Review: Cesar Millan’s The Pack Leader Tour

Last night I attended "An Evening With Cesar Millan" at the Auditorium Theater in Rochester, NY.

Last night I attended the Rochester, NY appearance of America’s most famous dog trainer, Cesar Millan, in town for his “The Pack Leader” tour.

In the interest of full disclosure, until that point my exposure to Millan was limited. I’d never seen his show, never seen him train a dog or talk about training a dog, never read his book (although I do have a copy of “Cesar’s Way”, picked up at the used bookstore, in my to-read pile).

I had seen him profiled on CBS Sunday Morning and found him charming and interesting, and was impressed that he had about 30 dogs off leash while I was at my wit’s end with three warring dogs and a cat. Woof!

So when people talked about what a horrible, inhumane trainer Cesar Millan is, I really didn’t have an opinion about him one way or the other. As a Christian, I’ve been on the receiving end of the judgmental finger pointing so I try to avoid doing that to others. I’d heard comments that ranged from “He’s rude” to “Let’s get the shotguns”. Honestly, I can’t form an opinion based on that. I needed to see for myself.

And after watching Millan’s performance last night, I now have an opinion.

The show opened when Cesar Millan stepped onstage wearing a giant puffy parka, earring sparkling in the house lights. The crowd cheered. I mean, literally cheered. In the dog world, Millan is apparently a rock star.  He smiled, waved, took off the coat, and got down to business.

The first half of the show was hilarious. I mean, laugh out loud hysterically funny. Whether Cesar Millan was imitating a yapping Pomeranian or lying on the floor demonstrating a cat giving itself a bath, he had the crowd laughing. He’s a natural storyteller, and has an uncanny way of demonstrating animal behavior, pointing out mistakes humans make while making us laugh at the same time.

He made jokes about his immigration status – he came here illegally but is now a citizen. I thought some of it was in poor taste – he joked that Mexicans trying to cross the border invented the first agility courses. But he was open and honest (qualities he stresses in training) and he was thoroughly entertaining.

He also made a lot of great points, talking about a dog owner’s need to be a stable leader, to be calm, to meet the dog’s needs of body, mind and heart, to understand how our own behavior can lead to anxiety and instability. He said, “Dogs in other countries are skinny but they don’t have psychological problems. Dogs in modern countries are chunky and they have psychological problems,” that our dogs have everything but are experiencing instability.

In other words: we Americans humanize our dogs too much. Amen.

He talked about problems like fear and anxiety and aggression being the outcome of problems rather than the problems themselves, and how addressing the root problems in body, mind and heart would be the path to the solutions. He mentioned that there are different techniques to achieve those solutions, but he didn’t go into detail.

Unfortunately, technique is the problem that many have with Millan. I think most trainers – even positive trainers – could agree with much of what he said in the first part of the show. But what he glossed over is exactly where the problems lie. And after intermission, I got to see it for myself.

Keep in mind that I’ve never seen “The Dog Whisperer,” so what Millan shared last night I can only assume was what he considered his best work, and what is most indicative of his methods and technique.

Millan showed a clip from South Park, which parodied the famous dog trainer.

He opened the second half of the show with a clip of South Park that parodied his show,” The Dog Whisperer.” I have a friend who talks all the time about how much she hates when Millan “tssts”. I didn’t understand what she meant; I mean, I click my tongue to the dogs all the time. Watching the parody, I finally got what she meant.

What I didn’t understand was why people were laughing? I mean, it was a complete mockery of Millan, pointing out how his method of training was insensitive, mean, rude, and well, really rude. But the crowd laughed and clapped, as if pinching and intimidating are funny and acceptable.

Sorry, but it’s all rude in my book.

Then Millan brought out a dog he’d been working with; the dog was led by Millan’s assistant Allegra, whom Millan said had never had a dog. The dog walked on the leash ahead of Allegra, sniffed, seemed comfortable. And then Millan took the lead and the dog froze. Obediently, yes, but it was frozen obedience.

Millan then switched the dog’s lead, from a very thick lead to a wire-thin lead, which he held taut, high up on the dog’s neck. The dog was calm, and at times lay down and was fine on and off leash. But when the lead was in Millan’s hand, it was taut the whole time and the dog seemed on alert. We were in the balcony and I was specifically watching to see how often the lead was slack; not often.

Which made me wonder: why was the dog obeying? Clearly this dog had worked for a long time with Millan and knew the ropes. You don’t bring a strange dog out onto a stage with thousands of people making noise; you bring out the dog you know is going to do exactly what you want. But the dog, while calm, certainly never seemed happy – if I can be allowed to analyze canine emotion for a moment. I didn’t see any relaxed mouth, for example, what most people would call a smile. I didn’t see tail wagging. I saw a dog waiting attentively and quietly. And yes, calmly.

But there’s one thing I’ve learned about dogs – and people, for that matter: just because they do what you want, it doesn’t mean they like you.

Then Millan shared a video clip from an episode of his show where he hooked up a dog and owner to heart monitors to see how their heart rates affected the dog’s behavior. As expected, when the owner’s heart race increased, so did the dogs. And a calm Millan meant a calm dog. The crowd cheered.

His point was excellent: a calm owner leads to a calm dog.

Except … if I can be forgiven for pointing out the obvious … that was TV, where a 3 minute clip may take 10 hours to film, and filmed over and over again from different angles. Who knows how much time passed between the owner and dog experiment, and the Millan and dog experiment? Or how many tries it took? What you see on TV is not real, people. It’s manufactured reality. It takes a long time – a loooooong time – to train a dog, and even longer to train the owner. What we saw in the clip was success, but what was missing was the process. And I think it gives a false impression of what it really means to train a dog.

Another thing that raised a red flag: the dog in the video was on a choke chain. Millan said that it wasn’t his decision to put it on the choke chain, that it was the owner’s and that he uses whatever method the owner is comfortable with. I thought that was a cop out and an attempt to placate the positive, force-free trainers in the audience. If he truly believed that using a choke chain was forceful, methinks he would be offering to owners a better, more humane method. (There were some trainers: before the show, a small group stood in front of the venue handing out a flyer with a list of local positive dog trainers and information about dominance-based training.)

By now the hairs on the back of my neck were prickling – not because of things people had told me about Cesar Millan, but because of what I was watching with my own eyes and hearing with my own ears. Talk about dominance and pack mentality – knowing that research has proven that: 1) dogs are not wolves any more than men are apes and 2) what we thought we knew about wolf packs has been completely invalidated once we began to study wolves in the wild. (That was the basis for a piece I wrote yesterday.)

The dog sleeping at your feet is not now, nor has he ever been, an animal that has lived in the wild, lived in a dog pack, or experienced any desire to dominate you. He’s a dog, and he understands one thing: you feed me, I stick around. (One expert I read called it a parasitic relationship, and while that’s a harsh term … it’s pretty accurate when you think about it.) You do not need to grab your dog by the scruff the way a mother dog would because, and forgive me for stating what should be obvious, you are not a dog nor are you your dog’s mother. Your dog has not now nor has he ever looked at you like his dog mother and grabbing his scruff means only one thing: Ouch! This stupid human is hurting me!

But I digress.

Of even more concern last night: the reaction from the audience. I’m a firm believer that I should follow a principle or philosophy or moral compass, not a person. And none of it blindly. But I’ve venture a guess that the majority of dog owners in America are looking for a quick fix. Do A, yank B, pinch C and viola! You’ve gotten your dog to do what you want.

But as I told a commenter who chided me yesterday about dogs needing leadership and someone to be in charge: there’s a difference between being a leader and being in charge. People who are in charge are not necessarily leading and not every leader is the one with the brass plate on the desk that says “boss.”

And intimidating dogs into doing what you want by pinching them or leashing them in their most sensitive place is neither leading or being in charge. It’s being rude and being a bully.

And if I can digress for a moment, one thing I’ve noticed is that people who love Cesar Millan tend to be people for whom obedience is more important than relationship in other aspects of their lives, as well. At work, at home, with their kids, with neighbors, politically, religiously. Someone I love dearly but who has always been extremely strict, emotionally cold, and rigidly egocentric, once said to me, “You know, Cesar Millan would have that dog fixed in 5 minutes.”  My dog didn’t need to be “fixed”, and whatever behavior needed to be worked on took more than 5 minutes. And I’m happy for it, because the process actually built a long, loving, strong emotional bond between human and dog – something I fear my friend may never have experienced.

The show ended with a Q&A session, and here is where I thought Millan let his guard down, and not to his credit. The questions were simple – what do I do about a dog who sneaks people food? what do I do about my dog who barks in the car, but it’s a happy bark? He asked Allegra to read the questions several times; the first one about the people food had him totally stumped, and he seemed to scramble for time and eventually fell back into some long winded recap about stability.

(For the record, my answer to the question about dogs who steal people food – the answer which I also got from Ada Simms, the trainer I talked to later: 1) Put the food away where the dog can’t get it – duh; 2) keep your dog out of the room where people meals are being eaten; 3) and teach your dog a strong “leave it” so that you can have your dog in the room with food without the fear of drive-by dog raids of your plate. I speak from experience, my friends.)

Even more so, by this point in the night, Millan seemed a wee bit irritated. He’d already snapped a couple of times at the video folks – at first it was good humor (“I’m legal now, I can fire people”) but eventually he was staring at them off stage, much the way I imagine he glares at bad dogs.

In the end, I can only say that I prefer to build a relationship with my dog where he wants to do the things I ask him to do, where he wants to be with me because being with me is the greatest thing he could think of to do. Not a dog who obeys because he knows he’ll get pinched or grabbed by the scruff or “nudged” in the kidneys, however gently.

Obedience is not a relationship. It is the outcome of a relationship. And if you find yourself cheering a man instead of his philosophy, perhaps you need to be doing some thinking. Not throw the baby out with the bathwater, by any means. Cesar Millan is a really great motivational speaker. He has some excellent points about how we humans fail our dogs. His goals for the most part are completely valid. He’s smart, likeable, funny and he really does love his dogs and have a connection with them. 

But I think the paths he’s taking to achieve his goals need to be reevaluated in the light of current research, and for that, I must- forcefully – disagree with his methods.

Of course, for the American dog owner, reevaluating Millan’s methods might mean dog training that takes longer, requires more time and energy, and involve a much, much, much deeper emotional commitment than perhaps many are willing to give.

Because, in the end, the problem is not the dog but the dog owner. Something I think Millan and I might agree on.


* * * * * * * * * *

A P.S. FROM THE AUTHOR: 1/17/12:

To everyone who has soooo graciously taken time to comment on this article – whether you liked it, hated it, agreed with it, disagreed with it, or think I’m completely off my rocker: thank you for taking time out of your day to read the piece and share your thoughts.

For those who disagree, I do want to just reiterate: this is a review, which means it’s my thoughts and opinions about that evening’s event and how it influenced my opinion of the material presented. If you’re still not clear why a review did not require me to do 10 hours of research or watch 9 seasons of “The Dog Whisperer” to comment on what I saw that night, please send me an email and I’ll explain the definition of “review.”

To those of you offering kind words: Thank you for support and for taking time share your stories. I am smart enough to know how ignorant I really am and am happy to learn more, so I take the critical comments in that vein. But I also appreciate a brief pat on the back once in a while. Today, you were my cookies. Click. Treat. Woof!

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  • Pingback: What’s wrong with Cesar Millan and dominance-based dog training? | Bark Around Town()

    • Jo-Anne

      Wow, what a dreadfull review!! Maybe next time you SHOULD do some background research. Ceasar is not about fear based bullying dominance, nor would he ever “pinch” a dog as you have suggested. He simply controls dogs based on a calm assertive presence. No words are needed and rarely a touch. A calm tap or slight noise may be made to get the dogs attention and snap them out of a negative behavior. Watch the show to see his techniques in action with time elasped shown – not 10 hours as you have exagerated but ususually 10 minutes!!

      • Karlee

        I think you need to watch ‘The Dog Whisper’ a little closer. This statement “Caesar is not about fear based bullying dominance, nor would he ever “pinch” a dog as you have suggested.” Couldn’t be further from the true – Everything you described is the premises of his training. Negative based training is chalked full kicking, choking, pinching, staring, alpha rolls, and pure adolescent bullying…

        • Darlene

          I totally agree Karlee. I had never seen the Dog Whisperer show and thought he was supposed to be this great dog trainer. One day, someone told me to go watch him on Youtube. I sat and cried as first he held a little dog down in a freezing cold garage until it was so exhausted that it finally gave up and was shaking with far and then cried even more when he put a choker collar onto a husky and practically strangled it by hanging it until the dog submitted and no longer would look at a dog that it hadn’t made any move toward..but was actually looking at it. This man is so mean to animals that I don’t even begin to understand his fan base. I will stick with positive trainers like Victoria Stillwell who believe dogs can be your best friend and not just an object in your house to abuse and make scared of you.

      • Tamara

        Why should anyone have to do research before attending a talk? She’s reporting what she saw and her impression and opinion. That is what a review is. And yes, Cesar hangs dogs, jerks them, so I have no doubt he “pinches” them. That said, he’s certainly not the only dog trainer that does this type of “training”, which some people label abuse, others label rudeness.
        Who should do the research is CM himself and his fans–on the recent studies and observations by scientists and animal behaviorists and zoologists on how animals learn and the best way to teach them, which is also the humane way. However, as this article points out, most people don’t want to do that; they would rather snap their fingers and have their dog (and children and spouses most likely) “fixed”. The question we all need to ask ourselves, whether we’re dog trainers (I am) or dog owners (I am) is: why in the world would you want to treat your best friend in any way but a kind way?

