[originally posted November 25, 2009]
After Sunday’s Make Fun of Dog Dominance Theory fest on this blog, I figured that topic was pretty much played out. Then, later that day, I discovered an article in the New York Times fashion pages — an apt place for this kind of facile faddism — that suggests Cesar Millan’s dog training methods might usefully be applied to child care.
It worries me that a prestigious newspaper that would probably never dream of giving evolution and creationism equal time on its pages — or so I used to believe — would advocate methods that are anathema to nearly every certified dog trainer and veterinary behaviorist. Millan’s New Age combination of “calm, healing energy” and tough love (based on flawed wolf pack studies) would be easy to dismiss if it weren’t so dangerous to dogs and to their owners, who are in peril of being bitten. An extreme version of this type of grab bag thinking gone bad resulted in three deaths at a sweat lodge in Sedona, where an entrepreneur who co-opted native traditions told a group of devotees to “tough it out” when they were getting seriously dehydrated.
One of the things that’s most problematic about these pseudo-philosophies is their inconsistency. They chose a bit of this and that, and leave the rest if it’s inconvenient.
That is, actual alpha wolves take on the responsibilities that come with leadership. These involve finding and killing prey; eating it; and feeding the rest of the pack members by regurgitating the semi-digested bounty into their mouths.
But I’ll cut the alpha dog proponents some slack. After all, these are modern times. So I suggest it’s not necessary for them to kill their own food or even scrape it off the Interstate. However, there’s no reason they can’t utilize the popular and aptly named BARF (Bones and Raw Food) diet. Of course, they can’t just hand it over to their dogs, who would still feel dominant because they are being served. No, in the name of authenticity, in order to establish their alpha-ness, everyone who believes in Cesar’s Way should chew and swallow the raw meat and spit it up into their dogs’ mouths.
Tomorrow, in honor of Thankgiving, the dogs should get turkey. Raw turkey (for the sake of masticating master’s health, preferably antibiotic and hormone free). Sure, it’s disgusting, but think of all the obedient pups. And the cooking and cleanups that won’t be required for the guests that won’t turn up to observe this particular holiday ritual.