Celebrity dog trainer Cesar Millan, best known for his award-winning National Geographic show Dog Whisperer, has had a tough summer. First, his wife of 16 years filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. Now, animal behaviorists and other professional dog trainers are arguing that some of Millan’s techniques are cruel and ineffective, Time reports.
Critics of Millan, including dog trainer Victoria Stilwell, are once again saying that some of his methods — such as the alpha roll, in which he pins a dog on its back and holds it by the throat to exert dominance — are dangerous and counterproductive.
"Discipline doesn't come in the form of screaming at your dog, hitting your dog or putting it into an alpha roll," says Stilwell. "When you do that, instinct tells the dog to shut down, which is mistaken for calming, but really you're making the dog more insecure."
Simply put, if your dog is misbehaving, it’s most likely not because he wants to dominate you, but rather because he has not been appropriately trained to act differently.
While many critics are taking issue with Milan’s training techniques, it should be said that this is not a complete attack on his approach. As Time.com reports:
"To be sure, Millan's approach to retraining is sometimes warm and fuzzy, and he has much common ground with positive-reinforcement trainers like Stilwell. Both trainers strive - as much as possible with a nonspeaking animal - to determine the psychological cause of a pup's misbehavior. Both encourage people to ignore dogs' annoying habits so as not to accidentally reward them with attention. Both agree that punishment is only effective during or within half a second after the offending behavior: yell at Butch for peeing in your kitchen after he's already walked away, and Butch will think he's in trouble for walking away. Both trainers obviously love animals."