Dog Whisperer Book

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Dog Whisperer Book

Postby jones » Wed Jul 05, 2006 7:57 am

Has anyone here read this? I thought I remembered someone saying they picked it up. I was looking through it at the bookstore last night - I couldn't bring myself to spend money on it but I was dying of curiosity. I was skimming through a section on "low self-esteem" when I came across an anecdote about a dog who had been teased with a laser point and became light/shadow-obsessed (relatively common problem, no?). He claimed this was a simple self-esteem problem and that it took him just "a few tugs on his leash" to cure it. I swear if that is not a direct quote it's damn close. He added the caveat that it would take the owners more time and more leash tugs to fully cure him under their leadership.

I couldn't help myself, I know it's not cute but I started spluttering and muttering "what an idiot" audibly in the store, just hoping people would hear me and take note of what book I was reading. Is he for real? A few tugs on the leash cure O/C behavior... why didn't *I* think of that?

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Re: Dog Whisperer Book

Postby connie » Wed Jul 05, 2006 9:43 am

I read it. I liked it. I think he has a coherent training philosophy expressed in the book and while it may not be to everyone's liking, I didn't find it annoying or bothersome.

People have said that his TV show is a bit different from his book and I've not seen the show, so I don't know about that.

But honestly, nothing in the book offended me in the slightest. I've been reading dog-training books for 20 years, just about, and I've read Woodhouse and Koehler and the Monks and all the staples; I've seen training change over that time to a more communication-based approach, and that's been good. I don't buy one approach over another; I think every person works out what's best for them in their relationship with their dogs.

I think a distinction always needs to be made between teaching and other behaviors. I don't think that aversives are at all useful when *teaching* a dog, but I do think that in some social and behavioral situations, aversives happen. My dogs get told "no" sometimes and they are hardly abused.

I don't recall the part of the book you mention, but if what he's saying is that a dog who is focused to the point of obsession on something should be re-directed, and a collar correction is one way to do that, then I don't find that terrible at all. Kevin Behan, in his Natural Dog Training, uses collar corrections for much the same thing: to switch the dog from one "mode" into another.

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Re: Dog Whisperer Book

Postby Sabine » Wed Jul 05, 2006 11:49 am

I haven't read the book, but I found this article last night:

http://www.azstarnet.com/allheadlines/134285

Not to start another "Cesar discussion", but the following paragrpahs express my thoughts quite well:

Other dog-behavior experts are incensed at Millan's methods. The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists has written to the National Geographic Channel expressing concerns about techniques used on the show.
"They are basically abuse," said Nicholas Dodman, program director for the Animal Behavior Clinic at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, author of "Dogs Behaving Badly" (Bantam) and a member of the veterinary group.
He said that Millan's first offense is not having the problem dogs checked for possible underlying medical conditions. But the main issue, Dodman said, is that "Millan is using the same methods used by military trainers to train the dogs of war during World War II."
"All these people understand is that you have to be alpha. There's nothing new about what he's doing," Dodman said. "It's the same old punitive stuff, and 'Oprah' and National Geographic helped Millan get rediscovered.
"If you have a bratty child and you whack him in the ear and you send him to his room, you can see immediate results. But it doesn't fix the underlying problem. Millan uses these physical methods, and they're brutal."


That and the fact I don't like his "do as I say but don't do as I do" approach, aka the "do not try this at home" stuff.
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Re: Dog Whisperer Book

Postby howlyip » Tue Jul 11, 2006 6:59 pm

I read it, liked it a lot. His book is different than his show. The show is only 30 minutes long and you didn't get to understand how he got the dog to act correctly.

The book tells you how. Yes it is common sense. And I am glad it's back. So many people are more and more treating their dogs exactly like spoiled kids.

They are dogs. Companions, friends, life savers, but still dogs.

It is a very informative read.

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Re: Dog Whisperer Book

Postby jones » Wed Jul 12, 2006 1:57 pm

I don't get it - how is a collar correction a redirect and not a correction? I do want to read the book because I don't feel fully comfortable criticizing it without familiarizing myself with the material... but I just can't bear to give the guy my money. Maybe if the library gets it I'll check it out. I'm glad that Dr. Dodman is speaking out about Millan and his show, that's encouraging news to me.

