Cesar’s Way, or the Art of Intimidation
by Heather Harris
I attended a seminar by Cesar Millan a few days ago. Wait a minute. I think it
was a seminar. No. Let me think. I attended a lecture... No, that won’t do
either. I attended a performance by Cesar Millan a few days ago. Yes, I think
I’m getting somewhere now. Maybe not.
Let’s start again. I bought a ticket and went to a public venue where I
listened to a rather inarticulate man narrate anecdotes about his upbringing
and current family life while folks around me swilled beer and grunted. There
were pictures. Video clips too. And some amusing props. And some very
unfortunate props. They were dogs.
If my introduction seems disjointed, it is merely a reflection of the event I’m
attempting to describe. I sat through two hours of what was supposed to be an event designed to impart “valuable lessons and insights” into the human/canine relationship, but what was in fact part of a thinly disguised public relations tour to promote upcoming television programs and refute recent criticisms of Cesar’s methods. There was, for example, a very obvious attempt to deal with any bad publicity surrounding the video clip of Cesar’s work with the yellow lab that bit him.
Millan’s message can be summed up fairly easily. He is the product of an “instinctual” society in which man and animals live in harmony. Americans, on the other hand, are out of touch with their instincts as a result of the hectic, stressful lives they lead and are therefore unable to interact with dogs appropriately. The pictures he paints are so full of flaws that it would take a lengthy essay to analyze them properly. But I don’t want to bore you to pieces. Suffice it to say, folks, that all you need to do to gain dominion over your canines, is to achieve a state of supreme calm and stand up straight. (Of course, you will also need a nice slip leash with which to choke your dog until its tongue hangs out and its sides heave from stress and oxygen deprivation. And you will need to practice a rapid backward kick to the dog’s flank to get its attention. )
There were a few specific lessons about canine behaviour which I must share. First, if you want to get a puppy’s attention, carry around a bowl of fragrant food. It never fails. Second, if you have a dog that self-soothes in the face of excitement and stress by playing with a toy, you must deny the dog access to
the toy even if the dog’s tail does go between its legs. Under no circumstances
should you use this fascination with toys for training purposes. Third, separation anxiety can be resolved by telling your dog to relax on a doggie bed while you go about your business before you leave the house. Everyone knows that dogs naturally laze about on pillows for long stretches of time and there is no need to worry about training this behaviour. Fourth, if your dog pulls on leash, put a slip collar on the dog, hold the leash no more than 12 inches from the dog’s head, choke the dog every few seconds and occasionally kick the dog’s flank until it is no longer capable of pulling. And don’t worry about what happens when you’re not choking the dog into submission. It will most likely have another lie down on that doggie bed and contemplate life.
I could go on, but I really must pull myself together and take Kiwi out for some
training. I think that for the slip collar, I’ll substitute some leftover steak. And I think I’ll practice some dance steps rather than the flank kick. Oh, and every now and then, I’ll whip out a toy and play like a fiend. It’s a hopeless situation. I’ll never have a well-adjusted, well-trained dog.