The Dog Whisperer

This week I discovered a program on National Geographic Channel called the Dog Whisperer. Cesar Millan is the dog whisperer. He works in Los Angeles and if I could describe him it would be as a dog psycholgist. But I would go further and add an owner psychologist because most of the problems he deals with are caused by owners. After watching him work with many very difficult problem dogs I feel guilty about my own dog, Scout, who I realize could have been changed and her bad behavior changed for the better.

I have made excuses for her like, “this is typical of her breed.” Cesar owns a dozen pit bulls and they are well behaved and affectionate. Scout is aggressive, will bite, snap, is dog aggressive, and unreliable. I have changed the way I live to accommodate her behavior, and have enabled her to continue with her bad behavior. I have committed the cardinal sin in that I treat my dog as a person and not as a dog. She is a canine. I talk to her, and feel if I give her enough love she will change. I have and she hasn’t.

Cesar says that dogs, like people, have to have rules, boundaries, and limitations. Talking to them does no good. If you want to change their behavior you have to do something. Today, Scout and I took our first walk in which I was in charge. Usually she walks well on a leash except if she smells something and wants to stop or change directions. Today I didn’t let her do that. I kept her walking next to me or behind me. If she got distracted and wanted to do something else I stopped and made her sit. Then when she had calmed down we started up again. It really went well. I was a little tense, but as soon as I realized that I let go of the leash and let it hang loosely. I feel really good about what we did.

Now I have to deal with the other misbehaviors. One of them is how she attacks the front door if someone knocks. I saw Cesar with a dog doing that to his front window. He went to the window and reclaimed it from the dog by specfic kinds of touch which he called a dog bite, and when the dog jumped up on the front door he walked between the dog and the door and made the dog calm down and back off, reclaiming the door. He said the couch, the window, and the door belonged to the dog, and now the owner had to take them back. That gave me an idea of what to do about my problem. I’m not sure yet what to do about the excessive barking at the TV and other sounds outside the house, but will keep watching the show and see how he handles that too.

I have to remember several things: My dog is not a person but a dog, and he will be happier if I treat him like a dog, and I am the leader of his pack. Then to remember to set rules, boundaries, and limitations and be consistant with the enforcement.

I have copied 12 shows so far and will transfer them to tape if anyone has dog problems or loves their dogs and wants to watch a master work with problem dogs, I can lend you my tape.

About Fred

I am the running coach of Quest Club of Arizona, an adult running club. Formerly coached at Phoenix College for 18 years, and have coached a number of elite runners including Trina Painter and Lisa Weidenbach. Most recently coached Priscilla Hein, graduate of ASU and Olympic Trials semi finalist. In addition to coaching I am the sports publicist for the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference in track and field, and the Meet Director for the NJCAA Region Championships in Cross Country and Track and Field.
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