Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Are The Last Days Of Pain Training Upon Us?

Are the last days of pain training are upon us?

This blog is revised from the original version that appeared on Dog Star Daily which was taken down after DSD was threatened with legal action by the corporate thugs.

On February 12th, 2010 American Humane announced that there will be a symposium on humane dog training and behavior. The impetus for this symposium is that for 6 years the ideology and methodology of Cesar Millan and his show The Dog Whisperer have been under fire by everyone from humane organizations to positive reward based dog trainers as well as aware dog owners.
There was a collective position statement that was brought against Millan and his show in late 09 by a number of humane organizations. This was shut down by his corporate thugs with legal action.

There are even whispers Millan’s show will not be picked up by Nat Geo for new shows after his contract runs out in a few years.

With all this pressure mounting, it’s no wonder that Millan and his people have asked for a sit down with the best of the best in dog training. Remember, he and his people asked for this due to mounting pressure. This is not a joining of forces per say; that remains to be seen. It may be spun by the Millan machine as a meeting of the minds, but in actuality this is in essence a clean up your act or else situation.

There is skepticism in the positive dog training community about the sincerity of Millan’s interest in a different approach to dog training. After all this criticism is not new and he and his people obviously have had access to the same information as the rest of us. So why now is there a desire to meet and learn? Perhaps that cash cow of a TV show is in jeopardy of not returning, and they have nowhere else to turn except to the legitimate humane crowd.
The simple fact that Millan and his people have asked to meet with the people that have been criticizing his show/methods & ideology is an admission that he needs to change his way.

But why would they continually threaten the very people that they are looking to meet with? What do they have to hide? Why are they worried about differing opinions and criticisms from some of the best in dog training and behavior?
Regardless of why it is happening we should all rejoice that it is happening.

Look at it this way...

After the symposium is complete and Millan and his people are educated first hand, it will be hard for him to go back to his fear and pain based methods, simply because he has now been schooled by the best, and he has met with people willing to teach him how to be humane. He is under the spot light and it’s hard to hide when you are on TV. Will it be an education or a photo OP? That remains to be seen.

The jig is up as they say. If he was not doing anything harmful, why would there be such a clamor from everyone from dog owners to behaviorists, humane dog trainers and the humane orgs about his methods and ideology?

Dogs are conduits of the truth and you cannot mess with them for too long without getting caught, it’s that simple. Looks like the truth is out, they’re worried.
This meeting of the minds is the beginning of the acknowledgment by Millan and Nat Geo that indeed his methods and ideology are faulty, harmful and not humane. If they were this symposium would not be happening. Think of this an intervention of sorts.
What has many people concerned is that Millan will do a 180 and become a humane trainer over night. That he will not admit to doing anything wrong or that his show has caused countless dogs to be unfairly harmed under the guise of his training ways/advice.

A new spin on his old show will however not be enough to really satisfy. There will have to be a public admission that he was wrong and that he has now seen the error of his ways, without that it will reek of entertainment people scrambling to save their pay checks. That might be the case no matter what, but as long as he admits he was/is using out dated methods and was under the guise of a faulty ideology who really cares? The goal here is to help dogs and owners get the correct information.
The other reason we need Millan to come out and publicly decry his ideology that dogs are dominating us at every turn and that some of his approaches are harmful is so dog owners and copy cat “trainers” that religiously follow his advice and mimic his methods will stop doing so and seek out legit and humane approaches. This is perhaps the most crucial aspect concerning the outcome of the symposium.
There is also the question of the Dog Whisperer shows that run on Nat Geo, and soon on Fox (where else) that repeatedly show the out dated methods and spew the Dominonsense ideology. This will be a big question and a legal one for Millan, Nat Geo and the American Humane TV & Film unit to hash out.

After all once Millan changes his ways, and he will, what about the old shows? Once he denounces his old ways, why would he want them represented on TV and on DVD? Syndication of his show is a large question to be answered and that has more to do with legal contracts and a whole lotta money at stake than anything else.
This ripple effect that Millan has had to the detriment of dogs, could in one fell swoop begin to reverse that damage by him simply asking his followers to follow the advice of behavioral science and humane organizations and reward based dog trainers and to give up his old ways.

It would be a big step, but it is the necessary step for us to believe he is genuine in his admission that he wants to not only learn about humane dog training but also become a legit and humane dog trainer or modifier of behavior as he calls himself these days. Without a change in his ways, this will be seen as lip service and a photo op.

