesn’t work, we will have to put him/her down.” No, his methods are not going to work for every person or every dog. Every trainer/behaviorist is going to have different techniques and ideas. As an owner, you should know your dog well enough to know which ones will or will not work for you and your dog. But, Cesar has helped dogs that would otherwise be dead right now. No, the shows should not be taken as a step-by-step guide for everyone watching to follow…in fact, the intro tells you that is exactly what the show is NOT intended for. But it does make people think. Dogs that were dismissed as aggressive and socially unacceptable are now functional citizens. And yes, he has been a priceless ambassador for the pit bull. He also advocates adopting from shelters rather than buying dogs from pet stores/breeders. You don’t have to love him, but he does deserve at least a little respect.

    • Thanks, Kristen – it’s so important for us to look at all sides of an issue or a person. You don’t have to like Cesar Milan’s training methods, but it makes me uncomfortable to villianize (sp?) someone who is helping so many dogs. I’ve seen too many discussions spin out of control about Cesar Milan, with people becoming abusive. We all love our dogs, I think it’s important to start from there and to look at what good we can take – I truly think that if Milan was a menace, we wouldn’t be on television. There are too many scary dog lovers out there that wouldn’t allow that to happen.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  17. I’ve been into training dogs for a very long time. I started when I was 19 and now I’m 54. I’ve almost seen it all. I don’t think Caesar is the best trainer I’ve ever seen. Most people never here of the best. Names like Bart Bellon, Ivan Balabanov, Debbie Zappia to name a few.
    But its easy to take shots at someone who is in the limelight. He is very old school. I tell my clients that if you are happy with your dog digging in the yard, that is great. I think the main thing is you have to find a trainer that is specific to your needs and purpose and who you like. I’ve watched the show “Its me or the dog” with Victoria Stillwell. You should read her story. Not very impressive to me. But the reason why she has a TV show and I don’t: she is better looking than me.

    • LOL, Val

      The only criticism I have for VS is that she makes it look too easy. I guess they all do, but I think she shares some great tips, but some of them need a little more direction. There was an episode where she was using a whistle – we tried that with a complete fail. We knew we were missing something, but couldn’t figure out what it was even when we rewatched the episode. Caesar isn’t the best training either, but I have related to some of the things he’s shared. I think you nailed it that it’s about what we need.


  18. *cracks knuckles in preparation for assault on my keyboard*

    Just kidding!!

    Yet another well thought, honest yet objective article Kimberly!

    I’ve been a Cesar supporter from the beginning, most who know me know this fact. It’s interesting how Ive been attacked from BOTH sides of the dog community. The touchy feely crowd often gets close to touching me in quite a negative way which comes as no surprise. What was interesting is how some of my associates in the working dog community have equally ridiculed me. This led me to ponder…..

    The working community (police and military trainers) has hit me with the view that Cesars ways would get him mauled by the types of dogs they work with, which are SUPER alpha, highly confident and 100% dominant dogs who have zero issue using aggression to communicate a grievance with their handlers. Are they right? Absolutley! So I pondered more……

    The thing about Cesar is his methods demonstrated on the show would not work on ALL dogs. Its this reality that many people end up getting stuck on and unfairly condeming his methods all together.

    Do I agree with 100% of what he says and does? Nope. Is that a problem for me? NOPE! There is something to be learned from most everyone. Cesar offers a GREAT DEAL of valuable and effective information for the majority of PET dog owners.

    Cesar has brought BALANCE back to many homes that were in dire need of it. Cesar is educating people about the basic needs of a dog, and any trainer who disagrees with the fact that dogs need more exercise, boundaries and limitations, and leadership, than they are usually getting is the trainer I would advise to stay away from.

    HOW those boundaries and limitations, and leadership are worked into the relationship is where the differences are.

    Great article Kim!


    • EXACTLY!!!!

      That’s the point. It’s not for everyone. Different things work for different people and dogs. No one, including CM, is promoting dog abuse. I think it’s important to take a step back and really look at what we’re arguing about if we ever hope to change another person’s mind. I needed to understand where Cesar Milan opponents and supporters were coming from so I watched the show, I read his book, and I got some great information.

