My Way is Not the Only Way

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.


24 thoughts on “My Way is Not the Only Way

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  2. The ‘Skater Hater’ video is just a ridiculous example of someone not using any science to train a dog. Kicking her when she tries to grab the skateboard is justified as ‘I touch her to redirect her’?
    Redirect her onto what?

    As always, I think the question ‘all things being equal, would you rather praise your dog or yell at it?’ holds true. Unfortunately, I think some people on a certain level would rather get out their aggression and feel powerful by using domination methods on dogs then see things clearly.

  3. I was hesitant to watch the videos you posted here because they honestly just make me sad. After thinking on it I decided to watch them…first of all, does he even know what a stressed dog looks like? That one with the pit is particularly disturbing. He even says “this may look bad”. You are damn right it does! Look, I am not a perfect trainer and I have made my fair share of mistakes but even without knowing a damn thing about dog behavior if I heard my dog breathing like that or lying down like that I would think the man had caused her to have a heart attack. How does he not get bit ALL THE TIME?! And 50 dogs a day?! Holy crap is flooding just his favorite thing on earth??? It is frightening. And the caption on the one for the skate board says the dog is “obsessed”. That dog is afraid. My dog is obsessed with sheep, she is a GSD, and her “obsession” looks nothing like that. It looks like pure joy. Gah!!!!

  4. i think if we try to make dogs our friends,,it is ok to do the method c,m does ,,there will allways be ,critcs,,,,,children do not respect us like they did in the 50 sand 60s ,,,no why? there were connsiquinses,,is that spelled right?,,,,,,,sometimes tou gotta smack some hands….

  5. Good article. Though just to be fair, I’ve heard “pure” positive people say the same thing about their way.

  6. When our dog knowledge is based upon coming from the dogs point of view, knowing what we know about dog language, understanding and communication, we can then bring in a respect for our dogs. With that, we and our dogs can then be in a place of successful learning.
    I think CM has had enough air time…let’s go and undo the damage he has done.

    • Even if he wanted to change his methods now, he couldn’t without extreme difficulty.

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  9. It is really frightening how many people someone who doesn’t have his own act together. He did try to commit suicide. To me, this says he does not value life. Do you want your dog in the hands of a guy who doesn’t value life? I don’t.

  10. should say ‘people follow someone’
    It is really frightening how many people follow someone who doesn’t have his own act together. He did try to commit suicide. To me, this says he does not value life. Do you want your dog in the hands of a guy who doesn’t value life? I don’t.

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