Cesar Millan took the world by storm with his show, “The Dog Whisperer.” As a young dog enthusiast, I once used to love him too! I dreamed of the day I could meet Mr. Millan and thank him for the countless animals he had saved. I even hung out with a local “dog whisperer” because certainly there had to have been some merit to all this pack leader talk.
Then one day it all clicked and I realized- it was wrong. Cesar, the miracle man who saved all the death row dogs, the one I dreamed of meeting one day, was wrong.
I realized that companion dogs are not pack animals. We bred them out of that a long time ago. Every dog is an individual; their sociability thresholds fall in different places and change in various situations. Companion dogs follow strong leadership, not dominance. True leaders don’t threaten their followers, they build trust, respect and compassion.
This realization didn’t happen overnight- it took years of education. I spent half a decade watching dogs interact with one another on almost a daily basis – internally itemizing cause and effect. I took it a step further and attended seminars by world famous dog trainers and listened to what they had to say and evidence they had to show. I spent countless hours working with shelter dogs. I started reading book after book about cognitive behavior and conditioning. I saw with my own eyes what “dominating” behavior did to dogs over time. How dogs with no regard for human companionship reacted and behaved under pressure.
“Red Zone” dogs cannot be cured in a 60 minute TV show, but they can be taught to suppress their social cues to the point that they learn to stop giving warnings. They can learn very quickly to suppress their aggression until they have a moment of brief confidence and a split second to act upon it. Dominance “works” because you stop SEEING the behavior, but has the behavior been changed? The answer is no.
My train of thought above was triggered by this article written by Mikkel Becker and Dr. Marty Becker.