This is the “educational opportunity” that American Humane speaks of in their announcement of the symposium; the education of Millan and the trickledown effect it can have in culture. The ball is already rolling and the tide is already turning, but is it?

All we need is the Oprah moment of “I’ve seen the light” and it will be complete.

Now; if nothing changes on Millan’s part and he takes a few new ideas and implements them into a watered down version of his show, he’ll look really foolish and no one in the legit dog behavior and training camps will trust him anymore than they do now. I do not think that is what he or his people want out of this. In fact I think what they want is more money, and what a better way to make more money than include all of us legit people. His show needs new life, and what else has he got left?

Making the personal choice to inflict fear and pain on a dog under the guise of training or otherwise can be done only out of ignorance, a lack of understanding or a lack of information, IE: Education. After this meeting of the minds Millan and his people will not be able to claim any of those as excuses any longer. Of course they can’t claim them now in any believable sense, but after this symposium, they’ll really be foolish to continue their ways.

From this symposium relationships will be forged and doors will be opened, so there will be no excuses any longer. All that will be left will be actions, words will not be enough.

America loves a good transformation; and this will certainly be quite a change if indeed Millan does change, and he will because what’s left?
The lemming mind set of the sycophant fans will follow and they’ll make claims of how great he is, how open minded he is, even if the impetus to change may have more to do has with money than a desire to learn. It might be both, we’ll only know if he comes out and tells us. Millan has the chance to fix the damage he has created with his show. He also has the opportunity to get the best help out there in doing so. I hope he takes this opportunity seriously and man up and change his ways.
We should not stop educating people about the harmful effects of pain and fear based training, we should not stop eradicating the dominance nonsense from the dog behavior vernacular, as this will be an ever vigilant job until dogs are protected under the guise of pet dog training by the law and we have uniform education for people about dog behavior that is based in legitimate science and 100% humane approaches.

The larger issue at stake here is the issue of consumer protection in pet dog training. Millan has by and large been the reason why so many people are claiming to be dog trainers and taking money for dog training services yet not doing anything to really help people with their dog’s behavior.
It’s not all dominance, it’s not all force and control, and if it were that easy then there would be no need for anything else. What is being recognized is that these whispery ways are finally come to the end. But why did the Humane Organizations take down their position statements? Legal threats, that’s why. Not really a sign he and his corporate thugs are changing.

Please don’t get this twisted people of the humane and positive training camps, this is not an admission that his ways are legit, it is the realization by Millan and his people that it’s time to change or else. They are looking to clean him up and attempt to side step any admission they have been doing harmful things to dogs.
Even after Millan has a change of ways and he will, because what’s left? However behavior does not change overnight; there will always be a need to stop the spread of ignorance about faulty dog training methods and the need to explain dog behavior in legitimate factual terms. It will be nice to have his help with that, after all people do listen to the man.

We should take some comfort in the fact that this symposium is happening. This is the first step in shining a light on what the real motivation is, though it will not be the last. There are many questions to be answered, especially by Millan.
There is work to do and there will always be work to do. Education is a lifelong pursuit for the person that wants to grow and change and improve as well as a lifelong job for those of us devoted to helping dogs live a better and a more humane life along side us.

It’s hard not to be jaded, we should attempt to have a cautiously optimistic take on this. Let’s try and have some faith in American Humane that they are not swayed by Hollywood. Let’s do our best to have some faith in the human spirit, there is a chance to make a massive change here and it can be done, if the Millan machine is willing to change.

Lastly have faith that dogs are conduits of the truth, and the truth is going to be told very soon in a public forum. Or will it be all glad handing and scripted like all the other Millan events?

Are we are seeing the last days of pain training? Only time will tell.

These are answers to a number of accusations from Millan’s interlopers on Dog Star Daily

To the assertion that I somehow wish Millan harm.

1 - I never said I wished CM any harm, or cared if he was rich and famous. I just want the guy to finally learn about dog behavior and training from some people that are the best in the field with humane dog training; that is what I did. I encourage everyone to do that! I would think consumers would want that in their professional dog trainers. It looks like he’ll get the chance. I’m all for that! My issue is with his ideology and his methodology not his fame. I’m sure he does love dogs and wants to help them, allot of people do, and everyone is motivated by different things. He got the fame now it's time to get some more education, what's wrong with that?

