Cesar Millan, the “Dog Whisperer” operates mainly under the philosophy of using calm, assertive energy, and that energy and body language can greatly influence a dogs behaviour. His main concept, in order of importance, is that a dog needs 1. Exercise, 2. Discipline, 3. Affection, exactly in this order. Many problems can be solved by giving the dog more exercise in a structured environment. Not all problems, of course; and he is right; a lot of owners do not give their dogs enough exercise and mental stimulation. He will work with any dog, regardless of it’s level of aggression. Also, he states in his book, Cesar’s Way, that a lot of problems stem from the fact that people think of their dogs not as animal, dog, breed then name, but as humans, they humanize their dogs too much. Growing up in Mexico, he did not see the kind of issues dogs in America have, as Americans humanize their dogs when they should be letting them just be dogs and treated as such.
Obviously, his methods do work, as the dogs do get rehabilitated and he has shown time and again, the same owners a few years down the road; and the dog is still rehabilitated; unlike what some will say that his methods create a ticking time bomb; if this were so, he would have had many of his own dogs he has rehabilitated and clients dogs, revert to their former dangerous and aggressive states.
The concept of being the pack leader and remaining calm and assertive at all times are obviously excellent guidelines to follow. Also, and again, contrary to what some have said that his methods are to get a dog aggressive then alpha roll the dog and exert your dominance over the dog; what he states is to correct behaviours at the slightest sign before they escalate into a ‘red zone’., or more problematic behaviour. If a dog is over reactive to a particular stimulus, for example, the case of the rottweiler reacting strongly to any sounds, such as shopping carts, skateboards, etc, his methods are to desensitize the dog by exposing the dog to the particular stimulus over and over, while giving it light touch corrections (and he does emphasize light touch, not hitting), until the dog does not react any longer. Same for his leash training methods, to lightly correct the dog if it pulls ahead; and to make sure you are in the lead or the dog is beside you on the walk, so that the dog does not get ahead of you, as it will then think it is the pack leader of the walk.
His methods seem to be right on the mark; but I will say that the alpha roll technique should not be used by anyone other than a very very experienced person; and possibly not used at all; as (and he does mention this in his book) no one should alpha roll an aggressive dog (although he does with apparent success); or you could get hurt very easily, and this is a rule to follow to the letter, as most dogs, if in an aggressive state, will not tolerate being rolled; and will attack; there are some that say that the only time a dog will roll another onto its back is right before it kills it. Dogs will voluntarily roll onto their backs with another dog around, but it has to happen willingly.
The only other aspect of Cesar’s training is the use of ‘whatever tool the owner is using’; which is fine except when the tool happens to be a prong collar. Prong collars are not comfortable to a dog; and this is only my opinion; but should not be used in most cases; as this does mask your dog obeying you for the simple reason that it respects you as it’s leader; and instead controls by discomfort. Other than this, I would recommend any of Cesar’s books, videos, etc; but use common sense and when he says a method should not be used without consulting a professional, then dont use it. Just follow the main concepts.
That is one thing I will give Brad Pattison; on one episode, when he was going through the owner’s house as he usually does; he found a prong collar and made fun of it and threw it out. Good for him on that one. He also does not recommend choke collars or shock collars.
Surprisingly, his main concept is that dogs learn by body language; which happens to be the same concept as Cesar Millan, although their methods are not similar in all respects.
If a dog misbehaves, he will, for one thing, if it is not being exercised enough, recommend more exercise, but uses the umbilical technique. Tying a 6 foot leash to your waist and the other end attached to the dog. He often will recommend keeping the dog on this umbilical for 2 hours a day, which can be done while you are doing other things; like preparing dinner, feeding the baby, etc. This is an excellent method that works well for all dog owners; the only thing is he gets carried away with the activities you can still do while having a dog on umbilical; and once demonstrated having a dog on umbilical while mowing the lawn, he pushed a mower around with a dog tied to his waste; not good thing to be doing if there are kids watching that may try this on their own.
People comment on his personality being a bit brusque; and it is; but in a lot of cases the owners aren’t taking the situation seriously and need brusque treatment to get their butts in gear so to speak. The odd time, he is a bit unnecessarily rude but usually there is a logical reason for his attitude towards the owners.
He does focus on fixing the family situation that is going on, which comes from his experience also being a life coach, which is usually a nice touch. He seems very good at getting owners’ dogs to obey them off leash and to learn to be in a situation where they will not run off if they are not fenced in, which is very important; I don’t know how many times I have been at a dog park with my own dogs and seen other people’s dogs run out onto the road, thankfully they have not gotten run over, but the owner is behind them, yelling for the dog, which obviously is not listening and tuning them out. This is another method he uses; to tell the owners not to talk to their dogs for 2 weeks; and instead use body language and energy (similar to Cesar Millan); as humans tend to talk too much to their dogs, then when you need them to listen, they will tune you out.
Also, he condemns the use of food as a training tool, and calls it a masking technique. It is true that excessive use of food or food only as a training reward will create a dog that does not listen 100% of the time if it is not interested in food at the moment; or if it sees something that has a higher attraction for it that food – another playful dog, toy, squirrel, etc. This seems to be a grey area. Many successful trainers do use food. I believe there may be situations where use of food is acceptable, which Cesar has demonstrated in a few cases; for example dogs that have excessive fear issues; or rewarding a dog off of a negative behaviour (barking at a stimulus), and if used as a reward and not a bribe, it works.
It does run the risk of the dog performing a behaviour for the food and not you; so be very careful to wean the dog off the food after a time. Some trainers use food excessively and this is wrong. There may be a time when you have for example, forgotten to bring food, etc. Cut the reward down to giving food every second time, then every third time, etc; until the food reward is replaced with affection.
Or, you can use Brad’s advice and not use food at all; but I do not feel, that use of food as a training tool is, 100% wrong in every situation. People do go overboard with the treat training, as I have said and use it as a bribing tool not a reward.
In one show, a family is having trouble with their dog rushing out the gate; in this one show, he grabbed the dog and raised his voice in several sentences to the dog; so these few instances when he uses this ‘training method’ of raising his voice in a long rant to the dog, does not seem appropriate or too professional, it is this type of instance that makes a person wonder; but on the whole, his other concepts of umbilical – dogs learning from body language, not talking excessively to your dog; seem to be fine.
So basically, between the two; one of the main concepts that seems to be a common theme is the use of body language and energy to control your dog. Who has better methods? Well, it is like comparing apples to oranges.
Personally, I will at times still use food to bond with my dog, not for training, but as an occasional reward. I do tend to watch the Dog Whisperer more than At the End of My Leash, simply because it is a bit more varied, and seems gentler. (Obviously except for the extreme aggression cases where the dog is rolled, etc; ). And I will never agree with prong collars, which Brad does not advocate. Maybe I watch it more as Cesar has a more appealing personality and seems like a gentle soul. At any rate, use common sense and whatever method works best for your dog. There are positive training tips and techniques to be learned from both. Do not, as both advocate; let the dog rule the house, make sure you are the pack leader; but do so in a calm assertive manner.