      • dennis fehling

        Jo Anne, i have to simply disagree with yuo 100%. As a professional dog trainer who sees hundreds of dogs a year that have been trained the way Cesar Milan trains dogs I can tell you his methods are not only unscientific but brutal. I have said to many a clients ” if you have to continually jerk on your dogs neck to get your dogs attention then that is clearly not working for you or the dog and is just a waste of energy” I have worked with many dogs that have been trained with force and these dogs are not happy and willing to work, most I see are very frightened and shut down from years of abuse from following this very misleading way of training dogs. What you see on Milans show is only a glompse of what really goes on behind the scenes. I challenge you to find any positive trainer with as many law suits as Cesar has against him for animal abuse. When Cesar trains a dog the dog and human are not learning much of anything but fear and as we all know most aggression and reactivity is based on fear. it is time to put a stop to Cesar and his very outdated unprofessional methods and start treating our dogs with the respect they deserve by not abusing them in the name of training.


        Dennis Fehling CPDT(KA)

      • Joanne Brokaw

        Jo-Anne, actually he explained in detail how to pinch the dog. So maybe you ought to have paid more attention?

        • Molly KokorudA

          He has never mentioned the word pinch on any of the shows I have watched.

      • @karlijn

        i do agree with jo-anne

      • Stef

        I recently saw a you tube out take on one of his training sessions with a German Shepherd. He actually kicked and abused the dog to get the desired film for his show!! I suggest you search for it and take a look! You need a serious reality check if you think his methods are not abusive. As the review stated, he has the right goals in mind, but he has taken dog training back to the dark ages . . . sad, but true . . .

        • Paula Holland

          Shame you have only watched a couple of clips on You Tube – check out his training DVD’s you will definately see more of what he is about. On behalf of all the dogs he has rehabilitated, thank goodness he is around! I love his saying “the only thing two dog trainers can agree on not to get a third dog trainer in!” So true.


    • Kathi O’Malley

      Wonderful review Joanne! You were very fair and objective in describing what you saw! You obviously get the relationship part of dog training, and how important respect for the animal is when trying to gain cooperation! I especially liked your comment “Obedience is not a relationship. It is the outcome of a relationship.” Brilliant!

      • Susie

        What kathi Said, couldn’t have put it better.

        The most dangerous and distressing thing that has come out of CM, IMHO, is the people who have watched his show, read his book, and then decided to ‘become’ a trainer/behaviourist. God forbid, there are professional, qualified, time served, experienced trainers and behaviourists out there. Would you let someone who had read a book and seen a show perform surgery on your dog (or your child)? No, you would consult a qualified surgeon. I’m looking forward to the day that all trainers/behaviourists HAVE to be properly qualified before the are allowed to practice’.

    • Cathy Jenkins

      For all those positive training peeps out there, what do you do with a canine that has more interest in killing your dog then eating the all mighty cookie!

      • Rebecca


        If a dog is literally attacking you/your dog, you have to defend yourself – that is not “training” and not relevant to the discussion of CM methods…

        A dog with the level of aggression you describe will not become “friendly” by being choked, kicked, pinched.

        • Cindy

          Rebecca you are totally correct! Training an aggressive dog with aggressive methods just creates more aggression – the dog will get worse not better. There are much better ways to deal with problems like this than using CM methods.

      • k9mythbuster

        Cathy – Unfortunately this comment shows your complete ignorance of non-aversive training. Having worked with thousands of dogs and hundreds of dog-aggressive dogs, I can tell you that the all-mighty cookie can make some amazing changes in the hands of a skilled trainer and has saved many canine lives.

        Time to turn off the television and watch a professional trainer in action.

        • Lee

          I guess you missed the episodes where Cesar used food as an incentive.

          • Nikki

            The benefits of rewards are stifled by the fear of correction. Read the progressive reinforcement training manifesto for more details about true positive reinforcement, and for information on dogs and dog behavior try thanks.

      • Joanne Brokaw

        I live with one of those! Two warring dogs who have sent each other to the hospital! We’ve been working with two local trainers (yes, Ada, who was with me at the event, and Sherri Romig at Tails of Success; there are other trainers as fabulous as them on the sheet handed out that night.) And the change in Bailey is astounding. But it takes a long time, requires a considerable commitment on the part of everyone in the family, and yes, is exhausting. But for the benefit of our dogs our family has made those commitments. And we’ve done all of this work while caring for another dog who just passed away from terminal cancer. So please, I can attest to the absolute investment you have to make to restore a dog’s spirit, and a family’s spirit. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t take 5 mins, and it doesn’t make for great TV, and there are times when you want to cry. So you cry, and know that you are making the best choices for your dogs, choices that have resulted in stronger bonds and calmer, happier dogs. I’m not saying that Cesar Millan doesn’t do that; I’m sure he does. Again, I only know what I saw that night and I wouldn’t want to work with my dog that way. Beyond that, it wouldn’t be fair to comment on.

    • sonja

      Joanne displays all the logic and reasonable thought of a child. She touts her notions of relationships and sensitivity as being superior to Cesar’s methods after stating in the beginning of her piece that she was “at her wits end with three warring dogs…”. Her wits need sharpening before she deigns to call herself a writer.

  • Kathy

    Nicely done, Joanne. Despite the fact that you disagree with the methods that Caesar Millan uses (me too), your reporting of last night’s event was objective. I especially liked the small nuances in Millan’s behavior that you picked up because you were sitting in the audience. I’m almost sorry I didn’t go myself – truthfully? I knew he was coming into Rochester, but then completely forgot about the date of the performance. Because you took the time to write this post, I don’t feel like I missed anything …

    • Joanne Brokaw

      I’m glad I went, but I got my tickets for free. I would not have paid the $35 – $45 to go. But I’m glad I got to see for myself his methods – not that they’re all bad, I’m sure. But I understand now why dog trainers are concerned.

      • Anne Springer

        Many trainers wish that the general public would view him as objectively as you did. You did get one minor point wrong, though. Some trainers DO bring unfamiliar dogs out onto the stage to work with. I recently attended a similar performance by Victoria Stilwell in New Bedford, MA and she worked with shelter dogs. Every dog was more relaxed as it left the stage than it was when it entered. She was funny, too, and very warm when we met, but had no problem making the dogs feel as welcome as the humans;-))

        • Darlene

          I agree Anne. I saw Victoria last year and she did the same in Lowell MA with the Lowell Shelter dogs. She had every one of them on stage before she was done. She admitted that she had met one of the more problem dogs before going on stage but had never seen any of the others. She brought out a pittie puppy and demonstrated how you can train a puppy at that age (less than 3 months old) to sit/down/stay with food rewards and we all laughed as the little guy learned what was expected of him without her EVER touching him other than to pat him sweetly. Why would you hurt your best friend? If you want to hurt your best friend..perhaps you should get a fish and call that your best friend instead!!!

  • Sammi

    Great article, and one which I’ll be sharing. As Kathy says, very objective; but also very true!

    • Joanne Brokaw

      Thanks so much. I like to come to my own conclusion about stuff like this, LOL, so I am sooo thankful I was given the opportunity to see him. I really and truly enjoyed a lot of what he had to say. But what I disagreed with, I disagreed with strongly.

  • Debbie Jacobs

    Thanks for sharing this.

    Just because someone can act and make us laugh, it doesn’t mean that their assessment of what is going on with a dog is accurate, that’s one of the big problems about his show and work. He makes stuff up and manages to convince a lot of people. Dogs in developing countries don’t have ‘psychological’ problems? Really? Not one of them? Just because Cesar says doesn’t make it true.

    Ascribing all problems dogs have to the behavior of their owners isn’t fair, or reasonable. People living with puppy mill rescues or dogs who were never socialized as pups are NOT responsible for the deficits their dogs suffer from. No amount of calm assertiveness can fix a dog who lived in a cage for the first year of his life. But a good trainer can help a dog feel safe and teach them skills.

    I too thought that Cesar ‘loved’ dogs, but I’ve had to change my opinion on that. Given all the information and evidence which contradicts his methodology, and has shown that it’s detrimental to dogs, he’d have changed what he does and says. But he hasn’t. I’m still getting calls from people who are thinking about putting their dog down because it bit them after they tried to alpha roll it.

    • Elisabeth Weiss

      I agree with Debbie.
      I do not trust Cesar one bit. He has more than one chip on his shoulder. I think the “instant” solution culture in this country is going to be the downfall of this country. If Cesar mocks that culture he should not be contributing to it.
      I think Cesar loves himself and not the dogs. He enjoys winning. He is a narcissist of the first order.

    • Nikki

      Completely agree. I believe he “loves” his dogs but in a possessive way, not a partnership. Someone who wants the quality of life that their dog receives is going to research as much as they can, not make observations on a few small packs and generalize them to the entire species (this is what he says he did anyways). I also find it truly frightening that he requires a nondisclosure agreement and those outside these agreements have admitted many dogs are rehomed or euthanized after he works with them. I don’t know about other trainers, but I’m going to keep in touch with “problem” dogs because I truly care about them. Not let them die or get tossed around due to my own methods of training.

  • Beth Burton

    Great article Joanne.
    Cesar does love his dogs but if you look at the pictures of them with him there is no love returned in their eyes. The dogs eyes are fixed & glazed over.

    • Nikki

      I don’t know, I feel like his “love” is a possessive love not a love based on him trusting his dogs and acting as partners (obviously as he needs strict dominance over them).

  • http://petsadviser Dave

    Hi Joanne, great rundown of the show. Really appreciate your observations and commentary.

    • Joanne Brokaw

      Dave, thank you for sharing the link! I think much of the traffic is due to your site! I appreciate the support very much! Let’s work together again, lol.


  • Krystl

    Excellent review- “Cesar Millan is a really great motivational speaker. He has some excellent points about how we humans fail our dogs. His goals for the most part are completely valid. He’s smart, likeable, funny and he really does love his dogs and have a connection with them.

    But I think the paths he’s taking to achieve his goals need to be reevaluated in the light of current research, and for that, I must- forcefully – disagree with his methods.” i think sums up exactly how i feel about CM.

  • Sharon Normandin

    An excellent and very objective review, Joanne, thank you! I honestly don’t think he’s really a brute, or evil; his methods are similar to what I grew up with, and learned from excellent trainers 30 years ago, and which I followed until I “crossed over”, about 10 years ago. Bottom line is, his understanding of canine learning is archaic and has been “debunked”, and while his methods do work to get an obedient dog, there IS a better way, one that won’t hurt your relationship with your dog, and doesn’t have the possibility of undesired fallout; B.F. Skinner showed that a long time ago with laboratory animals, and people like Bob Bailey, Ted Turner,and Karen Pryor took it to the next level with chickens, marine mammals, and eventually dogs, cats and horses. I think we would also make more progress with his methods if we used positive reinforcement for the things that he does well, rather than a constant haranguing criticism of his punitive methods. Imagine, with his personality and cult like following, what we could gain with the general population of pet owners if we could ever get him to realize that he’s wrong, and that there is a better way!

  • Angela

    Thanks for the thoughtful review of CM — I would also add for dogs sneaking stuff that is not theirs, you don’t even need a strong “leave it” command if you teach your dog impulse control games – so the dog learns to ask permission for things they want. Dogs are really smart and Cesar Milan actually undermines their intelligence with his “quick fix”.

  • Michelle

    Thank you for this very objective and honest review of CM’s show. Too often people fall into knee-jerk reactions of either love him or hate him and don’t try to look at what he does objectively. I think this sort of review holds much more weight than ones ranting about how he’s the devil incarnate or gushing like he’s the best thing since sliced bread.

    I’m happy to hear that he seems to have dropped his comparisons of dogs to women in 3rd world countries, which was something that horrified a lot of folks.

    • Joanne Brokaw

      OMG, Michelle, I have never heard that he compared dogs to women in third world countries. See, CM fans, you should be grateful I don’t know more about him. Because if I found those quotes, we’d be having a whole other discussion right now.
      Thanks Michelle, that horrifies me, too!

  • Richard Ford

    Loved what you wrote and I completely understand what you saw in how he actually deals with dogs. I never want my dogs to fear me, or be intimidated by me. I want them to love me and love doing things with me. Although I can’t say I am always positive and that everything in life for my dogs is always fun, I can say that I love them very much and that everything I do for them is out of love and with our relationship in mind. And when we make eye contact , which is often, there is never any fear on their part.

    Like you, I want my dogs to do things because I ask them to, not because they are afraid of the consequences. Sure there are times we have to stand strong as we may have pushy dogs who like to test our boundaries, but I would never do anything to cause fear and rule by fear. That is not the kind of leadership I believe in at all. And I have seen that with many dogs in his show and I too know how shows are faked as I as a part of one on “Good Dog” with Dr. Stanley Coren.

    It is truly sad that people think bullying their dog into submission, calmly or otherwise, is a great thing. Not in this house at all and I hope to help change that. view one day too.