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Re: Dog Whisperer Book

Postby Lamneth25 » Wed Aug 02, 2006 6:41 pm

I don't see how what Millan does is in any way similar to what military trainers did back in WW2 From what I have seen, he is very gentle. And I don't know why people have a problem taking charge and telling their dogs what to do instead of asking and bribing them. Making your dog afraid to not listen to you via harsh punnishment/verbal abuse/anger is horrible and disgusting...but making your dog respect you is a great idea. I haven't seen alot of his episodes, but what I have seen, I liked.

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Re: Dog Whisperer Book

Postby Sabine » Wed Aug 02, 2006 7:29 pm

I don't debate that dogs must respect their people, on the contrary. I just happen to disagree with Millan's approach for the most part and find a more "hands off" style of training much more effective and humane.

There's also a profound difference in "bribing" a dog and using positive reinforcement in training (which doesn't necessarily have to be all about food).

I've gotten into this discussion many times with various people on multiple forums, but most of those who use phrases like "bribing" and look down on recent developments in more positive training methods at the same time do not know much about how animals (any kind of animal, not just limited to dogs) learn. I'm not saying you are one of them, it's just a general observation.

For that I'd like to include this link:
http://www.wagntrain.com/OC/

I've been training dogs since the mid 80s (not on a professional basis, only as a dog owner and as part of a shelter program working with the local dog sport club) and am sad to have to admit that in the beginning I used the so called "traditional" methods too, including heavy use of leash-jerk corrections and so on.

If you watch some more episodes you might see more of Millan's approach, including alpha rolls, holding dogs down in the presence of other (off leash) dogs and similar nonsense that doesn't do much but put you at risk of getting bitten.
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Re: Dog Whisperer Book

Postby Lamneth25 » Wed Aug 02, 2006 9:08 pm

There's also a profound difference in "bribing" a dog and using positive reinforcement in training (which doesn't necessarily have to be all about food).
Aye, and kongs are great for that Don't get me wrong, I am all about positive reinforcement...and I think hands off is a great way to teach commands. I just hate seeing people asking their dog to do a command and trying to bribe them into it and the dog will only obey if they know they get a treat and if they happen to want it at the time. But I equally hate some person jerking their dog around, using harsh tone of voice, reacting in anger if their dog makes a mistake or frustration when the dog gets confused under all the stress...poor dogs.
If you watch some more episodes you might see more of Millan's approach, including alpha rolls, holding dogs down in the presence of other (off leash) dogs and similar nonsense that doesn't do much but put you at risk of getting bitten.


I was attacked by a male shepherd once while trying to scoop poop in a yard at the kennel...he was a daycare dog and I walked in the yard. He came over and got in the way so I reached for him and he clamped onto my arm growling and posturing in a dominant way...I grabbed his cheek and as he turned his head to bite that arm I grabbed the other side and put him on the ground and held him for a few minutes. He finally relaxed and acted submissive and I let him go. That dog had a nasty temperment and his owners let him intimidate him.

My point is, had he been my dog he would have been raised differently and never allowed to get to that point...but unfortunately he was not my dog and was allowed to get to that point and an alpha roll did him some good...I'm not saying that I reccomend doing that to a Cane Corso but you know sometimes they need to be put in their place, and sometimes you don't have alot of choice.

I did make a mistake, I was less experienced and passed the dog's fear threshold...the dog never trusted me after that. In that case I had to react instantly. I am not a fan of violent alpha rolls, accept in that case at that moment, it was the best thing for my arm. I have not seen Millan do his alpha rolls...I guess you could gently roll a dog on its back without triggering a fear or aggressive response. It would surprise me if he was harsh, as much as he talks of "calm assertive energy"

I have worked with dogs obviously abused at another groomer and stayed below the dog's threshold. If you do that, the dog starts to relax and increase its fear/aggression/aggitation threshold and you can go a little further until you are doing whatever it hated before and it trusts you.