      I’m just asking for intelligent dialogue so that I can be a better dog parent.


  19. I sooooo missed this place!!

  20. I idolized Ceasar as well, his episodes are quite remarkable and unbelievable specially the ones with Pitbull Terrier. I was moved by lesson of the episode which is how important the education to understand everyone in this world, even the animals.

    • Thanks, Lawrence

      We don’t have to agree with each other 100%, but I love that we can find something positive in others and build from there. Understanding and education is so very important. Thank you for sharing!

  21. my five beagles…..the other 2 plus cat are my brother/sisters pets and live upstairs…..aren’t the best behaved…..but they listen well enough for me to be happy…..they know basic commands, and walk well on a leash (all five at once)… that’s pretty impressive…..i think the most important thing is CONSISTANCY…..i keep a schedule for them, and we have a definite daily routine…..they are all rescues, three of them are special needs, so daily meds….i feed them to a bell (pavlov’s beagles!!)
    i started with two 2 yrs ago and just added to the mix, two more after 7 months, then #5 about a year ago…..i have one who wants to be alpha dog…..which i don’t allow….as rescues they all came from shady backgrounds…..all were abused, one was a research dog…..the hardest nut to crack was #3… barney…..he was abused by neglect…..when i first got him, he wouldn’t make eye contact, he didn’t want to be touched, he didn’t play…..about a month or so after i’d gotten him…..i noticed something odd…..his tail wagged!!!!!! now he loves up to everyone in the house….is reserved with strangers, but the biggest milestone is he now comes up to me every morning for his daily *hugs*…..he makes complete eye contact and leans into me to be held…..rescuing was the best thing to ever happen to me….i *do* discipline, but i use a styrofoam *noodle*…’s about 3-4′ long, makes a satisfying THWACK when i hit it against the wall…..and they all take notice when i pick it up…..doesn’t hurt anything more than their pride, but i’ve noticed that….just like people…..actions can speak louder than words… little love taps open their eyes!!!!!
    love your site kimberly…..thanks to my sister for showing it to me!!!!!!! ♥

    • I’m so excited about how well behaved our dogs are and Blue just fell in line with our family; they’re all pretty perfect and I love that! Confidence, exercise, and lots of love, patience, and consistency!

      Woo hooo! You’re a great dog mom!!!

  22. Hi there,

    It’s my first time here & I will definitely be back as it is refreshing to visit where there is open & respectful discussion.

    I was an avid viewer of The Dog Whisperer when I didn’t have a dog as I found it so gratifying to see dogs brought back from the brink and owners educated about their dogs needs. He also showed me how gorgeous Pits can be, and as others have said, by doing this he has brought Pits back from an undeserved bad reputation.

    Finally we adopted a senior about 10 months ago. We decided that we wanted to give an older dog a home as not many people want older dogs. Well, we weren’t fully briefed by the foster parents and sure got a surprise. The first night he was at our home he bit me three times!

    I’ve always had laid-back dogs and hadn’t fully considered the special needs that a 12yo rescue might have. He seemed to be such a happy little dog who would bite for no reason – no growling, no backing away, no ears – nothing. He would just be sitting beside me on the sofa & SNAP! It was getting to the point that I was being bitten about four times a week, which was unnerving to say the least.

    Having watched CM for so long, I recognised the importance of exercise and he has been walked every single day that we’ve had him for at least an hour. But I knew something was wrong and I couldn’t fix it.

    After doing much research, I settled on a trainer and we had one three hour session with him. It was working on my partner and myself as much as the dog, and it wasn’t cheap, but it was worth every single cent. Between October & Christmas there were three half hearted nips, and since then not a single one.

    This trainer had been head trainer for military dogs for 22 years & you could say some of his methods are similar to CM. I just think he was brilliant. He didn’t hurt or frighten our dog – if he had he would have been out the door instantly. He did give me the tools to work with our dog every day and I do.

    We now have a happy, relaxed, loving little dog who makes us laugh every single day. Interestingly enough, we met up with his foster parents for a doggy play date. They told us that our 6.5kg dog used to sit on the sofa while three adults and a dog sat on the floor to watch TV, he wouldn’t let them on the sofa – no wonder he came to us thinking that he was top dog!