    • Joanne Brokaw

      Richard, it was funny because that day after the show our local radio talk show host was talking about how a local family is going to be on Extreme Couponing All Stars. I guess her actual shop was 30 minutes – it took 12 HOURS to film, because they needed to get shots from all angles, pick up the can with this hand, now the other, now facing this way, etc. So it gets edited into a frantic coupon shop … that took 12 hours to film. THAT is what I don’t think most people understand about reality television, and about dog training on TV and DVD.
      I’d love to hear more about your appearance on Dr. Coren’s show, LOL.

      • Richard Ford

        I can’t say I know what goes on for Cesar Milan’s show, but on the Good Dog show about 10 years ago, it was a cookie cutter show. They filmed everything in one day, unlike they stated in the show on TV with their 2 week follow-up. Dylan had many issues, as she was a rescue Pit Bull who had been wild for at least 2 months until she was captured and placed with the BC SCPCA. When we rescued her, she was afraid of everything, especially people and had a serious barking issue when “intruders” were near. It was obvious she had been beaten by her original owners and you could see the fear of people being near her, leaning over her and toward her from their attempts to capture her.

        Quite frankly our motive for getting her on Dr. Coren’s was not all pure either, as we just wanted to get our other star rescue Pit Bull, Jagger, on TV. She was a sweetheart and very good at tricks. But we wrote the show and asked Dr. Coren to help stop Dog Dylan’s barking. It was a tight fit and a lot of managing Dylan around so many people with so much equipment (which she also feared) in tight quarters.

        Basically the show was intro, demo, discussion, solution, demo, 2 week follow up, look how great my dog is; thank-you Dr. Coren ;-) in a nutshell.

        Dr. Coren’s solution was to use my good dog Jagger, who was quieter, to teach Dylan to be quiet. Her calm and quiet being rewarded, next to Dylan, would make Dylan be quiet to get a reward. This worked with familiar people.

        So when the producer changed his clothes and appeared as the stranger for the 2-week follow-up visit for the end of the show, he had been with Dylan all day and I had been working on getting Dylan calmer to all the people all day. When he walked in after 8 hours of getting to know Dylan, it worked really well.

        The reality was nothing like that really and if anything, Dylan was more likely to convert Jagger into barking at real strangers. Dr. Coren’s solution was silly too if you ask me. Dylan, now 11, still barks at strangers, but stops quickly if they move on, or I ask. I have 4 dogs now so I have a crew I silence and I don’t need a door bell to know someone is near. In fact, I can tell friend or foe, as well as if they stay or move on without a door bell.

        Dylan loves people now thanks to my work with her and really gets excited and noisy for friends. But since she was so afraid of people in the beginning of her life, I only ask nicely for some quiet after her greeting when her friends come over. It is a true joy to see her happy to see people she likes and I like to let her be happy. Even more so lately after a couple of close brushes with death this last year (Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia), but she is a happy dog, doing well now.

        • Joanne Brokaw

          Thanks for sharing that! I hope people read it and think a little before they believe everything in life is solved in 27 minute increments! And I hope Dylan lives a long, healthy life! We lost one of our beloved collies this month to cancer; he was only 5. :(


      • Richard Ford

        I also wanted to point out that although I do think Cesar reads dogs and their behavior well, his understanding of canine behavior is not what I have observed on many occasions. Mostly when he is using fear flooding, which he says creates calm submission. In my opinion, it creates learned helplessness, docile and lifeless dogs and in some cases, it is simply exhaustion and will return. In most of the cases where it is exhaustion and in some other cases where the dogs fear Cesar, but not the owners or others, there is trouble brewing. To say he does not use fear against dogs would be silly, since I only have to watch his show to prove it. This is often intentionally portrayed as calm submission on the show, when I can still see fear and stress. I am not against the use of some corrections in dog training either, I just prefer minimal use and use mostly a verbal “No Reward Marker” to indicate unwanted behavior and I mark and reward positive behavior constantly to balance out any use of corrections, which Cesar does not do naturally and never has . Eye contact, acknowledgement, reassurance are big components of my relationship with my dogs, not fear and I don’t see this taught by CM either.

  • Bren Axon

    I very much enjoyed this piece and as a positive reinforcement trainer, I deplore CM’s methods. I thought you gave an objective view of your experiences. I wish that most dog owners could see his methods in the same way. You are right when you say that dog owners that tend to follow his “lead” are more results orientated than anything else.

    I recently came across a woman whose mini eskimo dog growled at the dogs of the people I was with. She threw it to the ground and held it down causing it to yelp in fright/pain. It continued growling at the dogs. I walked over to her and asked why she was doing it. She looked up at me (she was still holding the little chap down) and said “Well, that’s what Cesar Milan tells us to do when our dog is growling at other dogs”. I then explained to her that this was not advisable and explained the reasons why. She said the dog was people aggressive too. Turned out he was a rescue from a puppy mill that had also been physically abused so he was afraid of dogs and people. And there she was, his rescuer, abusing him all over again. She told me that she had been doing this to him for a year and the behaviour was actually getting worse. We talked a while and I explained why it was getting worse, and how to try to overcome his fear of dogs and people and why the method I suggested would work better. I demonstrated to her how it would work using treats in my pocket. Within a few minutes the little dog was no longer growling at me, but sniffing my leg and eventually took a treat or two from my hand. She said that she was so glad she had talked to me and that she would try what I suggested – she said that she was fed up with doing this to her dog and felt that they needed to try something different.

    How many dogs are “out there” with owners like that who think that CM is right and they should abuse their dogs in the name of training? I can tell if someone comes to me to board their dog or for training whether they have previously used CM’s methods (or indeed the methods of a trainer who is our area’s version of CM). Their dogs may be compliant but their dogs don’t trust them and they are afraid.

    CM has started using clicker training and he has started to use food and so I commend him for that. We positive trainers long for the day when he completely comes over from the “dark side” and owners get proper training advice from his programmes, books and DVDs. Dog-kind I think, will be much better off for it.

    • Lisa

      I totally agree with Bren, great piece!
      I actually think that I have read somewehere that CM once said he only used positive reinforcement because of the pressure from all sides, not because he had changed his mind and thought that was a better way. I really hope this man either will start using his brain and heart to train dogs or stop doing it.

    • Joanne Brokaw

      Bren, that makes me want to cry. Because I honestly do not think dog owners like you describe want to hurt or scare their dogs. They simply don’t know any better. I think people see things on TV and DVDs and have no idea how much work happens in between the frames. Thank you for taking time to show her another way. Your few minutes of kindness have probably changed that dog/owner relationship for the better forever!

    • dan

      lol. cesar method is “abuse” by putting a dog on its side and holding on ground?

      you made great progress with dog and dog was so happy cause you gave it treats? you sound like a hippie.

  • Wendy

    Thanks for the great read. It was incredibly well written. I agree with everything you said, I just would never have been able to put it so well.

  • Vicky

    Nice article..very well written and objective.

  • Pauline Horniblow

    loved your article. Well written and objective. I, too, have a rescue dog and she is trained using only positive reinforcement methods. I can only imagine how damaging using CM’s ‘training’ methods on her would be. I never want her to look at me with fear or distrust in her eyes and I know she never will because she is loved and always treated with respect.

  • Anna V

    “dogs are not wolves any more than men are apes”
    That is very wrong. Dogs and wolves are part of the same species (canis lupus) which is also why they can produce offspring. People and apes are not even the same genus much less the same species.
    For the record, I mostly agree with the rest of your article about Cesar. Also, I do agree that, what works with wolves, does not work with dogs necessarily. But whether we like it or not, dogs and wolves are very closely related.

    • Richard Ford

      Closely related yes, same species yes, but domesticated dogs are the only ones who recognize human gestures and respond to facial expressions and increase performance on tasks for human attention. Wolves will do it for food if they are hungry, same for apes, chimps, etc. This makes them unique and very special and in my opinion.

  • RU

    thank you for your article.i,m sorry but on Cesar’s behalf, i thought it was interesting thought, that you never watched his show for someone that was interested in finding out the truth about his methods in one night., just as you mention it takes a loooooong time to train a dog.
    several points I want to make, I think Cesar is aware that it is television and that the reason he started a show was to help train people and rehabilitate dogs just as he says. On the television screen it indicates the time lapse to train the dog. He always mentions that we need to take time to train the dog no matter how long it takes. I commend him for coming to peoples rescue and really bettering the situation and saving the lives of dogs that were about to be put down.
    It sounds like most of you responding in here are dog trainers that don’t agree with his methods and I feel its ok, but, with any kind of training it takes discipline and its not always a pretty picture.
    My brother was worse than how you describe Cesar, but his dog, never left his side and only listened to him. My brother had an uncanny love for his dog took him everywhere and he was part of the family, and you knew his dog reciprocated. We arfe a family that loves dogs and used some of Milan methods and we love his show and feel his dogs love him too. But just because he trains differently from the way you do doesn’t mean its wrong either.

    • Molly KokorudA

      I am puzzled by all this negativity. We must be watching two different shows on TV. I don’t find the dogs that he works with frightened of him. Never noticed a glazed over look in their eyes.
      The show is just for helping people and dogs and not a time for him to love and play with the dogs. I am frankly stunned by this reaction. I wouldn’t go to his show or read his book but I think he does a good job and never says the dog is done after he has worked with them for 20 and an hour. Owners need to practice. He comes back. Maybe this is a little jealousy about all the attention he gets. I like Victoria’s approach, too.

  • George Norman

    Thank you for your accurate reporting. It confirms what we already knew, that CM is first and foremost an entertainer, and dogs are only part of the act. I know that if I tried an alpha roll with my rescue dog, who was badly damaged due to people failure, I would either end up with a lot of holes in my hide, or a dog curled up in the back of his crate for a day or two, neither of which is a desirable outcome.
    Our relationship, far from being parasitic, is one of mutual respect. We both have boundaries that the other is not allowed to cross, and we both provide our own equal value to the relationship. I am “The Keeper of the Joy”. Milo provides focus, attention, cuddles, and the most prominent half of an agility team.
    There is a point you touched on, which I think is the most important aspect of our training methods. When we forgo harsh correction and punishment, and concentrate on reinforcing positive behavior, it changes the way we relate to everything else in our lives. We become more positive, respectful, and sensitive ourselves in our relationships with people and things around us, and it changes our lives forever. May you all be fortunate enough to find a dog one day that teaches you everything.

  • Matt

    All I can say is, WOW!!! You are so far out of touch with what he is doing!!!!! Read his book, watch his shows, and THEN you can make an intelligent comment about his training methods. As for his “wire thin lead”, it was a simple rope leash that is available at pet stores everywhere. He places it in the PROPER location, high on the dogs neck, and makes quick corrections when necessary. He is NOT abusing the dog, and the leash was relaxed when he wasn’t correcting the dog. Your distant balcony seat obviously didn’t give you good perspective. As for the hours and hours of preperation for his “TV reality”, many of the shows time how long he spent with the dog until he got the behavior he wanted. Most of the time, the problem lies with the owner, not the dog. Therefore, when Cesar shows up, the dog behaves almost immediately. This is not out of fear of Cesar, just respect for his calm assertive energy. Again, watch the shows. All of them. Read the books. Then, and only then, do you have the basis to form an intelligent opinion!

    • RU

      thank you Matt! I was beginning to think I ws the only one in here that has mutual feelings! I luv Cesar and his show and all that he does to help both dogs and families! I really don’t get what this is all about in here! oh well. Best to all dog trainers who just want the best for dogs!

      • Joanne Brokaw

        RU, thank you for not being a nasty CM fan. I appreciate your comments and the fact you disagreed with me without … well, being a jerk. That was a really nice way to share your thoughts and I truly thank you for taking the time to do it!

    • Richard Ford

      I had to stop watching his show. I have seen him haul dogs up stairs by their necks, completely afraid using fear against them. The fear flooding I have witnessed on his show has crushed many dogs into submission and many he claims are over it are simply exhausted, but completely afraid. How about the mobile dog washer episode? I would never allow much of what he does on my dogs, or the dogs of people I know. Some of what he does I have no problem with, but I have seen him use fear and cause fear to gain control and claim it is not fear. I won’t say I have never corrected a dog, as I have and I use verbal marking of behavior I don’t want, but I love my dogs and I never use fear against them!

      • Molly KokorudA

        We must be watching two different shows.

    • Nikki

      This was a review of her night watching him, not of him or his methods in general. Which she said repeatedly. Personally I have read two of his books and watched multiple seasons (more than half) of his shows, and ascribe to strict Progressive Reinforcement training techniques. They work often in the same amount of time, with deeper bonding and a dog who will behave well as default, not just when asked. I politely suggest you take some courses or get some reading material in dog language including calming signals and when they are used, as these subtle signals are often missed by Cesar supporters. Also human body language is good to study as well, I suspect on the inside Cesar is not as calm as he appears, as betrayed by microexpressions leaking out on occasion. Dogs are the best body language readers, and pick up on these faster than humans. I digress. Anyways, I hope that you will look at the peaceful arguments written by purely positive trainers since you urge others to read up on Cesar’s methods before they speak in regard to him. I highly suggest Sophia Yin’s website, Emily L’s website and :)

  • Lawrence Frederick

    You did an amazing job of clarifying almost to a “T” my own thoughts on CM. You gave credit where credit was due and criticism where most people fall short on his actual methods.

    • Joanne Brokaw

      Thank you !