This is my philosophy, when training never create a nasty conflict with your dog like an violent alpha roll, overcorrection whatever...it makes them mistrust you. All commands and corrections should be calm not angry or high strung. I see alot of people reacting to a dog's aggitated state, for example frustrated prey drive they nag nag nag and make the dog more excited then give a harsh correction confusing and shutting down the dog then expect it to heel or something.

Sorry if I am rambling...and I hope that makes sense.

Lamneth

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Re: Dog Whisperer Book

Postby Colleen » Thu Aug 03, 2006 7:41 am

I was attacked by a male shepherd once while trying to scoop poop in a yard at the kennel...he was a daycare dog and I walked in the yard. He came over and got in the way so I reached for him and he clamped onto my arm growling and posturing in a dominant way...I grabbed his cheek and as he turned his head to bite that arm I grabbed the other side and put him on the ground and held him for a few minutes. He finally relaxed and acted submissive and I let him go. That dog had a nasty temperment and his owners let him intimidate him.
You did what you had to do. Your very lucky the dog did not esculate his aggression due to being put into a intimidating position and go into a higher attack mode. With my Rottie the first time I rolled her she was too shocked to react in any way other than offer an appeasement behavior. I was just using gentle rolls and holding her down to show her I was boss...I don't recommend rolling a dog in any form shape etc.

I personally would never recommend anyone to roll a dog. Some people can get away with it a few times due to startling the dog. I personally can attest that this method can esculate aggression and with that you loose the trust between owner and dog. This is how I started training my rescue Rottie, she had aggression issues, plus she had never been socialized prior to my rescuing her.

I did every thing the books suggested, alpha rolls, holding her until she submits. I did everything to show her I was the "alpha". These techniques may have worked on a dog with less aggression and perhaps not as reactive as Athena...but, with Athena these techniques at first seemed to be working, but, all along what I didn't realize was my new dog was learning not to trust me. She was also becoming defensive and reactive towards humans.

I started seeing an animal behaviorist who really came down hard on me for using those awful alpha training techniques. With her help we used all positive training and luring Athena into good behavior. Athena is a good student and will do an entire obedience lesson with no treats at all. She went from being lured with treats to getting excited about my being excited.

Once I gained her trust everything else just fell into place. She was no longer the dog the vets loved to hate, she was now their favorite customer. With trust she learned that no matter what I have to do she will trust me enough to know that I am not trying to hurt her. I was amazed at how far this trust had come the day she got in a fight with a porcupine. This once aggressive dog layed down and allowed me to pull every quill out...she even held her mouth somewhat open while I removed them from her tongue.

Even working at the kennel I have been able to handle dogs that other groomers and Vets cannot handle by themselves. I use calming techniques and I normally can gain the trust of any dog that comes in. I would never reach over top of an unknown dogs head, nor would I ever put myself into a situation where I grabbed an unknown dogs collar in an over the head manner. I learned that with proper body language and common sense you can keep from being in a dangerous position.

With Athena she is a success story of how alpha training can make matter worse and how positive training can turn the entire situation around. I learned alot with Athena, I learned that you can teach yourself to be a natural around dogs and automatically put them at ease. Of course I made huge mistakes along the way, but to see the result of a positive trained dog...it's amazing. I used the same positive training with my newest rescue Beau, a stray dog I found with major issues.

One paragraph from an article I read in WDJ I think explains why we humans should not roll dogs.
The alpha roll is supposed to mimic the behavior of the "top dog" in a pack, and send the message, "I'm the boss of you!" but one huge error in alpha roll logic is the belief that we can successfully pretend to be dogs in oru interactions with our canine companions. Dogs know we're not dogs, and any attempt on our part to mimic their language is doomed to failure.

Dogs are masters at speaking and reading canine body language. Their communications to each other are often subtle and nuanced, a furry ballet designed to keep peace in the pack. Our efforts to usecanine body communications are oafish in comparison - and I imagine that our dogs are alternately amused, confused, nonplussed, and terrified by our clumsy attempts to speak their language.

