The Cesar Millan Wrecking Ball

10 Oct

I hear comments all the time from families who I meet at play groups or training classes or simply out and about socializing and working with my terriers.

“That’s an aggressive puppy!”

“That one is trying to dominate!”

There are few things in the world that get my panties in pucker quite like these comments.

When I am at a puppy play group, I watch the puppies – really watch them. I don’t judge a puppy based on just one behavior – but, inevitably, someone who is not part of the play group that day will walk up to the side of the x-pened area and make comments like those above. Clearly, these ignorant members of society are mimicking and pulling their wording from Cesar Millan, The Wrecking Ball. **Coincidentally, if Melinda and I hear the same comment, we will exchange an eye roll. That’s why I love Melinda – she just gets it!!

Anyway, I sometimes will try to refute the said ignorant person’s judgement on the puppy, pointing out that the puppy is not trying to dominant – it’s simply wrestling and having fun with other puppies. Sometimes, I am not in the mood and leave it be. After all, isn’t it their choice to believe a cheeky uneducated Mexican-American with a cute smile? He is on Nat Geo after all – he must be important, he must be educated, he MUST know what he’s talking about…right?


Unfortunately, charming as he can be, the man doesn’t know shit about dog training. Or, I should re-phrase that: He doesn’t know shit about dog training that will foster a bond built on trust and respect with your dog.

He CAN show you how to do a perfectly good, albeit archaic and cruel, alpha roll. He CAN show you how to intimidate and dominate your dog, under the guise of forcing the dog into a “calm, submissive state.” He can show you the correct way to poke, prod and bully your dog.

He’s pretty darn good at FLOODING, a technique in which the dog is forced to face it’s fear, presumably dealing with it and realizing that nothing truly bad or serious will happen.

Let’s humanize that for a moment.

One of my biggest fears is all things creepy crawly. That includes bugs, spiders, snakes – anything little and creepy. Spiders rank #1 on my list of things to be absolutely terrified of. My way of dealing with this arachnophobia is to yell – quickly & loudly – for Don or one of the boys, who will promptly kill and remove it from my home, where I can then slowly start to come back to myself and realize, yet again, my life was saved thanks to the fearlessness of the men in my life. If, by chance, Don and/or the boys are not home at the time of said 8-legged intrusion, I find it perfectly *normal and acceptable* to scream like a banshee for Jenny, who will come running and kill said spider. God love Jenny – my fearless furry #1 bug killing terrier – she’s always got my back in these terrifying situations. She even one-up’s the men – she kills it and eats it.

Now, imagine a psychologist saying to me, “You have an abnormal irrational fear of something that is not truly going to hurt you and, in order to resolve this fear, we are going to fill a tank with spiders and drop you into it, AND you must remain there until you overcome this fear.”


I can tell you right now:

a) I would leave that psychologist’s office in a hurry after calling him every not-so-nice name in the book and possibly giving him a good bitch slap.

b) This technique would not work with me. I would freak, scream, cry, possibly have a heart attack or, at the very least, a severe mental breakdown.

So, why do we think it is okay to do this to our furry friends?

True, they aren’t going to sit down with us and explain how that situation made them feel, but anyone with even a remote knowledge of canine body postures is going to realize that the dog is not relaxing during flooding. They are dealing, because someone is making them and dogs are so darn eager to please us humans that they will put up with a lot of crap to make us happy. Spatulated tongue, panting, shaking, dilated eyes, drooling, pinned-back ears, tucked tail and cowering just might be your first indication that your dog is uncomfortable with the flooding technique, eh?


PART 1 —

PART 2 —

Yes, in theory this was as a “success story” in that the Dane appeared to overcome it’s fear of the floor. However, did you notice the stress to the Dane during the process? Might there not have been an easier, kinder way to help this poor guy overcome his fear of shiny floors?


Take a look at this video, in which Cesar Millan is asphyxiating a dog who is dog-dog aggressive…

Looks like a fantastic technique for dealing with a dog who is dog-dog aggressive, right? NOT!

In that video, the dog was dog-dog aggressive and Cesar insisted it was in a “dominant” state of mind. He chose a method in which he himself tried to gain dominance over the dog, presumably to re-establish his position as “pack leader.” In the process, he was bitten, several times. By using a slip, he restricted the dog’s airway until, from sheer lack of oxygen, the dog laid down, gasping for air. Welcome to your “calm submissive state”!!

Now, let’s watch a video where the trainer uses a positive reinforcement approach. This is a dog who is dog-dog aggressive as well (reactive), just like the dog in Cesar Millan’s video. Using a technique called Counter Commanding, or differential reinforcement of incompatible behavior, he is able to set the dog on the path to learning new behaviors around other dogs.

Ahhh…the sweet sound of a clicker and the aroma of yummy treats. Pleasant, wasn’t it? So much nicer, more productive and enjoyable for both human and canine alike.

Final thoughts:

1) Don’t believe everything you see on TV. Much editing is involved and you don’t see a lot besides the outcome. Many bites happen behind the scenes! There is a reason why Nat Geo puts a disclaimer (“Do not attempt these techniques yourself without consulting a professional.”) at the beginning of each show.

2) Trust those who have devoted their lives to scientifically studying canine behavior. Jean Donaldson, Pat Miller, Karen Pyror, Ian Dunbar – just to name a few.

3) Don’t look at me in play group and proclaim that cute little boxer puppy aggressive. I’m tired of you and your comments – and I just bought a new ring for my bitch slapping hand.

Helpful links:











Posted by on October 10, 2010 in Uncategorized


10 responses to “The Cesar Millan Wrecking Ball

  1. puppymomx3

    October 18, 2010 at 5:06 am

    Love love love love love love love love love love love love LOVE THIS! Will be sharing! Thank you! xoxo

    • Jaimee H.

      October 18, 2010 at 7:17 pm

      LOL! That’s a whole lotta love!

  2. gotspots

    October 18, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    Lol good write up… I should wouldn’t want to see your bitch hand. Lol I guess it’s interesting how, until before I learned about positive reinforcement and everything it’s about, I watched the exact episodes you placed on here and thought they were totally fine. Now I see them and it makes me terribly sad. It reeeally irks me too hearing everyone use the terms dominant now… oh look, they’re humping so they’re dominant. No, she is humping because everyone stopped playing and she wants to keep on playing and she knows she can get the dog to jump and move if she mounts them. I will definitely be sharing this one facebook.

    • Jaimee H.

      October 18, 2010 at 7:16 pm

      When you know better, you do better. =)

  3. Sheila

    October 18, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    I have always said if I could change one persons thinking, all my preaching would be worth it.
    Thank you for carrying on the message.

    • Jaimee H.

      October 18, 2010 at 7:15 pm

      THANK YOU, Sheila, for opening my eyes.

      Our relationship with our terriers wouldn’t be the same without you.

  4. Chris

    October 28, 2010 at 1:54 am

    If you watch the asphyxiation clip closely, at 2:56, Cesar actually kicks Shadow in the side for looking at the Border Collie. That’s the actual trigger for the aggressive outburst leading to the asphyxiation. Not dog aggression.

    • Jaimee H.

      October 30, 2010 at 11:17 pm

      Thank you for pointing that out! Much appreciated. =)

  5. Elyse

    October 30, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Great post! And I agree. But I’d like it a whole lot more if the words “Mexican” (I think he’s an American citizen), and “white man” were left out. They detract from your excellent message.

    • Jaimee H.

      October 30, 2010 at 11:18 pm

      Thank you, Elyse, for the comment. I have rephrased my wording and hope that helps the post not be so offensive.


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