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June 19, 2007

Dog-Training Video Linkage

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I blogged recently about a dog-training reality-TV show that I love, "It's Me or the Dog," starring the glamorous and expressive Victoria Stilwell. It's a wittily entertaining half-hour series that provides nifty clips of dogs learning how to behave as well as suggestive, touching, and hilarious footage of the lives and souls of dog owners.

TV's real dog-training hit, though, is Cesar Millan's "The Dog Whisperer," which runs on the National Geographic Channel. The two shows -- and the two stars -- make for quite a contrast. Where Victoria is theatrical and quicksilvery, Cesar is blunt and direct. Where Victoria's likely to make a toy-breed intervention, Cesar generally grapples with the hard cases, physically powerful and aggressive dogs that have taken over households.

Cesar is a bit of a street dog himself -- an impressively charismatic, tough, and insightful figure who masters difficult situations and dangerous animals amazingly quickly. If Victoria is like a slightly camp diva, Cesar reminds The Wife and me of a great, perhaps somewhat authoritarian, acting teacher. If his show is a little too souped-up for my tastes, and if it isn't quite as alert to household and personal dynamics as Victoria's is, it's full of its own kind of pugilistic drama. He does great dog impersonations too.

Cesar Millan turns out to be quite the controversial figure in the dog-training world. Are his methods sensible or cruel? Is he giving people the skills they need to live with their dogs peacefully and rewardingly? Or are his methods not only not-transferable, but even dangerous? But perhaps those who carp about him are just jealous ...

On this issue, I'm goin' with Terrierman -- a blogger I discovered thanks to the dog-lovin' boys at Querencia. Terrierman writes, "If a dog is going to learn anything it needs a calm, assertive and not-too-verbal person who consistently does the same thing over and over again. In fact, this is exactly what Cesar Millan offers and when he teaches -- along with a good dose of 'Your dog is not your child,' and 'this is a choke chain -- learn how to use it'." What possesses so many people to acquire high-energy, difficult, and belligerant dogs anyway?

You can watch some clips from "The Dog Whisperer" here.

* Train your whippet to slalom.

* Cowtown Pattie sent along an irresistable snap of her dog -- and you better spell that d-a-w-g -- Rusty:




posted by Michael at June 19, 2007


Michael, I hate to get this discussion off on the wrong foot, but one of my favorite South Park episodes is "The Dog Whisperer" satire.

Cesar Millan tries to train Cartman to be a decent human being. He actually succeeds too! In the end, Cartman's mother blows it and Cartman returns to being the world's most vile spoiled brat. The show is actually a brilliant explication of how the culture of single mothers produces uncontrollable children. Cartman's mom is always lonely, always looking for a quick screw, and always giving Cartman bribes so that he won't throw a fit.

I worked closely with a gay man who was an absolute ringer for Cartman, including being a fat slob, in my old job. He also had Cartman's moral outlook. He'd learned in high school and college that the entire world would kiss his ass if he claimed to be gay. I am convinced that he pretended to be gay for the perks.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on June 19, 2007 5:54 PM

Since I'm a runner and bicyclist you can imagine I encounter a fair variety of dogs. After more than a few bitings/knockdowns/chasings I've learned not to run or bike by loose dogs. Invariably when I do so, the owner says something like: "Afraid of dogs?" I usually reply, "No, dog owners", specifically because it is usually the owner's "fault" for misbehaving dogs. Either because they need to acquire difficult breeds or because they have no clue on how to control them.

Posted by: Jim L on June 19, 2007 7:22 PM

Cowtown Pattie's dawg Rusty is a heartbreaker. Now can anybody look at that face and not see depth of soul, love, intelligence...oops! Somebody call Cesar. I guess I need an intervention.

Posted by: annette on June 20, 2007 10:57 AM

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