With the arrival of Bo, the Obama’s new Portuguese Water Dog, the family is likely being bombarded with advice. Of course Cesar Millan, aka National Geographic’s Dog Whisperer, was sure to add his two cents. Featured in People, Milan said:
“The best piece of advice I can give the Obama family is wisdom passed down from my grandfather: Never work against Mother Nature. Fulfill your dog’s inborn needs — exercise, discipline, affection, in that order — and you will have the foundation for a balanced human-canine relationship.”
Hopefully the Obamas will see that it is also a time for change in the world of dog training. Although Cesar’s fan base is huge, there are not many professional trainers that see eye-to-eye with the “dog whisperer.” It is true that most dogs need more exercise than they are provided in today’s busy world, but to put discipline before love often results in a rift between dog guardians and their pooches. Professional trainers are often contacted by people claiming to be experiencing dominance issues with their dogs and much of this stems from Millan’s frequent recommendation to be a “pack leader.”
It is time for the dog whisperer to educate himself with current research instead of relying on out-dated advice from his grandfather. Science has shown us the potential fallout associated with putting discipline first when training our dogs. Dogs become nervous and may stop offering new behaviours for fear of the consequences, resulting in an animal that is difficult to train and may be seen as “stubborn” by the average dog owner. Further, given that approximately 90% of aggression in dogs stems from fear, if we focus on disciplining or correcting nervous or insecure dogs, their behaviour can quickly spiral into fear biting and other forms of aggression.
Love conquers all and this couldn’t be more true than in dog training. When a dog feels loved by their people, they are more likely to want to work for them and they have the confidence to quickly acquire new skills and be a safe family pet. It feels good when you focus on all of the good things your dog does every day and if you reward those behaviours you will see them overshadow and replace any of the unwanted problems your dog may present.
Hopefully the President and his family will take an enlightened approach in their dog training and opt for today’s modern techniques like clicker training to shape the ideal White House pet. It is difficult to imagine the Obamas applying the leash corrections or “alpha rolls” the dog whisperer frequently recommends to their precious Portuguese pup. Instead the Obamas should check out www.clickerleash.com to learn how to quickly teach Bo new life skills and www.dogstardaily.com for lots of advice from certified trainers on how to overcome any problem behaviours or training challenges they may face as Bo matures. We wish the Obamas many years of joy with their new family member!