The majority of recent canine research shows that dogs have cognitive abilities very similar to those of a 2- to 3-year-old human child. So it makes sense to compare how we treat our dogs to how we treat our preschoolers.
What if Cesar Millan were your child’s preschool teacher? To what standards do you think he should be held? Would you want to know if he attended school and obtained the proper certification? Would you want to see a diploma proudly displayed on the wall? How about his teaching skills? Would you ask him how he would handle a crying child or one who has just hit another? Would these things matter to you before you left your 3-year-old in his care?
There is much controversy right now about a specific incident involving Cesar Millan, a dog named Simon and a pig that was injured. Unfortunately, the real story has been lost in all the sensationalism. The conversation on many social media sites morphed quickly into discussions of whether people eat bacon, and if so they can’t be upset by what they saw. This is absurd and completely misses the point of what many of us are trying so hard to explain to the animal-loving viewers of Mr. Millan’s popular show.
What people don’t realize is that the charismatic entertainer they see on television is nothing more than a reality TV star. He does not hold any degrees in the field of animal behavior. He has no certifications that qualify him as a legitimate behaviorist or dog trainer, and he hasn’t attended or successfully completed any of the many reputable academies or courses offered throughout the United States and other countries. In fact, in 2014, Mr. Millan could not pass a standard test in Germany that is given to all dog trainers there before they are legally allowed to work with dogs. Cesar actually applied for an exception, presumably due to his celebrity status, which was denied, and then failed in every category of the exam. The categories included:
- Expressive and communication behavior of dogs
- Legal questions of dog training
- Problem behavior, anxiety and preventing aggression
- Ways to reduce and manage a dog’s stress
- Basic veterinary knowledge
- Dog trainer skills
- Learning theory and humane training
- Creation of a training plan
- Dog sports and working dogs
- Animal welfare issues in training
Unlike Germany, in the United States dog training is a completely unregulated industry. Any one of you reading this right now can go out this afternoon and start telling people you are a dog trainer. If you can convince someone to hand over their innocent dog to you, you can then do whatever you want to and with that dog. That is exactly what Mr. Millan did. Are you shocked? You should be.
Here’s what it boils down to: There are hundreds of qualified, educated and certified dog trainers and behavior consultants who pride themselves on offering the most current, scientifically sound and humane training techniques available. They dedicate countless hours and dollars to their continued education in the animal behavior field because they understand the importance of being qualified to perform the job. They also love what they do and are passionate about helping people and their dogs learn and grow together. Believe me when I say this is not a profession you enter for the money or glamour. Ironically, Mr. Millan seems to have been successful in stealing a title that the rest of us earned through hard work and dedication.
If you are a parent who cares enough to require the proper qualifications and skills of your child’s teacher, please understand that this is all we in the pet professional world are asking from Cesar Millan. We want to sleep at night knowing that the animals he works with in such a public forum are treated just as humanely as those we each work with every day.
Tiffany Lovell, CSAT, CPDT-KA, AAI, operates Cold Nose College, Space Coast, Brevard County, Florida and offers force-free, humane training and behavior consulting. Private in-home coaching & training, separation-anxiety training (local & remote to anywhere in the U.S.) and behavior consults. (321) 757-2059; coldnosecollege.com