I like the Dog Whisperer. He’s got a sense of humor to go along with a lot of understanding of and experience with bad behavior. But what Cesar Milan does is kind of like the flip side of the coin from what I do. Cesar teaches people how to recover their dogs’ ability to behave by moving them out of excitement and into a more passive state. One of my big goals when working with students trying to develop a performance dog is to help them learn how to wind their dog up, make them super excited about playing (good training is actually playing), and teach the dogs the skills to be able to think while aroused. This is difficult for any animal, humans being no exception. Just look at the fact that sometimes in an emergency situation a person will scream out, “What’s the number to 911?” I’m not making this up. I often use the analogy of teaching our dogs to be able to perform while excited is much like trying to do calculus on a roller coaster. Not only do you need some level of calculus prowess, separately you need to train the skill of being able to function while your bio-chemistry is sending you emergency messages.
So, the answer to the question, “Sort of like the dog whisperer?” is, “Uh, no”. I don’t think Cesar would be very good at what I do, although I’m pretty sure I could teach him. But, to tell you the truth, his path might require him to overcome the dogs being a little “too well behaved”, or, in other words, often shut down. There is a fine line between disciplining your dog (respect must exist for a dog to be bearable to live with (remember, they are your pet, you are not their bitch!)), and shutting your dog down. At this stage of my life, I let my dogs be a little bit more naughty in some ways, because I like it when they have a lot to offer. My dogs jump on me when we train, because I want to have a Disc Dog who will gladly push off of my body to flip through the air for a catch. When I throw a toy out, my dogs fetch by coming bounding back and pouncing into me, bringing the toy right up to the height of my hands, and growl playfully. It’s a lot like the difference between raising a child to be quiet and polite to such a degree that they don’t question and wonder aloud with you. It’s in that latter behavior that you find some of your most treasured expressions of that young human being. But there is a huge difference between your dog walking all over you, or growling for real vs. in play, just like there’s a big difference between a brat mouthing off and talking back to you and a child inquisitively looking at the world through the precious perspective of a young one. And, as the leader or the parent, you will have to, from time to time, sometimes more than others, make adjustments and corrections to make sure your dog or child is on the right side of that fence. So, I appreciate that Cesar is out there, helping with all those “bad kids”, because I much rather invest my time in teaching a training style that allows an individuals (both dog and handler) to blossom 🙂