    • Your comment brought tears to my eyes. God Bless You, Elle. So many people would have given up and rehomed the dog, but you put in the time and investment. That was the point of this article – we may not all agree with Cesar Milan and his techniques, but there are hard cases out there who have benefitted from his training. As you stated, he helped in changing attitudes about an entire breed. It’s so important to give our dogs a chance. So many older dogs are left behind, because people are afraid of behavior issues. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard – I want a puppy so that I can start from scratch with them – all dogs were puppies once. And I don’t judge, because I had that same attitude too. I’ve learned so much writing Keep the Tail Wagging that today I see the value in all dogs and what I’m most interested in isn’t the age, but if they’ll blend well in our family and if they’ll be happy.

      Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing. I’ve been a victim of harsh judgement for sharing my thoughts and I want this to be a place where people can openly share their opinions, because that’s what is going to help me be a better dog mom.

      ~ Kim

      • Thank you so much for your kind words & warm welcome, Kimberley. We feel blessed every dsy to have this dear dog in our lives. I’ve spent hours reading your site tonight – it’s nearly 3am & I’m still going :) So much to learn!

        One thing I did mean to say was that our boy was rescued from a kill shelter who had deemed him unable to be homed due to biting (didn’t find that out until much later). When the problems with our boy escalated it was only from having watched CM did I know that these sorts of problems could be addressed & worked on as every other dog I’ve had have been the laid back hippies of the dog world :)

        Once again – thanks!



  23. Interesting post. I personally wouldn’t let CM near any animal I own, foster, or otherwise interact with, but I do see how some people could learn some basics from him. (Confidence, for one).

    I don’t believe in his dominance theory and that dogs need to be put firmly in their place. Science has disproved this theory again and again and again. For this reason alone (science), I will only ever use positive based methods with my animals. Though, I find, that many mistake positive for permissive. Dogs don’t need an alpha to force them to submit, they need a calm, consistent, clear leader who can show them (in ways they will understand) what is, and is not acceptable.

    I’m not here to attack anyone, nor call anyone names. Anyone and everyone is certainly entitled to their opinions, but in what I have personally seen of CM’s show he has a tendency to not listen to what the dog is trying to say to him (the biggest example is of Holly, the lab who bit him). Anyone who knows how to read dog body language could have told you that she was going to bite. She didn’t understand his attempt to dominate her, and was absolutely terrified of him. She let off tons of calming signals and warning signs, which he either didn’t see or ignored. It frustrates me that so many people blindly follow his methods when he doesn’t go into how dogs think, how dogs learn, and how dogs communicate.

    If you try and teach me chemistry in Swahili, I won’t understand you. If you make an effort to try and teach me that in English, I can piece it together, with help. If you’re trying to terrify me into doing it, I’ll get it done, but neither of us will be happy and there will be a very resentful and begrudging relationship that forms from that, not a strong and positive one. (I prefer the latter, frankly). So many people need to realize this about dog training, and I’m not a huge fan of the fact that CM doesn’t tend to hit on this.

    Sure, he’s helped dogs in desperate situations and kudos for that. I love that he’s an avid pittie advocate, but I disagree with a vast majority of his training methods. I do agree that structure, balance, rules, and exercise are things that all dogs absolutely need, but I believe in doing this with positive methods in ways that the dog understands.

    Unless a dog is absolutely to the bone aggressive because of too long without socialization, proper training, or because of an actual disorder, their troubles can be sorted with positive training methods. Dominance, force, and fear aren’t necessary to help a dog, and this will ALWAYS be my stance (these methods can, many times, make certain issues worse, too.). Any issue a dog has, be it food aggression, toy aggression, dog aggression, rude manners, etc etc etc. Can get sorted out with positive methods; it just takes time, love, and understanding. If you’re willing to buy a dog’s whole life, I think you at least owe them these respects.

    Again, not trying to get on my soapbox or offend anyone, these are simply my views. I’d be happy to chat more positive training (and my view against dominance theory).

