Cesar Millan, I submit

Is it possible, at certain moments we cannot imagine, a horse can add its sufferings together -- the non-stop jerks and jabs that are its daily life -- and turn them into grief?”  Equus: A Play in Two Acts  By Peter Shaffer

Equus: A Play in Two Acts
By Peter Shaffer

Cesar, you once wrote: “When I learned how to be calm-submissive to my wife, it improved my marriage 100 percent!” But you are now divorced.

Did your recipe for an “improved” marriage lead to its eventual breakdown? Were you resentful about being submissive? Was your wife looking for a partner and not a prisoner to guard? Did you act out to regain a feeling of control? Did Ilusión grow tired of dominating you into good behavior? I don’t know. I’m pretty sure it didn’t help.

It’s hard to understand why you think we must make our dogs “submissive” Why is it even desirable?

I wouldn’t write “submissive” on my résumé. And I wouldn’t hire someone who did. Coaches don’t brag about their submissive players, military officers don’t want submissive soldiers and managers don’t go out of their way to hire submissive workers.  Who starts a relationship just to make the partner submissive? Would you brag about creating a submissive child? Would you seek out submissive business partner? Can you expect success with submissive workmates? Will a team of submissive players win a championship?

There are some situations where a person might value submissiveness. Looking for someone to abuse or exploit? Searching for someone to victimize? Submissiveness becomes useful. Dictators, tyrants, and bullies value submissiveness.

But even when you get submissiveness is not enough; the dogs must then be forced to submit and surrender. Are you at war with the dog? Are dogs the enemy?

Dogs shouldn't surrender. Doodle by Me

Dogs shouldn’t surrender.
Doodle by Me

It seems insane to enter a relationship only to spend the rest of your life worrying excitement will be seen as a “sign of instability” because “to a dog, emotional energy is weak and often negative energy.” You are even afraid of showing the dog any affection because you think “affection will only create excitement.” Cesar I’m still confused about that part; if the dog perceives excitement in others as “weak energy” why does the dog’s excitement make it dominate you? How does that work?

Harlow's monkeys chose affection over food

Harlow’s monkeys chose affection over food

You’ve called dogs “man’s best friend” (2013) and I would agree but you don’t behave as if they are they are your best friends. If your friendship is built on the subjugation of your ‘friend’ then it’s not really friendship. Is it?

It appears you only want a relationship which will make you feel ‘dominant’ and the dog is a means to that end. It’s no wonder you are always worried, anxious and fearful a dog will usurp and dominate you. Man’s best friend?

Aristotle wrote, “the friendship of utility is full of complaints; for as they use each other for their own interests they always want to get the better of the bargain, and think they have got less than they should, and blame their partners because they do not get all they ‘want and deserve’; and those who do well by others cannot help them as much as those whom they benefit want.”

And there you are complaining when the dog shows fear, excitement, gives affection, walks in front of you, barks at the knock on the door or does anything you might interpret as dominance. Always ready to clamp down making little distinction on how you get the job done.

"It doesn’t matter if you use a treat, a clicker, or discipline to elicit the behavior you want, as long as that behavior is natural." -  Cesar Millans Short Guide to a Happy Dog - (2013)

“It doesn’t matter if you use a treat, a clicker, or discipline to elicit the behavior you want, as long as that behavior is natural.” – Cesar Millan’s Short Guide to a Happy Dog – (2013)

I think it does matter if you use discipline – your euphemism for punishment – to get the behaviour you want. It matters to the dog who doesn’t have to be shocked, kicked or choked and at least subconsciously it must matter to you. The advice one must dissociate – or as you say stay calm and assertive – emotions from the act punishing a dog tells me that you may recognize the problem with punishment. It’s hard to choke out a dog if you empathy enters into the equation.

It’s not the life I want for me or my dogs. I didn’t get dogs to wage a 15 year battle for social supremacy. To what end? I never want my dogs to surrender. I don’t want my dogs to feel defeated, helpless and I do not fear their excitement. I value intelligence, confidence, self-initiative, curiosity, perseverance and yes, assertiveness too; in fact, I like the same kind of relationship and traits in my dogs that I like in my humans. But then again, I seek cooperation not subjugation.

The blind focus on dominance condemns you to a combative, emotionally dull relationship and that’s your choice and sentences the dog to a lifetime of emotional suppression through the use of punishment or the threat of it. You deserve better.

Dogs are intelligent animals with rich interests and a spectrum of emotions and dooming them to the grey, dreary existence you favor is uncommonly cruel. Dogs deserve better.

Man’s best friend deserves better.

Cesar, this I submit to you.


17 thoughts on “Cesar Millan, I submit

  1. Reblogged this on DogSentials and commented:

    “blind focus on dominance condemns you to a combative, emotionally dull relationship”~ Caen Elegans
    Well said.

  2. This article is written in the right spirit, and makes some good points, but the delivery anthropomorphizes dogs with poor analogy. Dogs are not humans. Treating them as though they are, is ultimately a disservice to their happiness, and well being.

    • You will have to be specific if you want to be understood.
      We all aim to treat dogs like dogs, we just have different opinions about what a dog is like. What is it specifically in your opinion about dogs that makes these analogies poor? What is the specific difference between dogs and humans that you think this article fails to recognise?

    • No, Ben. Dogs are not humans, but both are animals and both deserve to learn free from pain and fear whenever possible. If there is another way to teach something, and we are choosing to teach it through force, fear, pain, and/or intimidation just because we know it works, what does imply about us? The end does not justify the means when there is choice in how to do something. Just give it some thought.

    • Thanks for the comment, for now I’ll have to agree with Neil and Lulu. Can expand on your original post and provide some specifics?

  3. First I want to say, I loved this.

    My sister, who is a fellow dog trainer, came to my house once with a dog she was working with who had some dog aggression issues (more like a bit of reactivity). Anyway, I had no problem with bring this dog over. I have four dogs and my three females are frequently used to help with issues like this because you see, the are all very “dominant”. That is how my sister describes them. She wanted to use my “dominant” “pack” to help socialize this dog. Really my three females are very confident and self assured. They are not easily moved by a dog that snaps or growls at them. They keep their cool while the insecure dog figures out there is not threat here. If this is what dominant is, then yes I have dominant dogs and I love it. If they were submissive I don’t think we’d have nearly the same luck socializing other dogs.

  4. I have met Cesar Millan several times. He is a very kind, sweet person who loves dogs. You are a clever and talented writer. I hope writing pieces like this brings you great satisfaction.

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