by Marguerite Pearson, Director of Communications
I like Cesar Millan. That said, I mostly became familiar with him because his show wins out over “What Not to Wear” when my husband and I are haggling over the remote on Friday night.
For those of you who don’t know who he is (and I learned that these people actually do exist when I sent my photo with him to friends who were like “Who’s the little Mexican guy?”) he is the Dog Whisperer. He has a show on National Geographic Channel and his tagline is “I train people and rehabilitate dogs.”
I saw him at the Palace on Sunday night where he put on not only an informative, but very entertaining show. Here are a few of the things I learned …
• “The only species that follows an insecure leader is human.” Wow. That not only puts things into perspective for animals but we as humans. Animals are driven by instinct and in the animal world it makes no sense for them to do what a weak leader wants. In fact – there would never be a weak leader. That’s why pet owners who do not establish themselves as “pack leaders” can’t manage their dogs.
• For dogs, 60% of the brain is controlled by the nose. That’s why we don’t need to hold out our hand for them sniff us when we approach. They can smell us just fine. When working with a dog, we can best tap into their senses in this order: scent, sight, then sound.
• Here’s a shocker. We as pet owners tend to fulfill our needs first, then our pets’ needs. We try to intellectualize training, which doesn’t work. Our first instinct is to give affection – which isn’t all bad – but for example, a fearful animal is not necessarily looking for affection, but security. Again, the weak leader thing. This also explains why we shower our pets with things that make us feel good – pretty beds, cute toys, maybe even clothes, but often miss the mark on what they really need.
• During the Q and A portion, one person asked how to safely exercise her dog which had undergone surgery for torn cruciates. This dog still had lots of energy. Cesar told her that using mental energy is as essential, if not more so, than physical energy. He suggested not throwing balls and toys, but hiding them and letting the dog search them out. Simple.
And here is where Cesar most impressed me. He talked about his late pit bull Daddy, who failed physically as he grew old. Yet he knew that Daddy still had a lot of life in him and he honored that by doing things to keep him mentally engaged, rather than assuming he was too old and tired to care. He used the phrase ”honoring our pets” frequently.
He spoke of honesty, integrity and loyalty in dealing with our dogs. Throughout his talk, he stressed our need to be attuned to them and give them the consistency and leadership that they crave and thrive on.
Granted Cesar is far more intuitive and understanding of canine behavior than most of us will ever be. But he offers very do-able and realistic ways for us to be more in synch with our dogs’ needs. He affirms that if we really care about our canine companions, we should invest time and effort into learning more about what makes them tick. All dogs – and their owners – can benefit from training.
And I’ve got to love Cesar for being an advocate for shelter pets and pit bulls. His beautiful pit bull Junior just hung out with him on stage, fulfilling the role of breed ambassador and loveable shelter dog.
Does your dog need training? Learn about APF’s Pet Academy.