Who Is Cesar Millan, And What Does He Do?
Cesar Millan is a dog behaviorist and star of the television show, The Dog Whisperer, which ran from 2004 to 2012, and he’s one of the most recognized figures in the dog training and care community. He’s also one of the most controversial. While Cesar Millan is a best-selling author of dog training books, including the popular Cesar’s Way, many professional dog trainers and experts argue that his approach to training is based on an outdated and debunked method called “dominance theory” that has no basis in science. They say that his tactics are cruel and unnecessary, and they cause dogs to be obedient because they are anxious and fearful, rather than having a desire to be cooperative or being eager to please. Still, Cesar Millan continues to work with dogs and owners, and he’s even founded an organization to help animal shelters rescue and re-home dogs, reduce the pet population through spay and neuter programs, and rehabilitate dogs that have suffered from abuse among other things. Here’s what you should know about Cesar Millan.
Where Did Cesar Millan Come From?
Cesar Millan’s birth name is César Felipe Millán Favela, and he was born in Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico. He grew up on a farm there where he learned to take care of animals, and he showed a natural way with dogs in particular. Cesar Millan came to the United States without a visa at the age of 21 without knowing any English and got a job at a dog grooming store.
He went on to work as a limousine driver and met Jada Pinkett Smith, who became one of his first clients and provided him with an English tutor. Cesar Millan eventually created the Dog Psychology Center, a facility in Los Angeles that catered to large breeds of dogs. He became a permanent resident of the United States in 2000.
In 2002, he was profiled by the Los Angeles Times, and shortly after, he worked on the pilot for The Dog Whisperer. When the show premiered in 2004, it quickly became National Geographic’s most popular television show. In the time since he skyrocketed to success, Cesar Millan has written several best-selling books, starred in another show called Cesar 911, worked on a children’s television show for Nickelodeon, and appeared on another show called Dog Nation. In 2007, he created a non-profit organization now known as Cesar Millan PACK Project that provides support to animal shelters that find homes for dogs. Cesar Millan also became a United States citizen in 2009.
Why Is Cesar Millan Controversial?
In a 2016 episode of Cesar 911, Cesar Millan used a pot-bellied pig in one of his training efforts with a dog that had aggressive tendencies. The dog broke free of his grasp and attacked the pig, biting it on the ear and drawing blood. The incident was investigated as a case of animal cruelty due to outrage from the public, but it also brought to light what many of Cesar Millan’s critics had been saying all along, that his tactics caused animals an unnecessary amount of anxiety, fear, and harm.
A Time Magazine article substantiates what a growing number of animal experts have been saying for years: Dog training born out of “dominance theory” – a technique which includes alpha rolls, physical corrections, and flooding – is based on a now-debunked premise around wolf hierarchy.
Among the main ideas of the article:
– Physical corrections and alpha rolls trigger a dog’s instincts to “shut down,” which should not be mistaken for calming down. This stress actually produces the opposite effect: the dog beomes more fearful.
– Fear leads to increased cortisol levels, which leads to long-term health issues.
– Most house pets’ misbehavior is a result of poor training or inadvertent reinforcement for the unwanted behavior – not an attempt to show dominance.
– Dominance and submission describe relationships, not a particular individual’s static role. Most animal-animal and animal-human relationships are fluid; each situation can be interpreted differently – even among those in the relationship.
This is not to say that Cesar Millan, the most famous of the dominance trainers, is a bad guy. Much of what he stands for, such as canine rescue, particularly for often misunderstood Pit Bulls, is quite noble. He clearly understands the value of mental and physical stimulation, and he knows that dogs are not people and require different teaching and coping mechanisms. But when he gets it wrong, particularly when he resorts to flooding instead of desensitization, the results can be heartbreaking.
Millan supporters sometimes accuse his critics of being jealous. They may say he’s “rehabilitating” dogs, not “training” them, on his show, even though the methods he uses on television are also promoted in his books, which are marketed as training guides for the general public. However, equating disagreement to jealousy may be shallow, not to mention erroneous. Before you pass judgment one way or another, it is important to do your own research if you’re curious as to what most successful, experience, educated, and forward-thinking experts say.
Millan has put the importance of dog training on the radar of the American public in a way that maybe no other person has before, and that is a good thing, but disinformation can be quite harmful, too, and trainers that use his methods may end up causing more harm than good. There are tactics for dog training that are just as effective, much less dangerous, and accessible to all.
What do you think of Cesar Millan? Has he done more good for dogs or more harm? Let us know in the comments below.