Last spring I watched “Dog Whisperer” on the National Geographic Channel for the first time, on the recommendation of my friend Pauline (an avid dog lover and professional dogwalker with the Doghouse Girls in Canton – I highly recommend them!), and I was hooked about two minutes into the first episode. The show has been on for a few seasons, so I set my trusty Tivo to record repeat episodes over the summer. (Warning! Do this at your own risk – they play about 10-15 episodes per week!) I watched a few episodes each week and to date I think I’ve seen about 90% of them. Of course, I am a dog fanatic, and I find the subject matter interesting. But, I think just about anyone would like this program. Cesar Millan (the Dog Whisperer himself) is highly entertaining, funny, and compassionate, and is an absolute miracle worker with the troubled dogs and humans on the program. New episodes play at 8pm on Fridays, if you’re interested in checking out the show.
Cesar’s philosophy is that he trains people and rehabilitates dogs. He believes in the “power of the pack” and feels that dogs need calm, assertive pack leaders to be properly balanced, since dogs feed off the energy we give them. He says three things to lead to a well-balanced dog: exercise, discipline (rules, boundaries and limitation), and affection – in that order. Cesar believes that we humans often provide affection to dogs at the wrong time – such as petting and soothing a dog in an anxious or fearful state. By giving affection, we’re telling the dog that this is a good, acceptable state of mind, which is not going to help him or her overcome her anxiety or fear.
Anyway, I am a total convert. Well, I strive to be. Craig and I now walk our dogs differently – we make sure they walk next to or behind us. This demonstrates that we are the pack leaders because we are in front. It has revolutionized our daily walks from a period of time where we were out of control and being dragged everywhere by our two 25-pound dogs, to peaceful times where the dogs absolutely enjoy themselves and follow our lead. They still get to sniff, pee, and stretch their legs, but now they just follow along. And it shows them that we are the pack leaders – meaning we are in charge. This translates into improvements with our daily routine, especially since Rocky has thought he was in charge since the day he got our attention at the Maryland SPCA. We also work on redirecting negative energy. For example, our neighbors walk their dog Charlie (an unneutered male Bichon Frise) every evening past our house. And every evening, Rocky hears and smells Charlie in front of the house and takes exception to this dog being too near us. A growl and a prickling of the hair on his back follows. We now can make a small noise (a pssst! sound) that catches Rocky’s attention and keeps him from running to the door and growling. It really is amazing. Of course, we have lots of work to do, but we’ll keep at it. We are ALL much happier with this type of lifestyle, including the dogs. And, it fits perfectly into my new regime of positivity and balanced energy.
I went to see Cesar’s seminar in Baltimore yesterday at the Hippodrome Theatre with Pauline and Amanda, one of Pauline’s clients. It was fabulous! Cesar put on a delightful seminar where he shared his philosophy and theories about dog psychology. He is a tremendously funny man, plus his ability to imitate dogs in various states of mind is absolutely priceless. We paid some good $$$ for our fourth-row seats, and were delighted to learn that we would get to meet him in the VIP room after the show. So, I got to shake his hand, pose for a picture, and have him sign his book for me. I swear, I felt like I’d just met a rock star! It was way cool. Oh, and we got to meet Daddy, too! Daddy is Cesar’s poster boy of a pit bull. I really believe Daddy could reprogram the minds of so many Americans who believe pit bulls are vicious and dangerous dogs just because of their breed. He couldn’t be further from that. I even got to give a very mellow Daddy every dog’s favorite type of attention – a good old belly rub.