Sorry about the bad movie pun — it’s been a long, though terrific weekend. My first book signing/talk for Am I Boring My Dog, at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, was a great success. Lots of people and their dogs turned up and a good time was had by all. As I noted on Facebook, I had never before addressed an audience that included actual dogs, and I discovered the occasional bark was a terrific tension breaker. As my friend Eric Van Meter — who couldn’t make it, but provided me with the best comment regarding a canine audience — noted, at least I didn’t have anyone barking out, “YOU LIE!”
Anyway, I just wanted to finish up — or is that open up again? — the discussion I started in an earlier post about why I object to Cesar Millan’s methods. It’s not that I started out with a bone to pick, as it were. When I first got Frankie, I took him to S., a trainer highly recommended by two dog-loving friends. She was nice, smart, and clearly fond of dogs, but the first purchase S. required in preparation for the small dog class was a choke chain. The Frankie-size version was teeny, a wisp of a metal string, but it made me queasy. I ventured a few questions about the more positive techniques I’d heard about, but S. pooh-poohed them. And, after all, I was paying — and paying well — for her expertise. I figured I should defer to it.
In the end, waste of money notwithstanding, I was lucky. Frankie was too stressed out by the presence of the other small dogs — a snooty clique of Yorkies and Dachshunds — to learn much of anything, but neither did he learn to fear me. And — calling Dr. Freud — I kept losing the choke chain until I finally gave up on replacing it, so Frankie’s trachea wasn’t injured (yes, that’s a common effect of using choke chains, particularly on small dogs).
And although I failed Chain Jerking 101, I discovered that my instincts about how to treat my new friend were sound.
The more I read and the more I talked to people I respected, the more I realized that the whole domination thing was a bunch of hooey. Frankie weighs 9 pounds, for heavens sake. How is he going to dominate me? As for having Frankie walk by my side in lockstep — the purpose of the choke chain — why on earth would I want him to? It’s his walk, designed so he can enjoy exploring and sniffing, rather than my main source of exercise (he’s a good trotter but those short legs don’t lend themselves to keeping up with me at a run or even a speed walk).
Several people who supported my anti-Cesar Millan stance in the comments section had similar personal examples to offer. And let me say it again because it bears repeating: Cesar Millan is not the only person who saves end-of-the-line dogs. Positive trainers do so too — and without harming other dogs.
Finally, let me pose a question. Millan has millions of fans. Why do his supporters need to proselytize about his methods on a blog like mine? Millan’s advocates can say nothing to convince me, or the people who agree with me, on the value of his techniques. And vice versa. I guess some people — say, Michael Vick — just enjoy a dogfight.