by Marc Bekoff, Ph.D.
In a previous essay I asked “Did Cesar Millan Have To Hang the Husky?” I was referring to a highly controversial video called “Shadow Turns Blue” in which Mr. Millan rather violently lifts a husky off the ground to discipline him. The essay turned out to be very popular and while the comments were a mixed bag most people concluded that this sort of “training” method, based on abusive domination, was unnecessarily harsh and that there was no reason at all to treat Shadow or any other dog in this manner, ever.
Millan’s training techniques have been highly controversial and it’s just been announced that National Geographic will be cancelling the Dog Whisperer series after this season. Twelve new episodes will begin 12 July 2012.
I for one am thrilled to hear this announcement about which I was informed by many others who told me the news. Millan himself noted, “It was bittersweet filming the final episodes, but they are a lot of fun and turned out to be some of the best cases ever. And to my biggest fans, never fear, you haven’t seen the last of me yet!”
I sincerely hope that if Millan reappears he does so using radically different techniques that focus on positive training/teaching methods. He has been very influential and could well use his influence to sway people away from using methods that are abusive and often only a quick-fix.
I concluded my previous essay as follows:
“Dogs expect us to treat them with dignity and respect, and when they become challenging and try our patience, we must never ever forget that they are sentient beings who thoroughly depend on our goodwill. It’s a dirty double-cross to intentionally abuse them and commit them to a life of fear. It’s a betrayal of their trust that we will always have their best interests in mind. It also demeans us.
“The hearts of our companion animals, like our own hearts, are fragile, so we must be gentle with them. Let’s openly and graciously thank them for who they are, for their unfiltered love, and embrace their lessons in passion, compassion, empathy, devotion, respect, spirituality, and love. Surely, we will never have any regrets by doing so, and much pure joy will come our way as we clear the path for deep and rich reciprocal relationships based on immutable trust with our companions and all other beings. Elliot Katz, founder of In Defense of Animals, suggests we drop the word “training” and start using the word ‘teaching.’ Training often becomes synonymous with ‘breaking.’ Training should not mean breaking their fragile hearts”
I stand by these words. Perhaps if National Geographic or any other televsion network takes on a new poster-person they will be someone who shows deep compassion for the dog beings with whom they work and not promote methods that involve abuse and intimidation.