Does mimicking Cesar lead to dog bites?
That question is posed in an interesting piece by Sophia Yin in the Huffington Post, and it brings a long-simmering debate between two schools of animal trainers into the spotlight — right in the middle of National Dog Bite Prevention Week.
Yin, a veterinarian and applied animal behaviorist, cites experts as saying that “Dog Whisperer” watchers trying to mimic the dominance-based techniques Millan uses may be — as the phrase goes — asking for it.
The article includes an anecdote from Dr. Kathy Meyer, president of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), which is on record as opposing such techniques.
“Last year I consulted with an owner who was having trouble with his Shar-Pei becoming aggressive toward the dog-walker when on walks. The owner had no trouble with his dog on-lead outdoors, but the walker complained of escalating aggression. Upon further discussion, it was discovered that the walker claimed he was utilizing some methods demonstrated by Cesar Millan on the Dog Whisperer. Instead of walking the dog on a loose lead, he would place a choke collar high up on the dog’s neck, where it is the most painful and can shut off the airway…
“When the dog didn’t respond to a command, he would punish the dog by tightening the collar, even lifting the dog’s front feet off of the ground. As the punishment escalated, the dog began to growl, snarl, and snap at the walker. The walker even began to take a tennis racket on walks to try to subdue the dog when he became aggressive, a technique he saw on Millan’s televised show. My advice was simple. Find another dog-walker who knew how to calmly walk the dog on a loose lead and did not try to intimidate him. A new walker was introduced and the dog continues to do well, with no aggression on walks.”
The article also cites a recent study published in The Journal of Applied Animal Behavior (2009) that suggests those who take an aggressive approach with their dogs might find their dogs being aggressive too.
“Our study demonstrated that many confrontational training methods, whether staring down dogs, striking them, or intimidating them with physical manipulation such as alpha rolls, do little to correct improper behavior and can elicit aggressive responses,” said Meghan Herron, DVM, lead author of the study,
Millan routinely demonstrates alpha rolls, dominance downs and forced exposure to things that cause fear or aggression, Yin notes.
Millan and others who support the dominance approach attribute undesirable or aggressive behavior in dogs to the dog’s striving to gain social dominance. They advocate owners establish themselves as “pack leader.”
The AVSAB, meanwhile, believes undesirable behaviors in dogs are most frequently due to owners inadvertent rewarding them, and a lack of consistent rewarding of desirable behaviors.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 20th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aggression, alpha rolls, animal, animals, approach, avsab, behavior, bites, cesar millan, confontational, dog, dog whisperer, dogs, dominance, huffington post, methods, national dog bite prevention week, national geographic channel, rewarding, rewards, sophia yin, techniques, training, undesirable, veterinary