I was asked to write a balancing piece on Cesar Millan for the Mail on Sunday but it was heavily chopped and didn't have the 10 points of how to spot a CM copycat trainer.... so here's the link to paper and the positive Cesar interview and the somewhat altered one from me (even spelled my name wrong online.... only used to write a column for them for eight years, but hey ho!)
The unsubbed article I emailed....
There’s a long queue of people eager to stab Cesar in the back. His loyal fans claim we’re all just jealous of his fame and fortune – but there’s a lot more to it than that.
Cesar is a proper modern-day gladiator. People love to see him wrestle with snarling animals – he calls them his ‘red zone cases’. Clips of him being bitten are shared rabidly across the Internet.
He actually gets paid to punch and kick dogs on TV, without getting arrested! In his defence he claims he’s merely ‘touching’ them.
Alan Titchmarsh didn’t let him get away with that excuse on his TV show this week. Alan said he’s seen Henry Cooper touch people like that and it hurts!
If Cesar thinks a ‘kick’ to the kidneys is a ‘touch with the foot’ does he think a war is a massage with bullets?
As Sinitta would say, he’s just so macho.
He’s completely instinctual and unscientific. He’s just made all his theories up as he’s gone along. Forget operant and classical conditioning, flooding or learned helplessness, and boring things like qualifications. He’s got much more interesting celebrity endorsements and the best teeth that money can buy.
And best of all he wrestles with powerful dogs that sometimes bite him.
Proper, positive, scientific, qualified dog trainers won’t do that for the cameras.
Apart from the tweed skirt, there’s not much difference between Barbara Woodhouse and Cesar - if you stay away from his Red Zone. And bless her, Barbara was training dogs 35 years ago when none of us knew any better.
Things really should have moved on. American boffins wanted to teach dolphins to do subversive things with weapons and they pretty quickly picked up on the fact that rewards worked a lot better than punishment. It all there in the history books of animal training.
But someone pleasant using a clicker and a bit of cheese probably isn’t going to get you sitting on the edge of your sofa.
Much more visually interesting watching Cesar zapping a dog with electric shocks, tightening up a prong collar so the spikes go into a naughty dog’s neck. You’ll never see lovely Victoria Stilwell kicking and punching (sorry ‘touching’!) a dog to get respect (or ratings).
On Sky News this week Cesar told Eamonn Holmes that electric collars were great for people with disabilities to use on their dogs.
Apart from Welsh people, obviously.
Everyone forgot to mention that.
Use a shock collar in Wales and you can get 6 months in prison or a £20,000 fine. Hopefully our creaky animal welfare laws will catch up soon, too. For dog’s sake.
While Cesar’s X-rated red zone clashes are badged “Don’t try this at home,” sadly many people do. Cesar’s ‘calm assertive’ overpowering masculinity may stop him being too badly bitten, but sadly less assertive types can end up in A&E after a one-way trip to the vets with their soon to be ex-best friend.
And that’s the core of the problem, Cesar is at best a very guilty pleasure. But he’s not strictly entertainment – people will try to emulate his methods.
But when we copy our other TV heroes things don’t go anywhere near as badly wrong. Imitate Jamie Oliver’s signature dish and you can always order a take away when we it all goes less than lovely jubbly.
And how many people have actually posed as a surgeon after watching Grey’s Anatomy? Hopefully very few!
Yet Cesar Millan copycats - whose only qualification is usually watching his show - are breaking dogs in every town and city and calling themselves varients of ‘dog botherers’.
But, just as they probably don’t have his gorgeous Hollywood smile - they also don’t have the benefit of his ‘calm assertiveness’ or crucially his editorial control to deliver the required happy ending that pet owners dream of.
Here’s 10 ways to spot a CM clone…
1 If they Alpha roll your dog. Anyone going on about being the alpha male isn’t up to date on proper wolf hierarchy. And if dogs are really wolves – we’re all just monkeys.
2 “Touching” your dog with either their fist or a boot. Suppressing bad behaviour with aversion won’t cure it, just drives the problem deeper
3 Uses an electric shock collar to teach a dog what is wrong. Many dogs become paranoid and aggressive after being zapped. They’re illegal in Wales for very good reasons.
4 Approves of pinch, prong or choke collars. Anyone who teaches a dog what is wrong rather than what is right is on the wrong track
5 Claims your dog is trying to dominate you if he just jumps on the sofa. It’s not just Gary Glitter who made us uncomfortable about going on about the ‘leader of the pack’.
6 Anyone who goes “pssstttt” at your dog is a Cesar Millan fan. Tell them to Pssstttt off.
7 Suggests you invest in a treadmill. Cesar is a huge fan of this type of exercise, but dogs really do love a good sniff on a walk, to them it’s like reading a newspaper.
8 Anyone who offers you a quick fix to a complex problem is probably using punishment techniques. Like pulling up a weed, you will hide the problem and it’ll probably re-emerge twice as strong next time.
9 Has no qualifications apart from the school of life and a box set of Cesar’s last series.
10 Has no affiliation with any group that is a member of the Animal Behaviour and Training Council (www.abtcouncil.org.uk). The only industry regulatory body with any teeth.They are trying to impose some standards on animal training to protect our best friends from this sort of abuse.