Chris Shaughness

author, speaker, animal lover

Book Reviews

Book Review – Cesar’s Way by Cesar Millan

Several years ago, Cesar Millan, the star of the National Geographic Channel’s show The Dog Whisperer, published a book called Ceasr’s Way.  The book is a fun read and very appealing to dog lovers. Cesar’s personal story of working his way from an illegal immigrant to television star is inspiring, and it is obvious that he loves dogs.  The book is really about showcasing Cesar’s wonderful abilities with dogs, but I would not recommend it for helping resolve your issues with your dogs.  Cesar’s advice is questionable in some areas and very weak in other parts.

Cesar is exactly on target when he explains that we humans have taken dogs out of their natural state and are treating them like people with fur.  We are spoiling our dogs and confusing them. He also is very accurate with his suggestions to give dogs plenty of exercise to help reduce behavior issues.  A tired dog is a happy dog.  However, I am very concerned that some people who read this book may attempt to implement Cesar’s ideas without having the expertise.  I also take issue with some of his suggestions.

First, let’s discuss Cesar’s basic premise that all dogs need to a great deal of exercise.  When a dog comes to Cesar’s Dog Psychology Center in Los Angeles for “treatment,” he takes the dog for a four hour run every morning with the pack of dogs who live at the center.  A four hour run!  This tactic may be effective for a Labrador or a Rottweiler or a Pit Bull, but I highly doubt that many dogs could endure that much exercise, and may do serious harm to the brachiocephalic dogs (those who have short muzzles such as Pugs, Bulldogs and Boxers).  To be practical, none of my clients have that much time on their hands.  Most dogs, if they are lucky, get about a 30-60 minute walk or outside play time every day.  If you don’t have the time or space to run your dog, Cesar recommends buying the dog a treadmill and have him or her run on it daily.  This is not what I call putting a dog into its natural state.  Besides, Cesar’s center was sued because a dog was seriously injured while on one of their treadmills.  Can you say “don’t try this at home?”

Cesar also employs tactics for resolving abnormal behaviors that are controversial and possibly dangerous for either the dog or the owner.  He believes, as do many old school dog trainers, that placing a dog on his or her back or side, otherwise known as an alpha roll, is a way to get a dominant dog to submit.  This maneuver may work for Cesar because he works with many, many dogs but if a dog owner tries this himself or herself, there is a huge risk of getting bitten.  There are other very positive and less risky ways to show a dog that you are the leader which Cesar never mentions.  Cesar also uses a technique with fearful dogs called flooding.  In the book, he discusses the case of a Great Dane who was terrified of walking on slippery floors because the dog had fallen once on such a floor.  Cesar used physical force to make the dog walk across the floor.  According to his story, the dog overcame the fear.  However, flooding can have disastrous consequences, making the dog worse than before.  Flooding is a last resort method only applied by highly qualified pet professionals.

Sadly, Cesar’s only remedy for a dog with separation anxiety is to give the dog lots of exercise before you leave the dog alone.  Any dog professional knows that separation anxiety is a much more complicated issue that exercise alone cannot cure.  But I guess if you’ve taken your dog for a four hour run to the point where the dog has collapsed from exhaustion, the dog is too busy recovering to care that you just left him behind!

If you want to read a truly helpful book about dog behavior that you can apply to your dogs, I recommend “The Dog Whisperer” by Paul Owens, published in 1999.  Yes, there was a Dog Whisperer before Cesar Millan.  I don’t know how Cesar was able to use the name, but Paul Owens used it first and is more deserving of the title.

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