  • Jonathan Klein

    Great review and great perspective from someone who I presume is a layperson, not a dog trainer. I have a great deal of experience with CM. I have watched him train and I have worked with dogs that went through his training and have been on his show. I have spent the last 23 years trying to learn and promote different and better methods.
    To anyone who thinks his methods are not abusive the dogs I have seen were shut down and afraid to do anything to the point of being like an over-wound clock spring tight, immobile and ready to spin out of control.
    Unfortunately my audience is smaller, but I had the privilege to give a talk on the benefits of positive training and the problem with punishment and pain based training at one of the local libraries. I have posted it on my website at for anyone who wants to see it.
    I hope more people will open their minds and their eyes and look more closely. Great job Joanne

    • Joanne Brokaw

      Jonathan, correct, I am not a dog trainer, just an avid reader about animal behavior. I find it wildly interesting and have read everything from “Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog” to Coppinger’s”Dogs” to Coren’s “How to Speak Dog.” I’m slowly working my way thru an openware MIT course on ethology. I read things on all sides of the aisle because I think it’s important to really understand not only what you agree with but what you don’t agree with as well. Which is why I really am not on the “bash Cesar Millan” bandwagon. I can comment on what I’ve seen – although I really wish people would recognize that TV is … well, TV. It’s not reality; but it’s given us this “identify, address, and resolve a problem in 46 minutes” mentality. So I really was not a fan of the second half of the show, and the more I hear from CM fans the more I more I find not to like about his methods. They are definitely not good ambassadors for their idol. Thankfully, I was able to form an opinion of the actual man from what I saw that night; he seemed funny and passionate, and quite frankly I think he probably does have a very special way of communicating with animals that most people don’t have. But I don’t think you can teach it … especially with force.
      Thanks for the kind words!

  • Joyce

    Maybe some of your issues are with the culture we are both from. We are trained – yes – trained to see a dog as a human. I have always liked animals and have had them around me. But when I watch Milan I don’t see pinching, kicking, etc. I see him move the dog with his leg, and poke the dog to get the dogs attention. And his dog daddy seems to follow him (not sure if Daddy is still alive) like a puppy dog off a leash. In dog show they put a certain type of harness on and the dog knows it is in show time. Perhaps this dog knew when that leash was on it was in show time. Dogs are still pack animals. They are domesticated but they will still join packs. As for Victoria Stillwell, if I don’t think I could walk around with an apron all day to train my dogs like she does. I could not build my entire focus on my dog as she shows. I have relationships with people. I think she has many good points but I don’t believe she is capable of handling the aggression Milan can. Yes some of the things you report Cesar as saying can be offensive and does show bias but I would rather have Milan train my dogs.

    • Robin

      Sorry but you are wrong that dogs are pack animals, social animals yes but not pack animals. Wild dogs do form very short term relationships with other dogs to fulfil their needs, ie breeding…and will gather in places where there is food and shelter located but the gathering is transient, take away the food and shelter and they will likely go their seperate ways…

      they do not have the same level of social structure that wolves have. They will not live in family groups, they do not raise each others young, if given the chance they will ALL breed not just the alpha male/female (as in wolf packs)

  • Leo Skibbild Jepsen

    Love to get an inside review, a truthfull report is always velcome, instead of some CM hype info.
    I for one would never spend the money, I know what he is and what he does, and I would just get more angry watching him in person.
    Last may he had a talk planned in Copenhagen, Denmark, we know him in Denmark too!, we got the TV-show on national cancelled some years ago, and we made them cancel the show in Copenhagen too, it only takes a united front, and some media’s joining the fight to make him leave the country.
    I heard that he resited Gandhi in Rochester
    qoute begin:
    The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be jugded by the way its animals are treated.
    qoute end:
    Do he actually know what the words mean ??

    Thank you Joanne

    • Joanne Brokaw

      Leo, I was really, really surprised to see that quote on the screen. I would never, ever put a prong collar on my dog, for example, and I think I would find doing so inconsistent with the quote from Ghandi.
      And I don’t know if he chose the closing music or if the venue did, but it was Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,” which I found a tad bit ironic, LOL.
      Thanks for taking time from Denmark to write!

    • Nicky

      This may be completely out of line but I wish Ghandi were alive to Tsst and “touch” him in his sensitive parts. OH WAIT, HE NEVER WOULD. ;)

  • Risa

    If you’re going to publicly judge and write such an incredibly nasty and biased review on a person who truly adores, respects and helps both animals and their caregivers, but whose methods simply differ from ‘your’s, you really should do your homework prior to cutting them to shreds!! Your words don’t carry much validity imo given you’ve never even watched his show, read his books, logged onto his site, read any of his training material, etc. I believe your opinion was well and truly formed long before you entered that room. Shame on you!

    • Anthony Merrick

      Well said!

    • Joanne Brokaw

      Again, Risa, because I think that some of the people have forgotten how to read, this is a review. I did not write a comprehensive study of Cesar Millan. I wrote about that night, what I saw, what I observed, and what I thought about it. Quite frankly, from the little I know about Cesar Millan, I have to say that his fans really aren’t helping me like him any more.

    • Nikki

      What a rude thing to say about someone who is simply trying to learn about different techniques, and give an honest opinion. Frankly I believe that YOUR mind was made up about her and her REVIEW as soon as you found that she was a raging fan such as yourself. Sorry, that was written with more emotion than should have been in a civil discussion, but this is my own humble opinion.

  • Anthony Merrick

    I find this review to be disturbing.The writer clearly states that she knew nothing about Cesar prior to walking in.”After watching the parody” you now have an opinion? So you primarily based your review on the cartoon that you watched during his appearance? Not to mention comments like,”puffy jacket”,or “sparkling earring”.What on earth does this have to do with dog training?I find that to be unnecessary,as well as off topic and unprofessioinal.
    As far as the dog he brought on stage,anyone who was there would tell you that the dog looked very relaxed and not the least bit affraid of him.Your interpretation of the dogs body language was clearly based on your own emotion.Do you have a education in canine psychology?
    If you had taked the time to watch him prior to raking him over the coals you would in fact see that he does use whatever tools the owners are currently working with.I am so sure that it was not to offend the “Positive Trainers” in the audience because lets face it-they are far to cult like and opinionated to ever be open minded enough to sit in a room with him and hear what he has to say.(I have no problem with positive training,in fact it works for some dogs indeed).It is the positive training community that with their combative approach and personal attacks send people running the other way.When was the last time you saw the “open minded” training community protest a “clicker event”,or their icon Victoria Stillwell?
    As far as the “trainer” that you spoke with.Her credentials are what?There are dozens of self proclaimed “trainers” in our area that seem to only know and use ONE method.Not very well rounded if you ask me. Hiding the food from the dog is certianly not a solution by any means.When trainers are not educated on truly resolving issues the tend to use the “sweep it under the rug” method.
    In closing I am deeply saddend that as a “reporter” of this event that you chose to parrot the information of others vs. state an opinion that is based on his philophy and the thousands of dogs that he contines to save nationwide.Perhaps next time you are asked to give an unbiased review of an event you should have something more solid to base it on.

    • Joe

      It should be pointed out that Cesar does not have any official dog trainer credentials himself. And the trainer who advised “if a dog is stealing food, move the food to where the dog can’t get it” is simply presenting common sense. If a dog is given repeated opportunities to successfully snatch food, that dog is being strongly reinforced / rewarded for the stealing behavior and they WILL continue to steal because dogs are smart and they do what works! The leave it part of her advice is real ‘dog training’ and goes beyond basic common sense. You bring up an excellent point that there are never protests at clicker or positive reinforcement training events. And there’s a good reason for that…

    • Joanne Brokaw

      No a reporter, dear reader, a reviewer. And I did not base my opinion of him on the South Park parody – although I certainly have an opinion of the fans who cheered that little charade! I based my opinon, as I said, on what I saw and heard about his methods. I certainly did not rake him over the coals; I spoke very highly of him on many, many levels. There is much to like about Cesar Millan. But perhaps you only saw what you wanted to see in the review rather than consider someone else’s opinion with an open mind? Just a thought.

    • Joanne Brokaw

      Anthony, a review is … imagine this! … biased! I’m giving my opinion about the event that I am witnessing. That’s why sometimes you can read reviews from people who like, oh let’s say movies, and some people who hate the same movie. (I am finding that the word “review” is causing a lot of problems for Mr. Millan’s fans, as they seem to lack an understanding of the word, for some reason.)

      No, I do not have a formal education in canine psychology. I do a lot of reading about animal behavior, though, hundreds of books over the last several years, from Konrad Lorenz to “Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog” to Coppingers incredibly indepth but fascinating study of dog behavior, origin, & evolution. From ethologist Patricia McConnell and the incredibly fascinating Temple Grandin to books about cats and birds and lobsters (my word, do you know fascinating lobster sex is?). I’ve read things I agree with, things I don’t agree with, and form opinions myself. I’ve shadowed a dog trainer, and I interview lots and lots of people who work animals and am currently (slowly) working my way through an open courseware class from MIT on animal behavior. But I do not have any formal training or education about animals – nor does Mr. Millan, for that matter. I don’t think I need formal training in canine behavior to write a review of an event. Much the way you don’t need formal training to write a review of a review!


    • Ali

      “Your interpretation of the dogs body language was clearly based on your own emotion.Do you have a education in canine psychology?” Cesar doesn’t. In fact, he doesn’t have any type of credentials at all. Why should we listen to him?
      “…he does use whatever tools the owners are currently working with” Yes, he gives corrections to dogs wearing Gentle Leaders (jerking a dog’s head sharply can cause neck/spine damage; something Cesar either doesn’t know or care about) but I’ve also seen him put shock collars on dogs. He’s willing to up the punishment if the owner doesn’t have the proper equipment around.
      “…I am deeply saddend that as a “reporter” of this event…” She’s not a reporter, she’s doing a review. Read the article again.

    • Nikki

      As Joe pointed out Cesar has no credentials in dog behavior, dog language, or even dog training. Anyone who does will tell you all about the calming signals, “plastered” ears, firm jaws and rapid eye movements that all signify fear or stress. Try looking up Jean Donaldson, Dr (as in PhD) Sophia Yin, CAAB Patricia B McConnell, Dr (as in PhD) Ian Dunbar, Nicole Wilde, Turrid Rugaas, Karen Pryor, etc who have all had extensive training and credentials. I am personally a purely positive trainer and do not use combative techniques to educate people. Frankly my favorite technique of educating the public is taking my own stubborn breed high drive dogs out in public and showing off their fantastic behavior and listening skills. Never used an ounce of force on them. I also would like to point out that regardless of the fact that his methods do work short term (many dogs have had to be euthanized due to his rehabilitation, which is why I say short term), his explanations based on dominance theory are flat out wrong. This is proven, it’s fact, there’s just no reason to debate it. It’s like arguing that germs don’t exist or dinosaurs are a hoax. Based on this, I would ask anyone who is willing to accept this truth to watch his new episodes (as any previous ones will be looked upon with bias having heard his explanations before) with the sound turned completely off at first. You’ll get a more objective story that way. If you’ve read all this than thanks for your time.

  • Kate

    I was at the show and share many of your expressed impressions. The first half was some of the most brilliant stand up comedy I’ve ever witnessed. The South Park opening to the second half of the show was shocking! I think it presented Cesar’s Way from the perspective of: would you do this to your human child? The kid in the clip even made comments like “can’t you see I’m unhappy and humiliated?” What I observed in the clips Cesar showed and in his interaction with the live dog on stage was that he is not solving problems. He’s creating dogs with learned helplessness. (Which he interprets as “calm submission”). Dogs that shut down because they are confused, scared, and in survival mode. Cesar also did not seem half as knowledgeable as your average pet store chain employee when it came to simple questions asked by the audience. Again, the stand up comedy act at the beginning was “worth the price of admission” but it really is where Cesar’s talent ended for me.

    • Joanne Brokaw

      Honest, I was completely stunned by the Q&A. He really did seem either stumped or tired or something. Halfway through I turned to the trainer with me – who yes, organized the protest, and said, “I’m not sure what the fuss is all about. I haven’t heard one thing I really disagreed with yet, except the ‘dogs don’t think’ notion.” Then I watched the second half of the show and saw things that yes, I was uncomfortable with.

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  • Jenna Demott

    I see that the author of this article is all over the “Protest Cesar Millan” facebook page!! Clearly she had an opinion of him prior to walking in.Shame on your dishonesty.How misleading to claim that you had no opinion prior to his show.That right there blows any and all credibility of your article :(

    • Joanne Brokaw

      I am not “all over” the FB page – I have not, if you had taken time to see, even “liked” the FB page. Since this is an opinion piece – hence the term “review” – I get to write about what I observed and thought based on those observations. And look! You get to do the same in the comments! :)

  • Janice Allocco-Ange

    Actually I have to add that there are some inaccuracies to this review. The dog Cesar brought on stage did not appear stressed in any way, but completely calm. In fact the dog lay down at one point (far from being “on alert”). The “wire thin” lead (which was actually a rope) that Cesar held certainly didn’t cause the dog any discomfort (And I was in the second row). In addition, the reviewer failed to mention that this dog had put Cesar in the hospital because of food aggression. Cesar’s helper was definitely not comfortable holding the dog, so the change in the dog’s behavior with her compared to Cesar isn’t surprising. (And the dog did not “freeze” when Cesar took the lead). I think Cesar’s total point with this dog was that is possible to correct a behavior that can be a danger to humans. Some may have just thought it best to put this dog down.