To the assertion I should be careful for risk of slander or liable.

2- As far as slander and liable go, pardon me if I chuckle because I hear my 5 attorneys are laughing. The last time I checked I lived in America and I have the freedom of speech and the freedom to dissent from any opinion, or any ideology and voice my own view of the world and of human behavior and of dog behavior, it seems everyone else can spout their version of reality, why not me? I’m sure CM is not losing any money or being caused hardship due to my actions.

I was sent this slide show that has false information in it, there is no author. So before we start throwing around wrong doing make sure you’re camp is clean.

To the challenge by a “close friend” of Millan that I meet him and speak with him.

3 - If face time is what Millan wants with me, or his close friend on DSD suggests, well CM is in Red Bank, NJ on 2/28/10 he’ll be at the Count Basie Theater. Red bank NJ is where I live and run my business. This is being written on 2/26/10 around 10ish EST, so if you are really interested in having me meet and speak with your friend; hook it up. My websites are listed here in my profile you can either call or email me. I’m free Sat 2/27/10 in the evening after 5pm and all day Sunday the 28th. Make it happen. I’ll answer any question he has, as long as he is willing to do the same for me. I’m down for a dialog. I was not contacted, big surprise.

To the assumption that I’m jealous of Millan

4 - Concerning jealousy, ah that is whole lotta supposition my friends, you assume you know my wants and desires, and we’re not that close. But hey, do what you feel.

To the question of American Humane and their take on the blog.

5 - I spoke with American Humane twice over the past few weeks and I’ve emailed numerous times with the head of the TV & Film dept. She thanked me for this blog, and her colleagues said that they liked it and that I “get it”. So again, I’m not worried.

To the notion that I should get on TV and get a dog training show

6- In the past year and a half I have been approached by numerous production companies about either being part of an existing dog TV show or creating one. In fact earlier this month a TV producer who is represented by CM’s agents contacted me and we’re discussing a dog related training show with opposite methods and ideologies from CM. It’s all very new, nothing concrete. I’m not going to divulge this man’s cell phone or email, but I can substantiate that its real. If it happens; cool, if not whatever. These things take time and I have concerns about entertainment as it relates to dog training and behavior and how it is presented. I’m not in dogs to be famous, not everyone is hell bent on being famous; I did that all that alooong time ago, so I’m cool with that particular chase as it were. I’m an advocate for humane dog training.
I have two simple rules to train dogs and modify behavior, I do not use fear or pain, of any kind, and if a person cannot explain it how can you train it, to others that is, and perhaps how can one train the dog their best in a humane way? Is that not the point? Past those two conditions I’m open to working with anyone for the humane training and behavior modification of dogs.

To the opinion that Millan is some type of gifted genius and it is my skills that are suspect

7- I’m not an “expert", I’m a student of dog behavior and training, and a professional positive reward based dog trainer. I was educated at the SFSPCA’s Academy for Dog Trainers, and I owe my foundational knowledge to their stellar program, period.
The “guru’ in my Pit Bull training website is marketing, simple as that. It’s been a real win – win for the PB community as well. Ask anyone that has trained dogs with me, other trainers or clients. I freely admit I have no gift, I’m not special. I have rocking mechanics, acute timing and a solid understanding of learning theory and legit dog behavior and I’m fully aware of the fall outs from fear and pain that dogs have been subjected to.
CM is 30% mass and 70% water like any other human, meaning he is subject to all the same laws natural and manmade of life on earth just like anyone else is. Like I said if anyone can get him in the room with me make it happen, privately one on one or with an audience. Either way, I’m cool. I have nothing to hide; it's not my methods or ideology that is being called into question by the best in the field of dog training and behavior.

To people that are offended by this blog
8 – I’m not apologizing to anyone for anything in this blog, if you had a chord struck that’s your deal. Perhaps it was struck for a reason. Deal with it, that is what adults do, they deal with it and they grow. I’m not a “cry baby”, or out to get anyone; In fact so many smarter more educated dog training & behavior people have come out and spoken out against the methods and the ideology of the DW show that I’m surprised anyone would think I matter in this debate. I’m actually surprised you all noticed, and frankly thanks for putting in me in such esteemed company as the people professional or otherwise that have spoken out about CM/Whispering. Thanks!

Be well
Drayton Michaels CTC

Links of interest you should check out (Millan interview with Bill O’Reilly)

Dog Trainer abuse cases,0,5761579.story