“The Dog Whisperer” techniques raise controversy

Sep 20 2006

When dog-related issues appear in the media, I will do my best to inform you through this blog. Recently, concerns have been expressed about the techniques used by Cesar Millan on the popular show “The Dog Whisperer”. Here are some articles on the topic; the American Humane article, the SPCA article, the New Yorker article feedback, the Esquire article. There is much debate on the topic of force-free methods vs. the use of adversives in dog training.

This is a good opportunity to discuss how to evaluate a trainer. Look for a dog trainer who employs humane training methods which do not cause physical harm, great pain, or undue distress to the dog. Dog training should be fun for both canine and human participants, so make sure that the professional you choose is approachable and encourages your active participation and questions. Former or current students are a valuable source of information. A competent trainer will encourage you to visit a group class and consult current or former clients about their experiences.

To summarize the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) guide for selecting a trainer, during a training session a skilled and professional trainer will:
1. Explain each lesson.
2. Demonstrate each behavior.
3. Provide clear written handouts on each behavior.
4. Assist students individually with proper implementation of techniques.

Always remember to follow your instincts. If you are uncomfortable with anything your trainer suggests, speak up. A competent trainer will explain the reason for the use of a specific technique and offer alternative options as needed. Remember that your emotions travel through your leash to your dog. So if you are uncomfortable, it is likely your best friend will be uncomfortable as well.

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