    I attended his show in Raleigh, NC. Junior, his pitbull, came with him. Junior came running out on stage with Cesar at the onset of the show, tail wagging and obviously “happy”. If Cesar treats his dogs so poorly, then I wouldn’t have witnessed a completely normal and happy dog with Cesar in North Carolina.

    Unless you have spent a great deal of time learning about Cesar through reading his books and magazine articles, listening to him speak in the many interviews he has given or videos he has created (not just watching the dog whisperer), you couldn’t possibly understand what he is all about, by attending this show. He is a gifted man in my eyes. I certainly know that not everyone would agree and that is fine with me. As Cesar would say, “I respectfully disagree” with the reviewer that Cesar’s methods are harsh and bully like.

    • Kate

      I was there (and I would win a contest against anyone as far as knowledge about Cesar and his Way). The dog on stage at the show was generally in shut down mode any time Cesar was on the other end of the leash or interacting with the dog in any way. Again, what Cesar calls “calm submission” is often a misinterpretation of learned helplessness. Cesar himself always talks about a level tail set. Not high and over-confident, not low or tucked, but level – parallel to the floor. The dog on stage carried a low, low tail set any time Cesar was near. The gentle wiggling posture Cesar always imitates to demonstrate what a happy relaxed dog looks like was not there with this dog, at least when interacting with Cesar.

      While on the topic of the dog on stage, I was so embarrassed by my fellow audience members who oooohed and awwwwed loudly over the dog as she first came on. This was right after Cesar just got done illustrating how stupid this behavior is and how it sets dogs up to fail.

      Cesar has a lot to contribute to the dog world. Concepts like the importance of energy, NO LOOK, NO TALK, NO TOUCH, and the importance of exercise to prevent and solve certain behavior issues. He has some methods that are outdated and even dangerous (the warning at the beginning of the show says DO NOT TRY AT HOME!) He is not perfect and he is not the devil.

    • Joanne Brokaw

      Janice, those are great points but remember that this is a review, not a complete dissertation on Cesar Millan. I admitted that I haven’t spent a great deal of time learning about him or reading or anything of the sort. I can only comment on what I saw, what I observed based on my own education about animal behavior and current research. I think he’s a lovely man and has a lot to agree with about the problems with dog owners, etc. Not a fan of the second half of the show.

  • Lisa Ann Germano

    Jenna-Yes,I see that the The “trainer” who is quoted in this article is the admin.of the “Protest Cesar” page.The writter is trying to convince us that she walked in with an open mind? Wow,they must think we are all clueless to what the real agenda of this article was.

    • Joanne Brokaw

      Lisa, I am the writer and I DID walk in there with an open mind. You don’t have to believe me for it to be true. :)

  • Cindy

    He is a “showman” and he does that well. In order to be a good “showman” you have to have some good points to keep that public image and he does have some good points.
    But, though this may sound harsh, it is my opinion . . . He only fools the people that don’t know any better

  • Blue dog

    Cindy -”He only fools the people that don’t know any better” – totally agree. He does raise a lot of money for charity – and even more for himself. I don’t think he is the devil incarnate but I would not waste my time watching his show. I agree that we trainers that use primarily positive reinforcement can seem cult like and this turns people off but it is because we passionately beleive in what we do and see the harm that a trainer that uses primarily positive punishment can do. But we need to take our criticism down a notch because spouting science does not convince the average dog owner CM is wrong. I think that we need to be a little more considered in what we say. Just get out there and lead by good training example

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  • Carey Cranor

    Ma’am I think you misinterpret what Cesear Milan is trying to do and how his method’s work. First of all I think we can all agree that your section on the South Park clip was irrelevant, at best. All he was trying to do was show that he could laugh at himself and you took it as “he’s leading the crowd into a barbaric jeering session”, failing to comprehend what the purpose of the clip was more because you didn’t get the joke. Now lets get on to the actually demonstration part, you say that when Cesar Milan grabbed the dog by the scruff you claimed it hurt, however; you do not no this. You assume this, because you know it would hurt you to be grabbed on the back of the neck and you humanized that dog. Your article was littered with jabs at Milan based on your own personal bias you built up over watching him demonstrate his methods that differed from yours and you failed to fully understand, instead you took the time to write an article based on one show you’d seen instead of maybe watching an episode of his T.V. show or reading some of his books. By the time I finished reading what you wrote I wasn’t even mad that you took jabs at Milan, I was disappointed that you didn’t give enough evidence to back up your claim. You went on what you felt and slandered a man who loves dogs and loves to help people understand dogs. And as for you being a Christian and being judged, no one is judging you for being a Christian people judge you because you claim to be judged as a Christian. You make yourself the victim in this case so that when you say something derogatory and anyone might question you, you have this fail-safe trick card in which you claim you’re being persecuted and judged. I’m sorry you didn’t give Cesar Milan enough time to explain his methods before you made judgement because you have truly narrowed your views and made yourself close-minded. Good luck to you, I hope your methods work out and I’m sad you couldn’t wish that for someone else.

    • Joanne Brokaw

      Carey, this is not an article. It’s a review. I would be happy to explain the difference if there’s confusion about that. But here is my evidence to back up my opinions in this review: I was there, I saw the show, I know what I liked, I know what I didn’t like. Ta da – review! Fortunately you get to write your own review of my review in the comment section and quote things I didn’t say, like “he’s leading the crowd into a barbaric jeering session” – which is not an opinion but a flat out lie, as I did not say that.
      I’m sorry you’re sad. Until this week I had almost no contact with Cesar Millan fans. But so far they all seem kind of angry and sad. :( I think you all might need some cookies.

      • Carey Cranor

        Well Joanne, thank you for offering cookies but I actually have some in my pantry and if I need some I’ll grab some later, but you have characterized Cesar Milan fans as angry and sad, but this is an review criticizing him so I think they have a right to be angry. As for sadness I feel that so far I’m the only person whose actually sad so far but maybe that’s because I didn’t read through all the Cesar abuses dogs comments, maybe some of them are sad I mean the people who agree with you don’t seem particularly happy either. And just to let you know I’ve seen some of Cesar Milan’s shows but, I’m not what you’d call a dedicated fan I just think that your review could have had a lot more evidence than just comments on his showmanship and what you perceived was happening to the dog. I’m sorry about the comment about the ” barbaric jeering session” that was in ill taste and I do sincerely apologize, but I think your underlying message that he was more a showman and motivational speaker was also in poor taste and I think maybe you should of checked up on him a little bit more instead of shall we say, judging a book by its cover. By the way characterizing Cesar Milan fans is a little vindictive don’t you think?


        • Joanne Brokaw

          Carey, no need to apologize, I honestly am thrilled that people can share comments. It’s your right to do that, and I am truly glad you took the time! Honest! It takes a lot to offend me, and I really do understand that we’re talking about an extremely popular guy who brings out very passionate emotions on both sides.

          And honest, I am stunned by the difference in spirit between the CM fans and the other commentors. And I have read thru all of the comments. They seem to be really angry with me and I’ve only read one or two comments from CM fans who understood that this is a review and who disageed with me pleasantly. At the same time, in the interest of fairness, I have read some anti-Cesar stuff on the internet that offends me to the core, and I speak out about that just as loudly. I know you didn’t get to read that here, but I am absolutely not a fan of the “get the shotguns, Cesar’s coming to town” – and that literally was the (tongue in cheek)response on some FB pages. I find that rude, offensive and really inappropriate. There are jerky people on both sides of this aisle, lol.

          But this is a review – I wrote about what I saw that night and how I felt about what I saw, and really, I went there with no preconcieved notions because I knew almost nothing about him. I don’t know if you got a chance to read my other article, on what advances have been made in research that makes the “pack theory” outdated, but I would encourage you to check it out, and then check out some resources.

          NOT because I want to talk you out of following CM, but because I’d love for you to follow a moral compass or philosophy that allows for appreciation of what people like Cesar Millan (or Victoria Stillwell or Suzanne Clothier or the folks at Dogtown or whatever trainer or dog celeb you want to name) do well, what they may not do well, and how you can incorporate those things into your own dog training so you can help build a long lasting, trusting relationship with your animal. (See, that’s something Cesar and I agree on! Stability, calmness, honestly, loyalty, integrity!)

          I have used forceful methods of training on my dogs – and as I learned more about animal communication, animal behavior, fear and anxiety in dogs, and started working with other methods, I realized that … OMG I had done some horrible things to my dog and made the problems, which I had been ignorant about identifying, worse. To this day, I cannot express the guilt I carry over that.

          But Carey, thank you for taking time to share your thoughts. Honest. I am not arrogant enough to think I can’t learn something, or that I have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I can see in Mr. Millan some wonderful things, and disagree with other things, hope that someday he’ll change his mind ;) but isn’t that how life is? And you have given me a few good story ideas, LOL, so thank you!


          • Carey Cranor

            Well, I must say I rather enjoyed your reply to my comment I thought it was very well said and well spoken but I don’t think I’ll be checking out the bark around town site today because I am a little taken a back by people’s loathing for Cesar Milan. I’d also like to say that whether his methods work I believe depends on the dog. I have two shelter dogs who are polar opposites and one who likes to dominate and be a bit bossy and sometimes a little aggressive I have found his techniques work well on her but the other is timid and I won’t even try them on her because she would just be afraid. And a little bit of background on Cesar (This is just something I found out about him) is that his methods are more to help undo bad training and aggression so they may seem rough because it takes a strong hand to comfort a dog that has been hurt and once they realize that he is in control but not hurting him then the normal training can begin. I like that you took the time to respond to me and I appreciate the open-mindedness you’ve shown, but I did notice in some of the comments that you said that this was just a review of his show that day I can’t say I’m inclined to believe that because you pointed out in your review things you didn’t like about him, in general. But I now understand that you are a much more open-minded person than I thought and I appreciate you explaining your thoughts to me and I’d love to hear about your story ideas some time.

          • Joanne Brokaw

            Carey, I know that reader just chided me for commenting, but to be honest, it’s the only way I can interact with my readers, and whether they agree or disagree with me, I do like to do that. I think there’s always the opportunity to learn – and I think it’s definitely worth looking into more specifically what CM fans love about his training methods and what CM non-fans don’t. Because I’m finding it really fascinating that they seem to be talking about the same things – how can people feel so polarly opposite about the same things? LOL And since I’m not a dog trainer … well, that just piques my interest! One thing you just said that is soo telling about your relationship with your dogs: you KNOW your dogs. You knew that one dog would not respond to those kinds of tecniques so you listened. You get a million gold stars for that, because to be honest there are a lot of people who follow a leader blindly and do what he tells them – I hear “Cesar says …” a lot but I don’t know that I hear as much “My dog says …” if that makes sense.
            Thanks for chatting, Carey!

      • Lisa Ann Germano

        Dear Joanne,
        Your sarcasm is unproffesional and not very “christian like”.This page should be more for readers comments,not for you to continue to spew your single sided views.”I think you all may need some cookies” Really Ms.Brokaw?

        • Joanne Brokaw

          Lisa Ann, I respond in the comments because it’s the only way I really can interact with readers, which I love to do – because I love them whether we agree or disagree. That you see my “single sided views” just shows me that you haven’t read either the entire article or comments, because I am not single sided on anything – and that includes my religion.
          Thanks for taking time to post!

          • Lisa Ann Germano

            That was a nice response.It shows a warmer side that I had not seen.Thank you.

          • Joanne Brokaw

            Lisa Ann, honest, I had NO idea that this review would bring out such a torrent of emotion about Mr. Millan. So I understand the emotions flowing here and am glad to have the chance to chat with readers on both sides. Clearly, I have a lot to learn about Mr. Millan, but I hope others on that side of the aisle will also see there is a lot to learn from other methods as well. Because in the end, we ought to be following a moral compass, a life philosophy or spiritual path that brings us into a closer relationship with our animals – not following a specific man (or woman, for that matter), no matter how much we love their dog training methods.

          • Lisa Ann Germano

            Now that is something that we can agree upon:)I would love nothing more then to see the gap bridged between training communities.As a client of both sides,I often feel pressured my my trainers to strictly follow ALL of their teachings.I keep the bits and pieces of what works for me and my 3 dogs.

  • Valerie D

    While I respect differing opinions, I wholeheartedly disagree with you. My 3 dogs have all become more obedient with just some minor application of Cesar’s methods. While I can only assume that they are happy to be with me by reading their body language, I really do believe that they are more obedient because they want to be, not because I bully them to behave. I don’t even have to use verbal commands or “pinch” them, they will now obey a snap and a hand gesture, which is often an invitation for a belly rub, not just a correction. I do recommend that you read Cesar’s book for a more detailed explanation of his philosophy. It may or may not change your mind, but I think it could possibly soften your opinion of Cesar’s Way.

  • Amber

    Ok. I never want to hurt my dogs or their feelings and always choose positive reinforcement- I’ll admit to being very confused/ conflicted about having them sleep in my bed (they do). But I do admire that CM is willing to take on aggressive dogs that many “trainers” have no idea what to do with. I have a dog now that turns very aggressive at the vet and groomer and I can’t get good care for him. I was considering pleading to Cesar. I am looking for resources on how to deal with a dog like this- he is really sweet at home and I really don’t know how to cope- where can I find help? I’m in Austin, TX. Who else will take this on?

