Last week I was lucky enough to be on vacation in the Dominican Republic, where I spent my days soaking up the sun and reading books on the beach. The first book on my list was Cesar’s Rules by Cesar Millan. For his latest book the Dog Whisperer invited a handful of trainers to meet with him and show him their techniques and methods for working with dogs. The really cool thing about this is that Cesar chose people who use very different training philosophies than himself, including some who have publicly criticized his methods.
When I first got into the profession of dog behavior and training I was very dismayed at how the industry is so adamantly divided between positive dog trainers and dog whisperers. I made it a point to learn from as many different trainers with widely varying approaches, enabling me to take bits and pieces from all of them and make my own unique style. I truly believe that it’s this open-minded, always willing to learn philosophy that has made me successful. I credit Cesar Millan and Ian Dunbar as my two biggest influences – and they are total opposites in training styles.
Dog Whisperers tend to look down on positive trainers as indiscriminant treat machines, while positive trainers scoff at the whisperers as uneducated goons. Early this year, posted a comment on my Facebook page after Cesar’s longtime dog Daddy passed away, which simply said, “No matter what you think of Cesar, you have to admit that Daddy was a pretty special dog.” Within minutes of me hitting the enter key, positive trainers left me long rants on how Cesar is horrible and they were disappointed in me for liking him. This, to me, is a prime example of how close-minded people can be. I never said anything about Cesar’s methods or techniques. I was just morning the loss of a dog – a dog that has done more to help the perception of pit bulls than all other trainers in the world combined. However, they just saw the “C-word” and the door to their mind slammed shut.
I’ve always felt that what the world of dog training needs is not mud-slinging and emotional tirades, but collaboration and support. Aren’t we all on the same team? The way some of these trainers talk about Cesar you would think he was Hitler. Even if you don’t agree with his techniques, I think we can agree that Cesar is not trying to intentionally harm dogs. At worst you might think he’s misguided and misinformed, but not malicious. And even the most purest of positive trainers has to admit that he does some things really well, so why not give him some credit for it, or just say nothing. (I single out positive trainers in this regard because historically they are the most vocal about their dislikes)
I think now is the time to stop all the bickering and come together as peers and work together to improve the dog training industry, and help more people and dogs live better lives together. In this new book, Cesar Millan has taken a big step toward this goal. He’s invited eleven different trainers to show him the best of what they do, so that the reader can decide what techniques might benefit them. Everyone person is different, every situation is different, and every dog is different, requiring a different approach to be successful.
Cesar’s Rules (which I find to be a strange title, given that he’s describing many techniques that he doesn’t use) gives each of the eleven trainers a chance to tell how they work with dogs and why it works for them. It gives the reader a great number of resources and perspectives to experiment with. The book is well written with Cesar’s usual charm and whit coming through each page. I think that all the trainers involved with the book can be proud of how they were depicted and I really hope it’s only a taste of the kind of collaboration to come in the future.
I really hope that Cesar’s Rules will not only help people with their dogs at home, but also begin to bridge the gap in the dog training community. As always, my mind remains open and I’m always looking for the next person or dog to teach me some new tricks.