For the sake of argument, let us imagine that Cesar Millan is right. We will imagine a universe where punishment causes no adverse psychological effects.
In Millan’s reality punishment does not elicit fear and it does not cause aggression; punching a dog will not cause it to bite. Confrontational methods don’t result in defensive aggression; pairing pain with a stimulus does not result produce fear and learned helplessness is not the outcome of inescapable punishment.
In this universe it is possible to kick the Skater Hater (video) until she starts liking skateboards; we can shove Emily the Pitbull’s (video) face to the ground every time she sees another dog and this will make her friendly to dogs; we can punch Holly and it won’t make her bite and it will fix her resource guarding. We can strangle and pin JonBee (video) to the floor and force him to enjoy forced alpha rolls. Hanging Shadow the Husky will turn aggression into affection. In this world, punishment and reinforcement work exactly the same and are equally effective.
Even if punishment and reward were functionally equivalent, does that mean they are also morally equivalent? Can Millan ethically justify his choice of punishment over reward?
When faced with questions about his harsh methods the stock answer Millan gives is “My way is not the only way.” He acknowledges there are other methods that don’t use aversives to alter dog behavior. So Millan knows that a shot to the kidneys isn’t the only way to produce a change in behavior.
What does it say about a man who consistently chooses to punish dogs while at the same time acknowledging there are other methods? Why choose the way of pain?
Cesar, for the sake of the dogs, choose the other way.
- Whitewashing the Whisperer – Eric Goebelbecker
- Critics Challenge ‘Dog Whisperer’ Methods – LiveScience
- Learned Helplessness
- AVSAB Position Statement: Adverse Effects Of Punishment
- Dog training – Confrontational Behavior Modification & Training Techniques [YouTube]
- Cesar Millan Hanging Shadow
- Shadow and Cesar Millan: An Update on the Strung Up Husky (psychologytoday.com)
- Exhaustion and Emily the Pitbull
- Millan is proof that Positive Reinforcement Works
- Cesar Millan’s Pain Flowchart
- Frozen by Punishment