    • Sherry

      Please don’t plead to Cesar! Your dog’s behavior is almost certainly defensive and fear-based, not aggressive, and CERTAINLY not “dominant”. A force-and-intimidation-based approach as Millan uses may suppress the behavior for a time, but it will not address the emotions behind the behavior, and will not hold up over time. Further, it is likely to cause other problems.

      There are excellent ways to deal with the problem you describe without the use of foce, coercion, or intimidation. Check out Dr. Sophia Yin’s website: She is a veterinary behaviorist and has some good basic information as well as articles and videos on dealing with problems at the vets/groomers. Look for a behaviorist in your area who deals with behavior problems using validated positive methods.

      It’s not an instant process, and it’s not magic. A good behaviorist will spend time with you taking a full history of your dog, including information on its bahevior history, lifestyle, and health, and will observe your dog in different situations before coming up with a plan suited to you, your dog, and your specific situation. They will work with you and your dog, most likely give you homework to work on between sessions.

      Good luck!

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  • Claudia

    Thank you for this rewiew, his show was cancelled i Denmark last year, cause so many people was against him – he got very bad publicity. Nearly all dogtrainers in Denmark agreed that his methods are out of date, not up to date with the newest research – and brutal. And we rarely agree on anything – cause there are so many beliefs ;) The relation between man and dog should be based on trust…

    If you ever feel like going to Europe, we each year have a gathering for dogtrainers from all over Europe – this year in Edinburgh, take a look at

    Sincerely Claudia

    • Molly KokorudA

      Well now there was an open minded group!!!!! They all got together to speak against him? I thought Europeans were liberal minded and way ahead of us hicks in the US. Guess not, a whole country gets together to pick on one guy. Truly interesting comment on the European mindset.

  • http://Facebook Kimberly Nelson

    It’s my understanding that Cesar’s techniques are very assertive and can be intimidating. I also understand that Cesar’s training is not about teaching a puppy basic obedience, it’s about correcting bad behaviors. Some of these behaviors are to the dog’s and owner’s detriment so neither is happy. Cesar’s techniques come into play after all other attempts at positive corrections have failed. Bad behaviors are normal behaviors to the dog. I believe that Cesar tries to rehabilitate dogs that have become unmanageable to their owners. Owners who resort to using Cesar’s methods, usually are frustrated with their dog’s behavior and have tried everything else with little or no success. Cesar’s methods are a last resort for dogs just being themselves; animals acting instinctively. Cesar helps change dogs into manageable and happy pets which in turn makes the owners happy and who will more likely keep the dog instead of giving him or her up to become someone else’s problem or worse, be euthanized. Cesar’s methods are valuble tools for correcting extreme bad behaviors when all else seems to have failed, not for teaching basic obedience.

    • Mike C

      I agree.He is not using these methods on dogs without issues.I am sure a majority of these dogs were on their way to being destroyed.The bottom line is-there is no one method that will work for every dog,or human.
      I also see that he has started a foundation to save homeless dogs.We should all focus on the fact that he uses his status to help dogs in need. Everyone is always “shooting” at the man on top” no matter what their profession is.

    • maria

      I agree with Kimberly. I have not seen a ton of Cesar, but enough to have seen his best and worst (you tube). For dogs that only need a gentle touch and some solid boundaries, he provides that. There are dogs out there with some huge issues that a lot of people aren’t able to deal with and he often provides some solid advice and a reasonable solution to help them work through it.

      Has he made some mistakes? You bet he has. I’d like any trainers out there who have never made a mistake in judgement or method to speak out now. Luckily for most of us, the video of those mistakes only replay in our own minds, not over and over on you tube.

      As for the dog on stage not looking “happy”… What an incredibly stressful situation that is for any dog, and I have not seen many that look truly ‘happy’ in that position. When they do, they are the ‘maniacally’ happy type of dog, and usually hyper-focussed on a trick or game of some sort. I, as much as anyone, would love to see a super well behaved, calm, treat-trained dog out on stage, but where are they? I think Joanne did a great review on Ceasars show, unfortunately it ends up knocking down someone who isn’t perfect but who HAS helped a lot of people improve their relationships with their dogs. Dog training is an incredibly complex problem that one needs to take into account the person involved as well as the dog. The people that are seeking Ceasar are most likely to follow through on his methods, let’s appreciate that someone is willing to help those people through their difficult situations.

    • Molly KokorudA


  • Amber

    I really am looking for help with a human aggressive dog in Austin. Very few people have any skills related to this and these dogs must fall through the cracks from what I can see. Who else helps with these dogs? Pleading human.

    • BlueYou

      Amber, I recommend Training by Tara –

    • Joanne Brokaw

      Amber, I talked to some local trainers and they shared this advice – hope it helps!:

      “she can start by looking at the apdt trainer search for trainers in her area, but still needs to evaluate websites to find out their methodology.(apdt accepts all trainers) Look for clues like “training collar” “different needs for different breeds/all dogs need a diff approach/etc” “motivational”, etc. These are usually compulsion-based trainers disguising themselves as “positive”…” The site is ADPT is the Association of Professional Dog Trainers,

    • Nikki

      I see an awful lot of choke collars on Tara’s website, so I would not go with her. I would search for a purely positive aka Progressive Reinforcement trainer in your area. Talk to dog people, talk to dog store managers, word of mouth is the best way to find out about the trainers in your town. In the meantime, check out kikopup’s channel on youtube, Dr Sophia Yin’s website, and get Chill Out Fido! by Dogwise and Fight! by Jean Donaldson. Foundation training and default calming will help your dog while you find someone to help you work through your problems.

  • Niki

    Loved your review. Summed up in plain English, my thoughts exactly, that I don’t have the expertise to put into words. Thank you.

  • Justine

    I agree with alot of what you have said. Although I have to wonder if people seriously do not have enough control over their pets to be able to leave food in a room with a dog. They trainer you used as a reference suggests removing the food or dog from the room, this seem unnecessary. I have 3 large dogs I am only 21 years old and have susscefully managed to train all three using Caesars method and I can guarantee that none of them have experienced anything even close to abuse. All three of my dogs are rescues, one was extremely abused and borderline aggressive, I now feel 100% comfortable with leaving her in a room with children, the only reason I was able to achieve this a by become my dogs boss, and regardless of what studies say having 3 dogs creates a “pack” mentality. When together their actions differ from their individual, I am not saying this is a bad this but it is a change in behavior regardless.
    I guess what I’m trying to say is that you cant review something that requires hands on research. And for all the dog owners out there that treat their dogs like children you need to remember that they are in no way human, most breeds were create to do a job, keep your dog busy teach him a trick. It will surprise you when you realize that they actually enjoy being trained, it’s a challenge just as we enjoy being challenged. In that way we are alike.

    Also it would help some to understand that being a “pack leader” essentially means train your dog, let it know there are boundries, it does not mean you are being mean. Also Cesar’s ideas of socializing are so unbelievably important regardless of your dogs breed and size, little dogs being aggressive toward other dogs is not “cute”.

  • Kate Gillam

    Great review, well written and measured. Thanks for sharing your opinions.

  • Sarah Haynes

    I agree with Debbie saying “Dogs in developing countries don’t have ‘psychological’ problems? Really? Not one of them? Just because Cesar says doesn’t make it true.” What a total load of bull,we have a house in Spain and dogs spend most of their lives on barking on the end of a chain , I have known our neighbours dog all its life – I have been in their house ,its been in mine , I see it every day and still when it was loose one day it bit me, living a life that that cannot fail to affect an animal , come into contact with most Spanish dogs and they are aggressive.
    And as for most developing countries dogs are treated appallingly, beaten, shot, poisoned and in several countries including Milan’s own Mexico they are used as meat.

    • Sarah Haynes

      I forgot to say, none of our dogs have EVER counter surfed and we can leave food on our coffee table and do not use the Milan methods.

    • Magala Gtz

      in mexico we do not eat dogs. you are thinking of china

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  • Sara

    What I liked most about your review was the detail you put into how the dog was behaving – obedient, but lacking any of the characteristics of a “happy” dog, relaxed mouth, wagging tail. This is incredibly important to me, my own and my dogs experience, survival and recovery from a CM style training program.

    I have a beagle and a sheppard-cross. The beagle has always has mild separation anxiety. Three years ago we moved from a large concrete apartment block to a split level home. When we moved the neighbours complained vehemently about the beagle howling. To be fair, his howling had increased from a duration of 5 minutes after we left to about 20 minutes (we had set up a recording program for when we were away). To avoid losing our dogs we undertook to hire a trainer. After a few recommendations by friends and browsing some websites we landed on Bark Busters. Which, is a CM style training facility.

    As some pro-CM supporters have said on here there is really not much physical contact with the dog. Most of the training is behaviour related. For example, we worked hard on pitching our voices higher when we were praising our dogs, and lower when we were trying to get their attention or stop behaviour. There was a lot of emphasis on drawing ourselves up into an imposing high position when we were displeased and crouching down low when we wanted the dog to be excited and come to us. We were given homework like: don’t let the dogs on the furniture, always make sure to walk down the hall, stairs and our doors ahead of your dog. We used the “tsk” and a leash snap correction when the dog moved past our kneed while walking on leash and sudden changes in direction. The most aggressive thing we used was a loud noise like a clap, bark, or at worse a change purse hitting the floor for big corrections.

    Bark Busters offers a lifetime guarantee. Initially our trainer felt that our beagle would be recovered from separation anxiety in 12 weeks. In that 12 weeks we could not actually leave the beagle alone in the home for even a few hours. Which was difficult to say the least (given we both work full time). We engaged friends and family to cover round the clock training. Trained them, had the trainer train them and everyone was fully trained ad nauseam in how to pretend to leave the house. The basic premise since separation anxiety was the problem was that we would develop a routine where we began ignoring the beagle at least 30 minutes before hand, get him into his crate which had been stripped of all comforts, and was now covered with blankets to make it dark and cave-like. Then we would simulate leaving (this often took two people) and as soon as he made a peep we would growl, or bark or clap or throw a change purse at the floor to let him know this was not acceptable behaviour.

    By the end of the twelve weeks both our dogs were neurotic messes. However they were impeccably trained.

    What had worked was all the training behaviour. Our dogs no longer rushed to greet us, or guests, at the door. They did not sneak people food, they walked well on leash, they always let us go first down the hall, stairs and through doors. They did not get on furniture. They did not jump up on people. Great, great, great said the trainer.

    But, they were clearly unhappy. Our sheppard, who did not have separation anxiety and who had few bad behaviours started hiding under things and away from us. If we came into a room, he went out and hid under furniture in the next room. When we wanted to take them for a walk the dogs would slink towards us heads down, tails tucked waiting patiently for us to put on their leashes.

    To make matters worse the separation anxiety actually got worse. Not only did the beagle increase the howling — we tested a few times as weeks 4, 8 and 12 with the trainer — to over 1 hour, but the Sheppard had started a high-pitched frantic bark anytime the beagle started howling. The beagle also started urinating in his crate (week 4) and defecating (week 8). We were encouraged to stick with the program and were told sometimes behaviours get worse before they get better.

    By week 12 I was going out of my mind. We were blaming ourselves for maybe not speaking the same, or our posture and if our split second timing on corrections was not fast enough. I was concerned that the dogs would be taken away by the city and since they were both rescues I felt huge guilt in not being able to train out the separation anxiety. The trainer suggested I see my vet about anxiety medication.

    We have a good relationship with our vet and from the moment we came in she knew something was wrong. I told her everything and she was horrified. Within a day she had given me a referral to Dr. Landsberg at the North Toronto Animal Clinic. He is an animal behaviouralist recognized across North America.

    We came in, still following the Bark Busters training (and by doing so — going to another trainer — negated our lifetime training guarantee from Bark Busters), and met with Dr. Landsberg. He noted all of the things that you noted in your review. We had well behaved dogs who were clearly scared of us. Our Sheppard hid under the Doctors chair, preferring to be as far way from us as possible. The beagle sat shaking in the middle of the room with his tail under him.

    Dr. Landsberg schooled us in why dominance theory doesn’t work. He also made one simple statement that I have taken to heart.

    “Separation anxiety is a psychological issue, not a behavioural one, you can’t train it out.”

    Basically everything we were doing had simply terrorized our dogs into obedience and increased the anxiety levels of both dogs. As we talked, our beagle eventually calmed down enough to lie down. Dr. Landsberg gave him a cookie — the first he had had in 12 weeks.

    From there we learned about positive reinforcement, super treats and toys that keep our dogs’ minds occupied when we are away. We did away with the crated — not that Dr. Landsberg is against crates, but after the negative experience a crate would never be a positive space for our dogs again.

    Within 3 weeks our beagle was back to howling for 5 minutes, and three years later he barely howls at all when we leave our home. He still urinates sometimes, a legacy from the dominance training, but we use cloth diapers for him and don’t mind the mess.

    Today they are both happy sociable dogs, they cuddle on the couch, do steal the occasional human cookie, greet people at the door (but don’t jump on them), play with their toys and sleep on the furniture. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    • Joanne Brokaw

      Sara, thank you SOO much for sharing your story. I symphathize with you and completely understand the process you went thru. It’s similar to what we went thru with one of our dogs, Scout, and when he died a few weeks ago at just 5 yrs old I was still go guilt ridden over what I’d done to him early on I can still barely stand to think about it. But if there is one thing I’m sure of: he forgave me. :) And I think God sent him to me to guide me through that learning process.