Violence occurs between dogs within established social groups when the communication system breakds down; it's a sign of an unhealthy pack relationship. Ethology studies from the 1970s and 1980's suggest that Canine social structure holds together because appeasement behaviors are offered by subordinate members, not because higher-ranking members aggressively demand subservience. Instead, successful pack leaders were observed to calmly control the good stuff - an approach frequently suggested by today's modern , positive trainers as a much safer, more appropriate, and effective method for creating a harmonious mixed-species social group

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Re: Dog Whisperer Book

Postby sammy » Thu Aug 03, 2006 8:30 am

So much of what makes up dominance theory is based on misinformation about wolf packs. Using physical force on a dog doesn't make you alpha in his mind. It makes you a middle ranking pack member of similar status.
http://www.bogartsdaddy.com/bouvier/Tra ... oll_no.htm

Using food as reinforcement is not bribing- well not if you're using it correctly. It's disappointing to me that there is still so much misunderstanding about reinforcement based training. Positive training is not permissive training (I think that's a Susan Garret quote?)
When there are well known, proven, dog friendly methods out to train dogs and make it fun for both dog and handler, I just can't understand why anyone would use collar corrections and physical dominance. If they can train killer whales to jump through hoops without a collar or relying on punishment / aversives why why why would we use them on man's best friend?

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Re: Dog Whisperer Book

Postby Colleen » Thu Aug 03, 2006 1:30 pm

Well said Sammy

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Re: Dog Whisperer Book

Postby spiritdogs » Thu Aug 03, 2006 2:45 pm

I don't see how what Millan does is in any way similar to what military trainers did back in WW2 From what I have seen, he is very gentle. And I don't know why people have a problem taking charge and telling their dogs what to do instead of asking and bribing them.
Reinforcement for proper behavior is not a bribe - you are only bribing if the dog sees the food first. When I train a dog, the rewards might be stashed everywhere - even on top of the fridge or in the oven. When I "catch my dog doing something good" or I ask for a behavior and the response is immediate, suddenly a reward might appear!
I prefer my dogs to work for something they want, as opposed to working to avoid pain or some other aversive. And, I find that if I am consistent and only reward behaviors I want repeated, that the less desireable behaviors disappear, and the dog begins to offer behavior that is appropriate because he never gets anything for being a jerk, not even eye contact.
CM was bitten on one show because he tried to force a very frightened dog to come forward. And, I have seen an article that says he is being sued by an owner whose dog he allegedly "hung" (yep, that's exactly what it looks like, too) and the dog died of his injuries. To me, that is not competent training. I believe you can get results with brutality, or even just heavyhandedness, but do you really want to do so, when there are methods that work which do not involve ruining your relationship with your dog. They only want to see you as a leader, not a tyrant. IMO, if you haven't the time to desensitize a fearful dog, and instead simply "flood" it, you are not that skilled - you just want to impress the unsuspecting public - and it makes for great TV.

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Re: Dog Whisperer Book

Postby PaulaS » Fri Aug 04, 2006 10:26 am

I'm just catching up on this quickly, but I have to say:

Go Heather! Right on, sister!
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Re: Dog Whisperer Book

Postby jones » Fri Aug 04, 2006 5:25 pm

Cally, thanks for sharing about Athena. I love to hear a success story like that!

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Re: Dog Whisperer Book

Postby Lamneth25 » Fri Aug 04, 2006 6:05 pm

You know what's funny about alpha rolls...an alpha dog doesn't roll a subordinate over....they do in on their own

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Re: Dog Whisperer Book

Postby Colleen » Fri Aug 04, 2006 6:56 pm

You know what's funny about alpha rolls...an alpha dog doesn't roll a subordinate over....they do in on their own


Exactly Lamneth25, that's why it's a huge mistake for some dog trainers to be telling people to roll/or pin a dog to teach it who's boss. I made that mistake when I first got Athena. I'm just glad it wasn't too late when I learned about positive training.

It's no wonder the behaviorist was so upset with me for how I was attempting to train Athena.

Thank You Jones Athena is what I would call a miracle make over. There was a time when I seriously considered sending her to Rottie rescue as i couldn't handle her.