    • Love this comment! It was FANTASTIC. Thank you so very much for taking the time to write it out. So well put and kudos to you for being so amazingly articulate. You said exactly what I feel, but didn’t do a good job articulating. I love what he’s done for the dog rescue and pit bull communities, but when I see people at the dog park trying to dominate their dogs in his style, it freaks me out, because they’re taking directly from a short television program, which is where I see that Milan is unintentionally doing a disservice. I think the TV dog trainer programs are great in showing dog owners that they’re not alone in a situation and that dog training is important. But I would like to see more positive based training in place of “know your place.”

      If Cesar Milan came to my house, he’d be floored. Our dogs know their role in our pack – each has a job – but they’re my babies and often crawl into my lap (yes, very awkward due to their size) or bark for attention, food or water. I know their body language, noises, barks, and looks and often act as an interpreter for my boyfriend and it’s been fun watching him pick up on their language too. We raise our dogs with love, patience, confidence and consistency. Our trainer is a positive based trainer.

      I try not to judge people who follow Cesar Milan, because I don’t know their full story, but I do judge (sorry) people at the dog park who are terrifying their dogs in a crowded situation (the dog park) and possibly risking the safety of the dogs surrounding them. I would love to see a “don’t try this at home” disclaimer on his shows.

      Thanks again for this great comment!!!

      ~ Kimberly

  24. Great post! I didn’t read all the comments because there are like a bazillion of them and I don’t have the time right now, but I’m sure there are some doozies! :)

    I am reluctant to admit that I, too, watch (and enjoy) Cesar Millan’s show. He has a way with dogs. I don’t quite agree with all of his training methods, but I do think he does some things well. I respect the man for saving dogs that no one else could and for his advocacy efforts for Pit Bulls and other bully breeds.

    I just read a post on another blog yesterday (and now I can’t remember the name of the blog…d’oh!) about a woman’s account of having her dog trained by Cesar Millan and sending the dog to his “Dog Psychology Center.” It wasn’t a pretty story, but I really don’t think her dog was a problem dog to start with. She talked about how Cesar’s use of a shock collar on her dog made her dog aggressive when it wasn’t aggressive to start with. It was an interesting first person account, but I don’t think that’s the case with every dog he helps.

    I think he does do good in most cases. But like I said, I don’t see eye-to-eye on his training methods, but I can respectfully agree to disagree with him.

    Wish I could find that blog post for you.

    • I’ll have to look to, I’m interested in the story. That would just be so heartbreaking for me. I know that there are people who think our dogs are poorly behaved (I had one woman tell me that to my face, I just laughed and said – wow, you’re mean), but they’re happy and loved. I don’t need a dog to obey every command, just 95% of them and our trainer says we’re doing great so I’m happy. I get a kick out of CM’s shows, but see them as entertainment only, not as a dog training workshop. If I have questions, I’ll just all our trainer. :)

      Thanks for stopping by! Love to Riley.

      • I found it! Here’s a link to the article:

        It has some discrepancies in the article which kind of make me wonder, but you can read it for yourself. It didn’t really sound to me like she had an “aggressive” dog to start with, but I don’t personally know the woman or the dog, so I can’t really say. It’s worth a read, but take it with a grain of salt.

        Thanks for the reply! (Oh, and I’m sure your dogs probably act just fine! Some people are just plain rude… If you work with a dog trainer, your dogs can’t be THAT bad, can they?). :)

        • I recognize that link. If you have the time, you’ll see that she commented on this blog post and probably never came back, because she was disappointed in what I wrote. To each their own. She’s very outspoken against Cesar Milan and my perception is that anything positive that is written about Cesar Milan is wrong. I’m still curious about the article.

          And when it comes to our dogs, I warn people to dress for the country when they visit. We live in a rural area in the Pacific Northwest – rain + happy dogs = muddy paw prints.

  25. I think Cesar is great. I watched his show back in the day, around 2006 and 2007 when I was adopting my first dog as an adult. He really helped me create a foundation of rules for my dog, which has really helped me overall as a dog owner. I stopped watching the show as it grew in popularity, mostly because it was some of the same things over and over again.

    Great discussion!