      I’m so grateful you were perceptive enough to recognize what your dogs were telling you. The only lifetime guarantee you need are happy, healthy puppies with whom you have a loving relationship. Sounds like you found that. :) And to be honest … I think a dog who doesn’t do something naughty once in a while is a dog-bot, lol. Everybody needs a little naughty fun sometimes, right, even if it’s just a lick of your ice cream cone on the fly. But then again, what do I know? :)


  • Kim

    Thank you for a very well balanced and honest review. I’m not a fan of CM because I’m horrified at some of the things I’ve seen him do to dogs on TV. If it weren’t for Nat. Geo. and their mood music and sooth announcer’s voice, this man would have been brought up on charges of animal cruelty for some of the things he’s done. Instead, he’s looked up to as a “dog expert,” by people who don’t know any better. I was shocked to see him choke more than one dog out to the point of momentary loss of body control (poor Jonbee for one.) For the life of me, I don’t understand what other people believe they are watching. Also, living here in “Cesar country” I have seen several of animals that he has “worked” with, and they were worse as a result of their experiences, not better.

    Years ago, (shortly before Nat. Geo. picked him up,) I went to one of this man’s speaking engagements. I also found him to be a charming speaker, and some of the things he said were based in good, effective dog handling. Of course, I didn’t see him actually work with a dog, and he didn’t talk about the various “techniques” he uses to subdue behavior that doesn’t please him. Inexplicably, he didn’t talk a great deal about “dominance” at that time, although I was aware that he ascribed to the theory. He did talk about weighing dogs down with backpacks and weights as a way to slow them down if they were too energetic. When I asked him if he recommended vet checks first, to ascertain whether or not a dog might have an orthopedic issue that could be aggravated by such a tactic, or whether he thought young dogs could suffer injury from repeatedly going on walks carrying excess weight, he pretty much dismissed my questions altogether and put me on ignore for the rest of the evening. I thought that was telling. I also notice that he no longer pushes that idea so much.

    In the end, I just wish people would realize that there is a better way to work with dogs. A way that doesn’t just “put you in charge,” but that can actually increases the understanding and trust your dog feels for you. Most of all, I wish everyone would watch 5 or 6 Dog Whisperer episodes with the television muted. You will be surprised what you see when you’re emotions and intellect aren’t being guided by mood music and an authoritative announcer’s voice

    • Joanne Brokaw

      He actually did mention putting a backpack on a dog when it goes for a walk, but I didn’t know what he meant by that. I’m not sure what that does?

  • Lisa

    A great review. It’s good to actually read someone’s view when they went in open-minded. I’ve read Cesar for a while, watched his programmes, and whilst I hated some things I saw on the TV (his harsh reprimanding of a dog), when reading his books I do think he has some very good things to say. The problem I now feel is – is that I am a reasonably intelligent person; I can watch the TV programmes and realise that if I did half of what he said to do, my dog with “issues” would hate me and never trust me – and trust is the one thing she needs to have in me as she’s never trusted a human before. So, I can see how certain things would cause adverse reactions in a dog.. but sadly, a lot of people watching and reading will actually not have their own thoughts at all :( THey will follow to the letter what a person says – if they feel they want to follow a celeb, they will do that, regardless of what that person is saying. So, hopefully your story will be passed around social networking sites and persuade people, at the very least, to actually have their own thoughts.

  • Anette

    Dear Joanne, I really enjoyed reading your review on Cesar Millans show and I totally agree with your views on his methods. I am Danish, and I am proud to say, that when Cesar Millan was coming to Denmark last year with his show, there were such massive protests and plans about demonstrations, that he cancelled :-) WE DON’T WANT HIM HERE and we made that very clear. I am sure that if he ever plans to come to Denmark again, the protests will be even louder.
    I am a dog trainer myself, and I simply cannot and will never understand, how people can treat at dog the way Cesar Millan preaches!!! Having a dog is not about showing power, it’s about having a loving companion, and obedience is achieved through hours of positive training, which is fun for both dog and owner :-)

    • Molly KokorudA

      See, a whole enlightened country attacking one guy! I’m impressed. If you had a snarling out of control German Shepherd heading for you, you would be much safer with Cesar by your side. I’m not an avid fan either just a dog lover who can’t see the cruelty you think you see when you watch his TV show.

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  • Joanne Brokaw

    At the risk of entering into the fray of yet another controversy … I did a post at the request of a friend about another writer’s blog post about aversive dog training. Here it is:

  • robin cuahonte

    YAY!!! totally concur! fnlly! somoene that didn’t drink the cesar mlan “kool-aid”….he is a bully whose philosophy is based on dominance-ugh and don’t forget he is a supprter of he redemption of michael vick-and that with nothing else added is enough to discredit him.

    • robin cuahonte

      yikes-all those typos. lol

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  • fran

    How can you expect a dog to be all waggily tailed when he just got off a loud scary plane ride? Then he has a large audience and bright lights honeing in on him. He looks to his trainer for his stability and he gets it. He is alert and always watching for his cues because he is a working dog. This dog and his trainer are promoting the cause of dog ownership because less and less people are wanting and owning dogs. Caeser has stopped more people from euthanizing thier dogs because of bad behavior. The dogs like him and show it when its relaxation time.

  • Andrea Sim

    There will never be one way of training our pets that everyone can agree upon, similar to the way the parents, even parents of the same children disagree on how to raise them. It is important to look at the bigger and more important picture here. Cesar Millan has helped save thousands of dogs from being abandoned by their owners out of frustration due to miscommunication. He has found ways for dog owners to communicate properly with their dogs, provide them with proper controlled walks, discipline in a way that they understand, and in the end, sanity within households. There is no doubt in my mind that these dog owners that ask him for help, love their dogs to pieces. The very fact that they have ended up being happy in the end and at peace with the methods he has shown them, says a lot.
    Yes, dogs have evolved far from a wolf and have never been in a wolf pack in the wild, but they are still animals, and they still communicate with each other physically. I experience dog interactions every day while I study the dogs that I work with. If Dog A is playing too roughly with Dog B, Dog B will simply give a snarl, growl, or a nip on the neck to Dog A. Dog A usually understands this warning immediately, backs off and learns to give Dog B some boundaries. This being said, it is in fact similar to the way a wolf or many other animals for that matter speak to each other. Cesar Millan has helped dogs understand what we want from them faster and simpler by teaching humans to communicate with them in a way that they understand. I would rather give my dog a slight nudge, or touch on the neck and have her understand what I am telling her, than to be yelling, chasing, bribing or giving up leaving her frustrated, confused and under stress.
    In the end, you do not have to agree with everything Cesar says or does, but to disagree with his methods with such force and try to turn people off of him is somewhat malicious. His value is not wrong or right, it is simply different from what you are comfortable with. The important message here is that Cesar has changed thousands of human and animal lives for the better. We should be congratulating a man like this, not passing such negative judgement on him. There are many other trainers worldwide that should be appreciated to. If they are working to help pets stay alive, and stay with their owners and live peacefully, they are doing something to help the world. Choose a trainer that you are comfortable with and concentrate on them and how you can work together to improve your relationship with your dog.

  • Marcy

    Excellent review! I admire you keeping an open mind and experiencing Cesar’s methods in person. I’m thankful that so many others see the commercialization of Cesar’s way and realize this is the TV world and not to be used as a “method” in your home. I enjoyed your article!!

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  • Jessica

    I read thru the review as well as some of the comments. I must say I am both amused and perplexed (as to why people can get so worked up for something like this) over the flood of scolding/angry/emotionally charged comments. The author clearly disclosed several times throughout the article that it was a review and that it is strictly her own opinion of the show, yet people still became offended. This is her blog and what is a blog? A place where people can express their opinions.

    And pray tell, why must the author research the topic at hand first before expressing her opinion? I think she did a good job of disclosing her position (that she is NOT a professional dog trainer) and her knowledge of the topic prior to the show (she was not familiar with Cesar Milan or his dog training methods). Why must she ‘gather evidence to support her claims’? This is not a news report nor a scientific thesis or even a unversity paper. It’s a blog, people, a blog. She can write whatever she wants and I find it pretty gracious that she even takes the time to answer the comments at all. Frankly, if you do not agree with it, no reason to get emotionally charged, just move along. It’s not like she insulted your mother or tarnished your family name. I’m actually more insulted by the comments than the people are insulted by the article.

    • Joanne Brokaw

      Thanks, Jessica! I needed that today, lol!

      Joanne (blog host)

  • Tia

    Hi :)

    I found the review interesting and appreciated the different view points from other trainers and handlers. I will admit, I am a fan of CM. I appreciate his philosophies. Are there things I don’t agree with? of course, there are also a lot of positive reinforcement folks I don’t agree with. I tend to think when it comes to working with dogs you have to find the technique that works for the individual dog and often times it is a combination of various techniques.
    Dogs are pack animals. I see the hierarchy every day. I have a pack of three but also foster so there are constant additions and subtractions to my pack and yes, we are a pack. My dogs aren’t allowed on the furniture, I don’t want them there. They get rules, boundaries, and limitations. Sorry for the CM reference but it is what it is. There are things they can and can’t do. I like Victoria Stilwell, I have learned a lot from her techniques as well. I only use positive reinforcement but I do use touch, not pinching or poking of kidneys etc. etc. I think a determination of physical cruelty can be relative based on the viewer if you already disagree with a certain technique you might view it as cruel and use harsh words to describe versus seeing it for what it is. I think the use of only one technique only allows for working with a certain type of dog. As a trainer you should be constantly learning the broader the horizons the broader the client base. My dogs are always super excited to see us all, would lay down their life for us and are our family. The fosters in my house leave more adjusted and always better than when they came in. This is a result of CM methods as well as many others.

    That being said, I liked the review of his show. I don’t really base my opinion on reviews I have to be there myself since no opinion is truly unbiased and what the critic sees is often subjective. I mean, Siskel may hate a movie that I absolutely love so reviews generally mean nothing to me. I don’t think all the CM fans should let a review ruffle their feathers and the positive reinforcement folks shouldn’t get so up in arms over CM. I highly doubt the calming music of Nat Geo is enough to contain the masses if true abuses were occurring. The great thing that normal, everyday, in the trenches trainers have is that you will reach those individuals who use CM’s methods and they will listen to you because you are trainer and you have knowledge they need. I would like to actually meet someone who has had CM come in to there home. The majority of folks who have experience with dogs realize that it takes time and consistency to train a dog CM is no different, its just edited. Dogs are bright, It takes my healer mix 30 minutes to learn a new command but it takes me repeating it regularly for him to get good at it. That’s just common sense. :)

  • Rose

    So…How would you train a dog? Funny how somebody is out to help educate, but there’s always the critic sitting on the couch pointing out ALL the things somebody else is doing wrong! Look a little closer and maybe you’ll be able to see a little light. When I did my research and homework before I got my Rottweiler, I followed Cesar Millan, religiously, to be sure my dog was getting all the things he needed and in the proper order. My Rottie was amazing and if it wasn’t for the guidance that Cesar Millan was able to provide, I’m not sure how my dog would have turned out! Think like a dog, not a human when it comes to raising a well-balanced dog. Do you happen to have any seminars that could educate me on your techniques?! Probably not!!!

    • Kz

      Completely to the point! The minute someone does something amazing there is always someone who wants to bring them down! Sure people are entitled to their own opinion, but it’s quite ironic when you see the way Cesar handles it. In one interview after this positive trainer was yelling on a recording about Cesar’s methods he just commented after to the interviewer that he’s not going to talk about someone he’s never met! I love dogs more than anything and they are my life, and Cesar is the best thing happening to the dog world and he’s out there doing amazing things for people and dogs! He’s literally saving people’s and dog’s lives by the numbers!

  • melissa

    hi i read your whole review, two times and while i totally appreciate you pointing out the good things about him, i have to say i agree with the people here who say to watch the show more. i have met him, 2time personally and he could not of been nicer to me or my dogs, i have seen him do his thing and isn’t something that takes a super long time, the problem is if the owners get it or not and can continue. i will state outright that i dont agree with every single thing he does, i am completely against shock collars and get sad when i see him use them on the show, but the man has changed my life. he got me to believe in myself and to go into dog training school, he made me push myself to get dogs well behaved enough to do therapy work and for me to walk my pack alone. things i had long strived for but with anxiety/depression it seemed impossible. i can tell you just by changing my energy and state of mind things go so much more smoothly for training my dogs. they are very happy dogs, they trust me and i’d never hurt them but i need them to get along very well in big groups and to listen. this is the best method for it. also because of him i was able to overcome big fears in my life… talking to strangers and letting my dogs off leash. i can not thank him enough for how he has inspired me and sure he isn’t perfect but one thing about him, he admits it, he openly says he always learns new things and is open to new ways. also he doesn’t try to “fix” every dog instantly… some dogs he takes weeks to work with and some he tells the owners it takes along time and to be patient. i am sorry but positive only training gets no where and its basically just people who use that method who seem to hate him. just try his methods, you will be amazed. the thin leash thing… yes if freaked me out at first too but he always said “hold the leash like you are holding a suitcase” and it can be a cheap leash. guess what? it works. when i would hold my huskies back or try to get a tight grip, they pulled and as unsure as i was about this, i had faith in him and i tried it, my dogs walk well right at my side now. he has taught me two main lessons in life that can be applied for humans and dogs “keep moving forward” and “live in the moment” you have no idea how amazingly well those have helped me deal with my depression. i am so much happier now and its a big part thanks to him, he helped me see the potential i had in myself to become a amazing human and trainer.

