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Old 07-06-2009, 07:27 PM
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Caesar Millan and Dog training methodology

To preface, this is not to become a heated debate, nor should it proliferate an AF Caesar Millan lynch mob. I am simply looking for objective, unbiased discussion and/or literature references on the topic of Dog training which examines aspects of both punitive and reward/positive reinforcement based training methods.

I have read a handful of articles on the matter, specifically those relating to the so called "Caesar's way" (from both positive and negative stances) of becoming what he describes as a pack leader. What I find disconcerting about this method is how vehemently it stresses the fact that a dog must be submissive to it's owner. It describes behaviors such as resting its head upon an owner or walking with ears perked in a dignified manner as being unwanted expressions of dominance over said owner. Furthermore, a dog lowering its head, curling its tail and dropping its ears is referred to as a desirable signal of submission in the presence of the owner.

What I am looking for is some kind of equilibrium between sheer dominance and absolute submissiveness (which at times, I associate with learned helplessness). How applicable is instinctual social hierarchy to the casual dog owner in possession of a pet which does not conform to the extreme scenarios which may or may not mandate the "exercise, discipline affection" formula?

I know many of you are dog owners, and I seem to recall an animal behaviorist out there (sorry, I can't recall who). I'd appreciate some opinions and reading suggestions if you could be so kind.
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Old 07-06-2009, 07:44 PM
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You are thinking of Jenn, who is the resident animal behaviorist. (She is the professional).

First, if you haven't already, I highly recommend reading "The Other End of the Leash" by Patricia McConnell. Fantastic book!!

For us (and we train primarily personal protection/police/sport dogs), we use a combination of methods. We absolutely 100% support and use positive reinforcement and have found that rewarding the good behavior has worked tremendously well!! We actually have a (now) 8 year old Belgian Malinois, who had previously gone through several (at least 5-6) different owners/trainers, none of which were able to ever get him to verbally out off a bite (after having been told to bite). All the previous owners/handlers had used very compulsive methods and after getting him, DH immediately went to positive reinforcement (he rewarded the "out" as opposed to punishing the stay on the bite) and it took Cricket (our dog) 2 training sessions to become proficient in it. He had just NEVER been rewarded/praised/etc. for his good behavior (which is very sad, IMO).

Anyway, sorry for being lengthy, but in my experience I have found we do best by reading/studying/learning several different types of training methods and use what works best for our dogs. Some dogs will respond very well to verbal praise, some could care less but will LOVE food treats or toys. You'll find what will work best for you and your dog.

Good luck and I sincerely commend your research and trying to find what will work best!!


ETA: Feel free to "PM" me, if needed, and I'll always try to help in any way that I can.
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Last edited by k9bites; 07-06-2009 at 07:46 PM.
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Old 07-06-2009, 07:54 PM
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I am not an expert, however....

In addition to whatever material I'm sure will be recommended, I would suggest picking up "Animals make us Human" by Dr. Temple Grandin. She an impressive, and renowned, expert in Animal Behaviour. She has a unique perspective being that she is actually autistic. In this book she discusses all animal behaviour, but has a chapter discussing Dogs in particular where she scrutinizes Milan's techniques.

(she also has high praise from P. McConnell who I understand is a big favorite here) ^ as seen above.

Specifically to what you're looking for, she discusses how "Dogs need Parents, not Leaders". In addition to her writing, the dog section references famous studies that discuss 'dog hierarchy' as well. It can get somewhat scientific at times, but fascinating.

Last edited by cherbd16; 07-06-2009 at 08:08 PM.
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Old 07-06-2009, 08:14 PM
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You have two choices. You either assume the role of alpha dog, or let him. One of the two will happen regardless. The former is better for both you. There is nothing wrong with CM's methodology.

Your dog does not need to cower in fear of you, he should just know how to respect the alpha "dog". If your dog is not trained properly (by his role in the pack consistently being affirmed), he might show signs of trying to take your position by displaying the type of behaviour you mentioned earlier.
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Old 07-06-2009, 08:50 PM
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One thing I've always heard while watching the show is that dogs are naturally pack animals. Within that pack, there is always the leader of the pack. This is true in Dingos, Wolves or any other canine. It is your choice to be part of the pack or lead your pack. It was easy for me since I have a Lab. He's followed from day one and is submissive. Do you want your dog running around the house doing what he/she wants or do you want them to do what YOU want. I that's the point Ceasar is trying to get across.
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Old 07-07-2009, 01:12 PM
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I have no advice since my dog is by no means perfect, but THAT^^ dog has the best face ever!!

The only thing I feel that I need to add to the positive reinforcement method is that when my dog was being house trained and only got "good girl" and a treat for going outside it wasn't working as ideally as it did after we mixed "good girl" after going outside with "BAD GIRL" when she went inside. Some people criticize any negative reinforcement however I truly believe that for my dog to be "good" she needed to be told when she was being good as well as when she was being "bad."
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Old 07-09-2009, 03:01 PM
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I totally agree with Kari. Positive reinforcement is the absolute key.

I have two "giant breed" dogs (well, now I only have one as one just died of old age recently). Anyway, traditionally, people say that you have to be alpha with huge dogs or you're just going to have a mess. Personally, I do not believe in 'alpha' as a way to dominate my dog(s). I think people interpret being 'alpha' differently and sometimes people take that to a level of dominance or domineering behaviour that I disagree with.

My dogs have always loved and respected me without feeling any fear. I treat them with respect, too. I am reasonable, consistent, loving, and caring. They have always responded well to what I have asked of them and by no means have they ever taken advantage of the fact that I have never been "domineering" or anything like that.

When my husband met me, he was blown away that they understood what I asked of them and did what I asked them, but I was clearly not 'demanding' it...just asking and b/c they trust me, they do what I ask.
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Old 07-09-2009, 03:19 PM
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