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Re: Dog Whisperer Book

Postby connie » Sat Aug 05, 2006 9:11 am

So much of what makes up dominance theory is based on misinformation about wolf packs. Using physical force on a dog doesn't make you alpha in his mind. It makes you a middle ranking pack member of similar status.
Bingo. If ONE CONCEPT could be gotten through to the majority of dog owners about training, I would wish it could be this. In fact, I'd say that it doesn't even make the person a middle-ranking pack member; it makes them, to the dog, a volatile and unpredictably aggressive crazy person. Hard to respect one of those, and I know -- I've worked for a couple.

I don't doubt that everybody on this board knows the difference between rewarding, or using positive reinforcement, and bribing. But I do know a number of people who interact with their dogs by asking for behavior, asking ten times, and finally treating the dog for less than compliant behavior. Getting Fido off the couch, for those people, is a real task. And when they finally dislodge Fido, who grumbles and may even curl a lip at them, they GIVE HIM A TREAT. Oy.

Those are the dogs who become complete emotional messes, IMO.

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Re: Dog Whisperer Book

Postby jones » Fri Sep 15, 2006 1:03 pm

I finally read this book all the way through (borrowed from the library). After reading it I actually have a lower opinion of Millan than before. For the most part I am done arguing about him because I don't think that the people who like him want to listen... but I just want to respond to the book here where I know people will actually read my post.

The super-short synopsis of the book is Cesar spends part of his childhood living on a farm in a small Mexican town. Now, if you read carefully you will note that he actually lives in a city but spends weekends and vacations on this (his grandfather's) farm. At the farm they have dogs who sometimes do "work" in some capacity at the farm but generally roam around together in packs - they are not family dogs in any sense of the word, people do not feed them, walk them, play with them, train them, or bring them indoors. If you ask me these are essentially friendly street dogs. But in any case, Cesar loves these animals and will always look back on them as happy, healthy, and well-adjusted.

His family then moves to a new city far from the farm - when he is six years old . They attempt to have an indoor dog but since they know nothing about having an indoor dog he destroys the place and they get rid of him. Cesar observes that the city dogs do not seem as happy as the farm dogs of his memories. He also watches Lassie and Rin Tin Tin and decides he wants to train movie star dogs (as a child). In his late teens he moves to the US and gets a job as a groomer - groomers there note that he has a natural ability to handle big, unruly dogs.

So, all of that is the raw material from whence "Cesar's Way" emerges. Now, no one ever talks about this and I think it's really important... the basis of his model for the 'ideal' dog (that is, happy, healthy, and mentally balanced) comes from memories he has of dogs on the farm, from before the age of SIX, on weekends and vacations. Now, I work in interior design (speaking broadly) and I have a natural "way" with color... but if I were to base my techniques on the fingerpainting I did in kindegarten my clients would be in trouble. Now I'm being a little jokey but I almost can't express my amazement at the flimsiness of this theory of Cesar's way without being facetious.

Secondly, his 'ideal' dogs (I'm calling them for short) were essentially street dogs. I'm quite sure that a pack of dogs, breeding through natural selection and living on their own terms out of doors and out of the context of human lives & homes, would run quite smoothly. But unless Cesar is advocating that we free all dogs and let them live wild in packs (which I'm sure he's not), I hardly see how this is applicable to the training and care of family pets. Of course there is a much steeper learning curve for dogs who are not able to poop wherever, chew whatever, do whatever, all day every day. No, living in a house is not "natural" to dogs (Cesar focuses so much on what's natural) but a lot of things we ask of our dogs are not strictly natural - it's not natural for dogs to have their toenails clipped, it's not natural for them to sit politely waiting for their food to be served - but if we want to keep dogs as pets we MUST ask them to make certain "unnatural" concessions to life-with-humans, and we take great care to be fair and humane about these concessions.