    • Thanks, Lindsey

      He has a new show where he chooses the right family for a dog. It’s pretty lame, but I still like it, because you can pick up some interested tidbits about dogs.

      • Haha! Had to laugh when you said “It’s pretty lame.” :) I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve heard of it. I’m sure I’ll like it for the same reasons you do.

  26. So…I’m really not meaning to stalk you buuut, I had to read this once I saw the title. I too have some conflicting thoughts about Cesar Milan. I read his book and have watched his show a time or two on occasion. He has some good points (exercise and mental stimulation is so important for a dog’s overall well-being) and some things that I don’t agree with (his outlook that dog’s descended from wolves).

    Overall, he has his place. Just not my recommended training role-model. lol

    • My issues with Cesar Milan go directly to the people who watch a program or read a book and then try to train their dogs themselves. I’ve seen people doing the alpha roll over on their dogs and it’s disgusting. There was a man who told me that he really taught his dog who’s boss – I was disgusted and I don’t have a poker face. He avoids me know. He got that attitude directly from one of these horrible trainers. One day his dog will bite his face in self defense and he’ll hurt him or have him put down. I know this isn’t C Milan’s fault, but I see this as the dark side of his influence.

      I think dogs do have something in common with wolves, but this is from someone who sees dogs who look a little like wolves or coyotes and then making that leap – no research here. I’m also a person who doesn’t believe humans are descendants from apes nor did we crawl out of the ocean one day. I’m just happy that we have three happy, healthy dogs.

  27. Thank you for posting your article on Cesar’s methods, Kimberly. I do enjoy watching the Dog Whisperer——mostly I love the parts where he’s out rollerblading, playing, or running with the dogs or spending quality, one-on-one time with them. You can see that they love him. Yes, he uses physical methods to get their attention and to control bad behavior (maybe too much at times?), but I’ve learned quite a bit from his shows.

    Here’s my story. My boyfriend died three years ago and I inherited his dog, Mesa, a 13-year-old, very sweet golden retriever/border collie mix. I had lived in the same house with Mesa since she was a puppy, but I’m a cat person and Mesa was his dog, not mine; she worshipped him and she liked me, but she didn’t love me, and that was okay; until he died and I was responsible for her. I had no confidence, I knew she’d never love me like she did him, and I thought I was doing everything wrong with her because she wouldn’t listen to me. I was frustrated to the point of thinking about trying to find her a new home.

    I asked for help from a friend who practiced Cesar’s techniques. From the beginning I wasn’t comfortable with how she treated Mesa, but Mesa did behave much better for her. About a year after my boyfriend died, in the recession, my friend lost her job and then her house, and she moved in with me for about a year. During that year, I came to believe that her interpretation of Cesar’s methods was extreme——with her pitbull and with Mesa——but I had asked for her help with Mesa, and I thought she knew what she was doing, even though Mesa didn’t seem happy. Mesa snapped at her a couple of times, and I was miserable because she criticized everything I tried to do with Mesa. [One person who saw how she treated the two dogs and called her the Dog Nazi!] In the end, I asked her to move out, and how she treated Mesa was a big part of the reason.

    So I regret that I wasted over a year of Mesa’s short doggy life——a year that I’ll never get back. It’s been over 6 months since my roommate moved out, and Mesa’s now back to her happy, wigglebutt self, she does her “smiley-face” again, she sleeps upside-down in the middle of the floor, and her “flying-nun-ears” and cute, tilted head manipulative tricks are back. Because I now know how I _don’t_ want to treat Mesa, I’m able to relax and I’ve implemented my own, more laid back version of Cesar’s rules, boundaries, and limitations. She knows sit, stay, down, and wait; she now waits for permission to eat her food; when I open the door, she waits for permission to go out or come in; she comes when I call her, although sometimes I have to make noise to get her attention (she’s not deaf, just a bit ornery); and she only gets up on the bed or furniture when I ask her to. I’m mostly using consistent hand and finger techniques with her; for example, a raised finger means pay attention to me and stop what you’re doing.

    With my increased confidence I’m letting her be herself. Before, I was scared to let her meet new dogs, but now I encourage her——I ask for permission from the owner and I watch for any signs of aggression in their dog and in mine (Mesa’s old and sometimes irritable with younger, more exuberant dogs——I understand, being in my mid-50s I’m sometimes irritable too!).

