National Geographic Cancels “The Dog Whisperer”

On July 7, 2012, many dog lovers, science-based dog trainers, and veterinary behaviorists will be celebrating the end of an unwelcome era. The Dog Whisperer will air for the last time, after nine seasons of being one of the most popular and controversial dog training shows. I will admit, my tail will be waggin’, but I don’t know for how long. Cesar Millan will be appearing in a new show aptly tilted Leader of the Pack. His website states that the new reality show will be filmed in Spain and it involves families from the UK, the Netherlands, and Italy competing to adopt an ‘unadoptable’ dog and give him a second chance. While I hope this brings public awareness to how many homeless dogs deserve a second chance, I’m also wondering why families are competing over adopting a dog in need. Last I checked, there wasn’t any shortage of homeless dogs needing forever homes.

The controversy over the Dog Whisperer has been due to training methods that are outdated and often misunderstood. The Association of Pet Dog Trainers describes the misconceptions of dominance-based dog training:

“Contrary to popular thinking, research studies of wolves in their natural habitat demonstrate that wolves are not dominated by an ‘Alpha Wolf’ that is the most aggressive male, or male-female pairing, of the pack. Rather, they have found that wolf packs are very similar to how human families are organized, and there is little aggression or fights for ‘dominance.’ Wolves, whether it be the parents or the cubs of a pack, depend on each other to survive in the wild; consequently wolves that engage in aggressive behaviors toward each other would inhibit the pack’s ability to survive and flourish. While social hierarchies do exist (just as they do among human families) they are not related to aggression in the way it is commonly portrayed (incorrectly) in popular culture.”

What Millan does on TV sometimes looks remarkable: an undesired dog behavior is corrected with dominance-based training methods, and a dog emerges whose compliant behavior is acceptable to the humans. What TV doesn’t show you is the long-term results that occur when aversive, dominance-based training methods are used. It’s akin to a child that is fearful when locked in a dark basement. He’ll often yell and cry out of fear. A parent could punish the child and threaten that if he makes another peep, he’d get spanked. Short term, the child will often stop crying, out of fear of being hit. However, the long-term effects are often devastating. The same is true for a dog. A dog can show signs of fear by growling and showing their teeth to another. It’s a warning side that says, “I am not comfortable right now. Please stay away.” It is not a sign of dominance, it is a sign of fear.

Next: What happens when a dog stops giving warning signs of fear?

On TV, Cesar Millan, has been very successful at getting dogs to stop showing signs of fear. But, what happens when a dog is still afraid and they learn that they will feel pain if they show their fear? They stop giving warning signs, and the next time they are fearful, they just bite without warning. I wonder if that can explain why every episode of The Dog Whisperer says on top of the TV screen, “Do not try this at home.”

Personally, I’d rather create a partnership with my dogs than be a leader of the pack and dominate them. That isn’t to say that I don’t have very well-mannered dogs. Sanchez and Gina go almost everywhere with me. They are exemplary canine citizens and I still train every day with them, including Sanchez who is nine years old. The positive reinforcement training methods I use help continually build a bonding relationship and inspires them to keep thinking and learning.

What do you think? Are you a fan of dominance-based or science-based dog training methods? Are you happy or sad to see The Dog Whisperer being taken off the air? Thanks for posting a comment and taking our poll below.

Have you seen the new Adoptable Pets page on Care2? Check it out here! Please also share with your friends. Wed love your help in finding homes for these adorable animals!

 

 

Related:
Positively Dog Training with Victoria Stilwell
Is Dog Training an Animal Welfare Issue?
Are You Always Training that Dog?

341 comments

Barbara M
Past Member about a year ago

Thank you

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Ruth S
Ruth Sabout a year ago

Lots of shows get canceled due to poor viewer ratings. This is no different.

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Ruth S
Ruth Sabout a year ago

Thanks.

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Camilla Vaga
Camilla Vagaabout a year ago

thats about time

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Chrissie R
Chrissie Rabout a year ago

Thank you for posting your opinion.

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Irene S
Irene Sabout a year ago

A bit outdated, but I would be one of those celebrating. This guy suffers from lack of empathy and has no inkling of dogs.

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Danii P
Past Member about a year ago

Thank you for sharing

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Nicole H
Nicole Heindryckxabout a year ago

@ Sandra Saad and Sheila Boyd. Very strange to see two IDENTICAL THE SAME COMMENTS FROM 2 different people ?? Be honest, and just show who you really are.

@ M s : Apparently you did not see some wrong training methods he was/is applying. A real animal lover is NOT feared by his dogs. He is loved and respected. And why does he have a favorite dog in his last series ?? I don't know whether you have children, but I got 3, of which 2 adopted. One really tried everything to get me furious and abusive to him, I succeeded to keep my calm. He and his sister came from Chile. The girl was happy here, the boy disgusted me because I took him away from his native country. But when info received from the adoption agency is false, how could I have known ? I tried with all my love, patience, empathy that I had and so did my husband. At 16, he preferred to live in a shelter home for teens and abt 4 years later, he left for Chile leaving a girlfriend with 2 children behind. I just got a FB mssge from him, asking for money to come back to Belgium. I have refused for financial reasons, because my own son and his sister did not want me to do this, and because my heart was still broken, and my sorrow and grieve too deep.
For some dogs it is the same. They are so badly hurt, nothing helps anymore, but fear certainly does not !!

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Nicole H
Nicole Heindryckxabout a year ago

2.- This is not what we WANT to learn about dogs with difficulties due to bad, cruel treatment by their previous owners. I love the episodes of PIT BULLS AND PAROLEES. This woman regularly crawls in the dust, mud, and feces mixed with urine to save an abandoned dog. The parolees working for her also learn how to treat abandoned dogs of a "bad / dangerous" breed. She does not have a big mansion with pool. The dogs in her care are really scary, abandoned, skin & bones and sick poor dogs. The main thing these dogs need, viz. LOVE, they get in abundance.
I hope that this is for us the last year of an era which should have ended years ago.
Animal planet should be more careful in choosing their programs. I also hate the TANKED series, as well as the TREEHOUSE MASTERS. There are billions needed to save so many domestic, farm and wildlife. animals. Animal Planet serves us with luxury and only see mighty millionaires who are !trying to have the best, biggest, most expensive fish tank or treehouse. Disgusting !

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Nicole Heindryckx
Nicole Heindryckxabout a year ago

When seeing this article appear on the "first page" of causes / animals, I was surprised to see it dated back to 2012, being a member since 2013. However, I am glad to be able to read this now. I fully agree that the training method of Mr. Cesar did NEVER impress me at all. I do agree that you should be the alpha male when having children of various ages and dogs like German or Belgian Shepherds, especially males. With the "Malinois", our Belgian Shepherd dog, it has been a lifetime ongoing affair. Both were rescued dogs, and had a bad life behind them, this might explain their conduct. But I have never - even as a woman - expressed me being the Alpha of my pack with fear, anxiety, little kicks with a leg into the dogs' legs... without them seeing it. Cesar has done this a thousand times, but always denied it. It happened so quickly and unexpectedly, you needed a trained eye to really see what was going on.
I doubt him to be a real dog lover. His new series we can now follow in Belgium on Animal planet, is even more disgusting and most probably more beneficial to him. If I were such a big dog lover, I would open a sanctuary for dogs who are not easily adopted, either by appearance or by conduct and aggression. Cesar has a mighty mansion, with all possible training devices, as walking baths etc.. It's just a luxury edition for people with big bank accounts.

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