    • Joanne Brokaw

      Sigh. As I have stated repeatedly, Melissa, this was a review of the EVENT, not the show.


  • Cobly

    I will admit that I used to be a fan of CM. Two shows that really stuck in my mind are one of a chow chow that he litterally hung by the end of the leash until it became so exhausted that it gave up and another dog that he held on it’s back by the throat while it’s nails were clipped, I was mortified to say the least. After seeing those shows I did some research on him and his training methods I am no longer a follower.
    The one thing I don’t understand is why people get so heated when some one says they don’t like CM. We are all entitled to our opinions. My only response to that is do a little bit more research on his training methods, and I don’t mean watch his shows or read his books. Really read about all the other training methods out there before you jump on the CM bandwagon.
    I have 3 very happy, well behaved dogs. One of which was abused and had severe behavior issues. Another who had resource guarding problems because of the family that had him prior to me. Not once did I use CM’s methods on my dogs, and after lots of work and patience, I’m happy to say that they are now well adjusted dogs. I can even leave food on the coffee table tell them to leave it, leave the room for several minutes and come back to a completely undisturbed plate of food.

  • iamHAYLLO

    All paws up:) very well said… so happy when people like you see what most of his techniques implies.. i maybe too am judgemental coz i just saw few of his clips.. but those few breaks my heart.. i certainly agree with you that i want my dog to be with me because she feels safe and secure and she would do things i ask because shes happy to do it and not because she would be punished :( .. i may too might someday see his event to see for myself (eventhou my first experience of his clips already broke my heart) to know what CMfans sees and believes in him .. love your article/review.. more power

  • Sharon Crichton

    Fabulous review – well written and balanced. I always used to say to my management team ‘ Beware of the Charasmatic Leader’ which I think describes Millan. I have a special needs dog who was recommended to be euthanased – with positives, zero adversives and a great Behavioural Vet I have living proof that positives is the only way to go.

    • threenorns

      which is *great* if you have that kind of time and money.

      newsflash: most of us don’t. when my dog snatched a hot dog from my toddler’s mouth leaving red marks on her top lip, i have NO TIME to cootchie-coo him along.

      it was cesar millan to get him under control and THEN we worked on the cootchie-coo bit.

      he was nearly 2yrs old when i hit rock bottom with him (bec yes, his wild, hyperactive, out of control behaviour was strictly mea culpa maxima). he’ll be 5 on hallowe’en and not only does he walk using a harness, he walks pretty okay off leash, he’s not AS bad about barking like a lunatic when someone comes to the house (oddly enough, he’s fine if they just walk in – it’s the doorbell or the knocking that triggers him off probably bec my daughter would also run screaming for the door thinking it was her father), he’s 100% about waiting for permission to eat something (necessary around here, where ppl like to lay poisoned bait), and he’s an advanced level certified trick dog.

      he’s not 100% on the above behaviours because honestly, i’m good with that. when i see an immaculately trained and controlled dog, it gives me the willies – i wonder why they didn’t just get themselves a robot. i like my dog to have a bit of zip and zest and if it means he barks at ppl from time to time, oh well – so do i!

  • jefri lim

    I am From Indonesia, but I like to see national geographic and I like to show Cesar Milan show, dog Whisperer. I have seen many of Cesar Milan show and I don’t understand why American and Europe people relate to dog like like to human. I believe in most asian country dog is an animal and still animal for us, and we don’t let them to sleep with us in the bed..or get in to our bed room. Some people don’t allow his dog to come in to their house. But they still love their dog… in my view according my experience here, Cesar Milan show is ok and most of them is aplicalbe and maybe we have do it in the country when dog is animal. In one episode, CM ever said, that human in america relate to dog as human, so why the dog become agresive etc, because they are confused about their identity as dog…animal…that’s my opinion … tq JEsus Love you

    • Joanne Brokaw

      You make an excellent point! We do treat our dogs like people – it’s excessive. But I confess: I love having my dog snuggling with me in bed, lol!!


    • threenorns

      i don’t think of my dog as human – he’s not. but he IS a “person”, even if it’s a non-human person.

      he has thoughts, he has feelings, he even has opinions (which he makes very clear to me!). if i treat him as a moving piece of furniture, he will get bored, upset, and feel disrespected. if i honour his status and meet his needs as a canine person, life is great.

  • M. Thompson

    Reviewing Ceasar Millan by simply attending one of his shows is like reading the cover of War and Peace and saying it’s a story about war. There are so many layers to Ceasar’s methods that it is an unfair assumption that he is a bully. The dogs he works with on his show are almost always red zone cases, which means they are very likely going to be given up or put down. Ceasar uses techniques for these dogs that are the most effective for their idividual cases. I am a dog trainer and I fully support his techniques with dogs that are literally one step away from being removed from their home permanently. In these exteme cases a good trainer must use their head not their heart.

    • threenorns

      exactly – i tell ppl that using cesar millan’s techniques on a dog that has no problems is like sending a child to juvie hall to learn to read and write and using “positive only” techniques on a red zone dog is like sending a juvenile delinquent to kindergarten expecting he’ll learn how to behave.

  • dan

    i stopped reading the review when the author was saying how worthless the southpark episode was. actually, that SP episode was hilarious. SP is a parody show it makes fun of people who act in dumb ways so if you don’t like it that is your right but if you dont like it cause its “rude” and “demeaning” it probably means you are close minded and being made fun of by the show in someway.

    when i go to door to answer it and my dog is barking i tell him to shut up same way cesar would. i am not sure how you “positive” people would do it just throw some treats into the other room and wait for him to follow treats?

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  • Stephen H

    Wow! I just think putting this kind of effort into a review is an amazing public service and it’s obviously created a lot of interesting discussion. Personally I’ve always admired Caesar but I will have another look at his “obedience” techniques. Admiration hasn’t been turned into practice however because my dogs are definitely more humanized than he would like, relatively spoiled but I think they exhibit more personality and I like to think are probably happier for it.

    • threenorns

      the huge problem is that ppl get confused between what cesar does and what a regular “obedience trainer” does.

      using cesar millan’s techniques on a fresh new puppy or a dog that is genial and social is like sending a 6yr old to juvie hall to learn to read and write.

      but using other “positive only” type techniques on a dog that wants nothing more than to possess you or eat your cat or destroy your house is like sending a juvenile delinquent to kindergarten expecting him to learn how to behave properly.

      each has its own place – if you have all the time and the money and the energy in the world, by all means, take however long it takes to gentle the dog along. but if you’re a typical family with a busy schedule and kids at home, you don’t have TIME – you need the dog under control ASAP, and that is where cesar comes in.

  • t brown

    I was looking for reviews of Cesar’s live appearance and came here. I bought tickets for the Montreal appearance next Sunday Dec. 2. I’m not an experienced knowledgeable dog owner. My rescued shepherd was almost feral when I adopted her at a year old. She was born outdoors and never socialized and left on her own, maybe not the best choice for me. I’ve often heard Cesar say “you don’t get the dog you want, you get the dog you need”. What I’ve learned from watching Cesar is the subtlety of dog communication. Cesar showed me how to observe my dog and understand her language, her different glances, her barely perceptible nudges, her posture. And if I’m calm and assertive and in the zone (because like my dog, I’m also a work in progress), I can communicate almost perfectly with Belle using my own subtle glances, nudges, and my posture. I don’t have enough knowledge to make a judgement one way or another about Cesar’s methods. But I can say, without a doubt, that watching Cesar has taught me how to develop a truly profound and intense relationship with a dog that I rescued, which I don’t believe I would have had otherwise.

  • Christy


    You know, I was trying to look up online episodes of you with extreme cases of fearful dogs and I came across some negative posts about you. I have read two of your books and I don’t watch your tv too often, but if I notice your show is on I love watching it. You have helped me with my dog Sasha. She is so sensitive, had I not known about your techniques with calm assertive energy she would still be living in a constant state of terror. She is still what other people see as a incrediably fearful dog, but they don’t know how far she has already come already. With your techniques I was able to over time help her to approach life with hesitant curiousity instead of complete avoidance. She is my first dog, I had wanted one all my life but I was 21 when I was finally in a position to get a puppy. I was in over my head, lol she was not an easy first dog. But with your help, we have figured it out and she is a happy dog.

    Anyways, it made me sad to come across so many ignorant posts about you. I just wanted to say that I am glad your out there. I hope I get a chance to go to one of your confrences someday!

    Thank you!

  • Nikki

    What a wonderfully written review! Thank you for posting! This is exactly the sentiment that myself, and other positive trainers, are trying to convey to dog owners. There were so many parts that I wanted to quote directly to those who still believe in dominance based training! Hats off to you for taking the time to prove that humans, and dogs, are learning thinking beings. When the bright lights are off and the cameras are gone, owners are still left with their dogs and whatever relationship they have built, based on the training methods they chose. Brava!!!!!

    • threenorns

      ” owners are still left with their dogs and whatever relationship they have built, based on the training methods they chose”

      exactly – and based on cesar’s training which, unlike the other methods, points the finger squarely at the owner as the source of the problem instead of chanting “fix the dog, fix the dog”, i have a GREAT relationship with my dog who went from hyperactive nightmare to advanced certified trick dog.

  • Doug Hanson

    I disagree with your comments about Ceasar’s methods of training. We rescued a dog who was really aggressive out of fear so we trained her with a woman who trains like Ceasar and we went through beginner and advanced and now she is wonderful.. You do not ask dogs to behave you tell them to.. All dogs need a leader…just like animals in the wild.. I am sorry you do not understand

  • Valgrindar

    “dogs are not wolves any more than men are apes”

    I know this might be nitpicky, but humans most definitely are apes. It would be more accurate to say “… than men are chimps”.

    • threenorns

      you are totally correct – and dogs ARE wolves.

      specifically, they are Canis Lupus Familiaris, a subset of wolves.

      unlike chimps and humans, dogs and wolves are fully interfertile.

  • technology

    To tell the truth this is a wonderful indepth report even so as with all wonderful freelance writers there are several points that might be proved helpful about. Yet in no way the significantly less it absolutely was intriguing.

  • threenorns

    i’d like to point out one glaring inconsistency: you stressed how you wouldn’t judge from a TV show – but then you judged from one stage appearance with an audience of thousands!

    i saw the same thing happen in toronto: the assistant brought out a dog and the dog seemed perfectly happy and calm until cesar took the leash…. and while turning the dog, faced it toward the audience. the dog froze.

    so…. was it cesar that made the dog freeze or was it the dog suddenly seeing thousands of ppl staring at it or perhaps the lights glaring in its eyes?

    you cannot make a judgment on a dog’s behaviour based on a stage appearance any more than you can based on a television episode.

    another thing: using whichever tool the owner is comfortable is not a “cop out”. if you go in start telling the owner “well, this is wrong and that is wrong and you’re doing this ALL wrong and why ARE you doing that? cause it’s wrong”, guess what happens? yeah – you never go back and they certainly aren’t going to listen to you.

    so you start working with the tools the owner has – show them the correct way to use it (because there IS a correct way to use a slip collar, which, btw, is far more humane and less damaging than a flat-buckle when you’ve got Hoppy Harry on the other end) – and as you progress, the owner comes to their own realization that the tool is simply not needed any more.

    it really seems to me that you went to the show *prepared* not to like him. the fact that the audience – which you imply was nothing but a bunch of ppl who, unlike you, didn’t know any better – liked him seemed to be enough to put you off.

  • Pedro Goncalves

    There is no way dogs freeze around Cesar, i really don’t know where you get these things. Bias? Wanting a dog to smile is just odd too. Imagining a dog saying “ouch, stop hurting me” when Cesar grabs him is pure Disney. If you hurt a dog he’ll hurt you back, which has never happened with Cesar.

    You should explain exactly what you want from Cesar, that’s not clear either.

    The choke chain episode is a fallacy. The dog already was using it and Cesar tried to slowly bring the dog out of it, which isn’t easy at all!!

    I don’t understand any of your reasons, except to point out Cesar isn’t formally educated (true but his method still work), but he has never pretended to be: all he does is block bad behavior, that’s it, and he’s great at it.

  • GoTeamNZ

    I stopped reading this article as soon as I read Quote “He’s a dog, and he understands one thing: you feed me, I stick around. (One expert I read called it a parasitic relationship, and while that’s a harsh term … it’s pretty accurate when you think about it.)” end quote … Really? an expert said that? It’s not accurate at all. I don’t have a problem dog, I have a lovely dog and I am her pack leader, and she is absolutely loyal and happy. If I didn’t feed her she would starve to death, she would never leave my side. That is the beauty of dogs.. Humans and dogs can have such a deep loyal bond and unless you truly have connected with a dog like cesar is able to than you don’t know anything. If your dog only sees you as a source of food then you really have no idea when it comes to connecting with dogs, so you’re article and your opinion are meaningless.

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