This weekend I was at the upstate New York home of old family friends: George, Joan, Joan’s daughter, Holly, Rocky the dog and some number of cats. And these two, pictured at right. I didn’t get their names.
Sadly, I was there for a memorial service for Joan. We lost her last month.
She was the creator of the Lookalikes book series, and she created these intricate dioramas of little worlds where one ordinary object was made of other ordinary objects.
The above image, from her book Look-Alikes, has a cute building made from dog biscuits, among other things. I love the little dog-walker girl with her tortilla-chip dress. (This image is actually available as a puzzle, too).
As is probably clear to anyone who knows her books, Joan studied philosophy in grad school and aways had a very quick wit. At the memorial, her husband quoted a post-it he found in her studio. “Nietzsche: To do is to be. Kant: To be is to do. Sinatra: Do be do be do.”
At the reception after the memorial, a few people asked me what do I “do.” A normal question, of course. But it’s a uniquely human one. When we came around to the topic of dog training, I heard a question I’ve heard frequently since I started down this career route:
“Like The Dog Whisperer?”
When I first started down this path, I thought Cesar Millan was fine. But in the last year I’ve had a real education in this area and I’ve come to feel really disturbed by his training style. He uses methods often needlessly forceful and largely go against everything science has taught us about the way dogs learn. What’s more, once I started learning about reading dog emotions, I could see that his charges often look completely terrified.
There are loads of vocal Anti-Cesars out there online, but not as many as there are Cesar lovers. The fact that he’s as popular as he is suggests to me that the general public has some scary ideas about pet ownership. I’ll stand on my soapbox on this blog before long, I’m sure. For the moment, however, I thought I’d mention it because I was glad to see the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers had issued this statement:
The Board of Directors for the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) is disappointed to learn of plans to air a show featuring Mr. Cesar Milan as the dog training expert. To use a dog trainer that has not achieved independent, professional credentials in the industry to speak to the masses about dog training does an injustice to the thousands of credentialed professionals who are available to do so. In addition, Mr. Milan does not demonstrate adherence to current science-based information or the standard of care recommended and followed by credentialed dog training and behavior professionals. We join in the objections to airing a program featuring Mr. Milan.
CCPDT Board of Directors Miranda K. Workman (President), Cara Shannon (Vice President), Jan Czaja, Nicole Johnston, Brad Phifer, Cissy Sumner, Audrey Tucker, Marilyn Wolf, Jennifer Herrick
The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, Inc. serves to establish and maintain a recognized level of competence in dog training by certifying professional trainers through criteria based on standardized testing, experience and continuing education. Since 2001, the CCPDT has been at the leading edge of providing independent, psychometrically sound examinations of professional dog trainers. Certification is granted only after a candidate meets minimum experience-based criteria and passes a certification examination proctored by independent agencies.
Our certificants adhere to a strict code of ethics and strive to maintain the most up-to-date knowledge of the science of dog training by meeting minimum continuing education requirements and renewing their certification every three years. Our guiding principles recognize the importance of adhering to current science-based and humane training methods. We encourage our certificants to adhere to a Humane Hierarchy when making training decisions which encourages the use of positive reinforcement based training before employing the use of any type of aversive. For more information you can see our Humane Hierarchy Position Statement on our website (www.ccpdt.org).
Many of Mr. Milan’s practices have been proven to be dangerous and are not in line with the science-based training that is practiced by today’s credentialed professionals. It is not acceptable to endorse a non-credentialed professional as the “expert” in the industry. We are sure that there are many credentialed professionals who would be willing and appropriate to educate the pet owning public about current, science-based dog training methods, techniques and tools. In fact, there are many studies available that show that using aversives and other methods as used by Mr. Milan on a regular basis are NOT necessary, nor ever the first step, to train a dog or to modify dog behavior. There are many successful, educated and credentialed professionals from all over the world who rarely, if ever, use such methods, but rather prefer a science-based approach rooted in positive reinforcement.
It is because of our high standards that we are confident our certificants, Certified Professional Dog Trainers – Knowledge Assessed, have a strong foundation in ethology, learning theory, instruction skills and other core domains. Worldwide, there are 1,749 CPDT-KAs in 13 countries. Mr. Milan is not one of those certificants.
We would encourage you to look, not for a celebrity who trains dogs as the “expert” in dog training, but for a credentialed training and behavior professional who can educate the public about the current science behind successful dog training and behavior modification.
The CCPDT Board of Directors does hope that you reconsider your decision to air this program.