    These rules are enough for me. She walks on leash by my side without pulling (well, mostly, except for stopping and sniffing). Yes, she still has barking issues: she doesn’t like the mail carrier; when I come back from anywhere (even a 10-minute trip to the store) she acts like I’ve been gone forever and barks her head off for a few minutes——but I’ve redefined my version of a “good” dog, I now realize that she _is_ a good dog and she always was. We now have a great relationship. So Cesar’s right, I needed to be trained to be confident and consistent——Mesa’s mostly the same——it’s me that has changed.

    This July I felt confident enough in my new skills to foster a German shepherd mix who’s about twice the size of Mesa, then in August I adopted him. He’s a very good dog, too!

    Thanks for letting me describe our journey——I do use some of Cesar’s methods, but only those that work for me and the dogs. At times it was a very challenging experience, but we came through it, a few years older and much, much wiser!

    • THANK YOU. I have tears in my eyes and felt every moment of your comment – your sadness, frustration, and when you rebounded and settled into a routine of your own. This is such a beautiful story. I struggled with the intense interpretation of Cesar Millan’s training too. For awhile, I was completely anti-CM, believing that it was cruel. Today, I try to be more open minded and I started watching his program again and I’ve picked up so much that WORKS and none of it is cruel or abusive.

      I also follow positive based trainers. I agree that Cesar’s love for his dogs is apparent. It makes me uncomfortable when one of his dogs cringes away from him, but then Blue was doing it with me one day and I’ve never laid a hand on him – it was then that I realized that this is something in dog behavior that I needed to understand and I’m excited to continue learning.

      Thank you again for leaving this amazing comment. Your story is so touching and exactly what I have in mind when I write every day about my own dogs. Thank you.

  28. I love watching Cesar Milan, it is so much I forgotten and so much I have remembered through watching him, and there are so many new tricks that he has to make thing easier for the dog to pick up the message we are trying to convey.
    One mentioned earlier that the audiences seem to keep forgetting when they are watching the show; the dogs that are the producers want to film are the dogs/owners that have real problems. That Fido want stop sitting on the sofa is not good television but if Fido wanne bite anyone that approach the sofa; that is good television… One doesn’t have to be a brain surgeon to know which Fido that will get air time.
    When it comes to have him as personal trainer, it would have been fun in one way but also very embarrassing. I’m so aware all things I could do better; it is always a matter of laziness. (I had a three month trip where he walked and run for 6-10 hours a day, that suited him perfect. He is close to 1.4 foot, measured at the shoulder. However that is a bit much when having to work)
    In the end the dog you have is the dog you deserve.

    • Great comment!

  29. A little late to the game on this one, but it came up as an advertised “you might like…” on today’s post, so I clicked.

    I have a near-identical opinion as you do on this issue. I’ve decided (learned?) to be more silent on dog training issues and debates on my own blog, as a result though.

    Back when I was a new (naiive) blogger, interested in stirring it up and drumming up discussion, I wrote something with a similar tone to it( Maybe was not the best idea, since I didn’t realize how immediately heated the subject gets, how filter-less people can be (I figured, hey – this isn’t the comments on You Tube, maybe people will be respectful), and was super new to blogging. But I did it and it’s there, and I leave the post up because it seems dishonest or cowardly to take it down.

    So I’d like to commend you on your honest (and brave!) tackling of this polarizing topic.

    • I saw this comment the other day and I’ve been really anxious to reply (thanks for commenting) and read your post. I just love love love polarizing topics, but I don’t love the people who attack when someone shares their point of view. I really think we should be able to talk about these things without attacking each other.

  30. IMO dog training should never involve punishing, because most of the time, the animal does not understand that the behavior itself is what is causing the punishment. Never punish, always reward :)

    • Great point, Mary. I always say that our dogs live in the moment. There’s no point to punishing them for something that happened 5 minutes ago. Instead, I like to reward them for good behavior. They get it.

  31. The dog is so cute. That’s why they are people’s best friend! :)


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