One thing that pretty much all Cesar fans and non-fans agree on is that his emphasis on exercise is a positive thing. However, likely stemming from his street-dog-as-ideal basic position (his other oft-cited example of the happy dog is a homeless person's dog), I noted in his book that his idea of proper exercise for a normal household pet is four to eight hours of vigorous exercise a day. Every day! Even if a person had the time to do this, even if it were not a little unreasonable to live your life around your dog's exercise needs to that degree (after all we are not all shelter owners like Cesar), is this truly the amount of exercise the average pet dog needs?? I can only imagine what my cocker spaniel would be like after four to eight hours of running alongside a bicycle. Of course every problem could be solved by exercise if "proper exercise" meant 4-8 hrs of running - the dog would be too tired to do anything but sleep. This to me is just another example of Cesar beginning with the grain of a good idea and taking it to absurd extremes.

Very sorry for the long post. I REALLY had to get that out of my system.

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Re: Dog Whisperer Book

Postby sammy » Fri Sep 15, 2006 1:26 pm

I hear ya. Of all the old style trainers to become famous, why him? I don't get it either. He can do horrendous things to dogs on tv including kicking, increasingly harsh collar corrections, alpha rolling, restraining a scared dog by holding them forcefully down by the neck, flooding, shock collars etc and people still think he is wonderful.
Heck the protection dog people who are well versed in using shock collars are appaulled at how is is using them.
I am particularly appaulled by the fact that he says one thing and does another. He preaches about his "calm assertive energy" but watch his show and you can plainly see it ain't the "energy" that's making the biggest impression on the dogs.
When people describe what he does on tv and the cesar fans admit it's pretty harsh and then say "but what he says in his book is different" isn't that a big red flag?
People look at their dog's problem behaviors and after watching his show think that they just need to be more dominant, lower the dog's status, show 'em who is boss. I shudder to think what's been done to dog's because of that show. It's very sad.
This is the first time I have heard that his theory came from experiences he had under the age of six. Funny.

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Re: Dog Whisperer Book

Postby myguys » Fri Sep 15, 2006 9:34 pm

I'm so glad to hear you say this about him, I hear people go on and on about his TV show so I finally watched it and I was not impressed. He kicked the dog in the hip to make it stay, push another one off a bed to make it stay down then pushed it again when it was only looking at the people and not even trying to jump up, I am not a trainer and by no means an expert with dogs, but can you really teach a dog aggressive dog to stop in one lesson?Thanks and sorry for the hijacking but I've been wanting to say that for a long time, but I thought everyone just loved him

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Re: Dog Whisperer Book

Postby Bari » Sat Sep 16, 2006 12:08 pm

I agree with your post. When I got Carni, Cesar had just hit it big and I was interested in what he had to say. Now, two years later, different story. Unfortunately, he is the flavor of the month for a reality show and unfortuntely, the dogs will suffer.

The point about his memories at six is well taken.
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Re: Dog Whisperer Book

Postby Colleen » Sat Sep 16, 2006 4:11 pm

Well said jones
Heck even when I was growing up dogs were just let loose in the morning and ran in packs around the neighborhood all day. We kids played with them and had a "natural" way with them. But, those dogs (as you mentioned) had the best of both worlds. They were very social and learned how to be low key around humans.

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Re: Dog Whisperer Book

Postby Kathleen » Sat Sep 16, 2006 5:10 pm

I think that is a very good point. I live in the country and for the most part people don't keep their dogs fenced. TO look at my neighborhood you would think wow these people have really figured out how to boundary train their dogs. The truth of the matter is They get a puppy if it doesn't stick around they get another one. Eventually they get one that stays, no training involved just luck.

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Re: Dog Whisperer Book

Postby spiritdogs » Tue Sep 19, 2006 8:16 pm

I'm so glad to hear you say this about him, I hear people go on and on about his TV show so I finally watched it and I was not impressed. He kicked the dog in the hip to make it stay, push another one off a bed to make it stay down then pushed it again when it was only looking at the people and not even trying to jump up, I am not a trainer and by no means an expert with dogs, but can you really teach a dog aggressive dog to stop in one lesson?
No, you can't, and neither can he. And, someday, it will come back to haunt him, but probably not before it kills a few pet dogs whose owners try this crap and actually induce a fear bite, when they could have listened to trainers like Deborah Wood and Patricia McConnell to train their fearful dogs to be more confident.


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