Cesar Millan: Dog Training Tips
Got a problematic pooch and need some fast and effective dog training tips? "Dog Whisperer" Cesar Millan to the rescue! The legendary dog-training guru shares his proven techniques for humans to be strong pack leaders and improve their dogs' behavior.
Dog owners make training mistakes
SheKnows: What is the biggest mistake that pet owners make with their dogs?
Cesar Millan: The most common mistake I see is not following what I call the fulfillment formula -- that is, exercise, discipline then affection. We tend to give affection, affection, affection and this creates unstable dogs and bad behavior because then you have trouble earning your dog's trust, respect and loyalty.
Dog training formula: Exercise, discipline and affection
SheKnows: How can owners instill discipline in their dogs, other than the usual "sit" and "stay" commands?
Cesar Millan: This is about leadership and energy. Most training seeks to teach dogs how to obey commands, while my philosophy is more about rehabilitation through exercise, discipline and affection. A dog may be very well-trained and still be unbalanced, just as a balanced dog may not be trained. We need to start with the principles before we can get to the techniques (training methods) and that is how we achieve a positive outcome (good behavior).
Lead your dogs by example
SheKnows: What if a dog receives one or two walks a day and still misbehaves?
Cesar Millan: The walk is exercise and that's great -- but that's only part of the formula. Dogs need discipline, too -- this is where rules, boundaries and limitations come in. Leadership is about showing the dogs -- through your actions and energy -- what you expect of them. Remember that you have to be consistent. If you break the rules, they will too!
be a strong pack leader
SheKnows: And what if a dog is constantly destroying the house?
Cesar Millan: The dog is trying to tell you something! Either he's not getting enough exercise to drain his energy, he's bored and understimulated, or you are not being as calm and assertive a pack leader as you need to be. The reality is that most people have to go to work and leave their dogs alone for several hours a day. So you need to get the dog, right from puppyhood, used to that reality so the dog gets used to being alone without exerting frustration.
Walk dogs into calm
SheKnows: What can dog owners do to reduce the likelihood their dogs will misbehave when the dogs are left alone in the house?
Cesar Millan: It helps to start the day with a good, fast walk. And that's not a walk where the dog is peeing on every tree and barking at every other dog on the street … which will just put him in an excited state. Then when you lock him up inside the house with that kind of energy, he's more likely to be destructive. You want him in a calm, submissive state and a brisk walk, run or bike ride is the best way to achieve that.
Also, find activities that stimulate his mind and challenge him, like search-and-rescue activities. Try a treat ball or a Kong toy, have him wear a backpack on the walk, go for a pack walk with your neighbors and their dogs, or play a game with him, even for 10 minutes before you leave the house, that challenges him to use his nose.
It's very important to analyze your own emotions and feelings. Are you trying to get away from something? How do you feel about your relationships? Remember that dogs are a reflection of us, so when we work with them, we are also working on ourselves.
Dogs are mean – or are they?
SheKnows: Are some dogs inherently aggressive?
Cesar Millan: All dogs can become aggressive, but the difference between an aggressive chihuahua and an aggressive pit bull is that the pit bull can do more damage. That's why it's important to make sure you are 100 percent ready for the responsibility if you own a "power" breed, like a pit bull, German shepherd or rottweiler. Often we blame the breed, but in my opinion, it's not the breed, it's the owner. The owner has to be the pack leader and provide exercise, discipline, then affection. If you do that, you'll have a sweet, loving, and balanced dog – no matter what breed!
Puppy mills lead to problem dogs
SheKnows: Can you comment on the problem with puppy mills?
Cesar Millan: Puppy mills – breeding without consciousness – often result in dogs that are wired wrong, with neurological problems due to the devastating breeding and living conditions they are in. We need more awareness on this to change the situation. It's important to note that aggression isn't the problem. It's the outcome of a problem.
no bad dogs, only bad dog-owners
SheKnows: Have you ever worked with a dog whose behaviors you could not change?
Cesar Millan: No, but I've worked with humans who I could not change. In many of the red-zone cases I see, the human is missing the fundamentals and not fulfilling the dog's needs. They are not loving to the highest degree because this takes putting the dog's needs first -- and doing what you need to in order to earn the dog's trust, respect and loyalty by providing leadership through rules, boundaries and limitations. Once those principles are mastered, the techniques can be applied and a better outcome achieved.
Tips to improve your dogs behavior
SheKnows: What's one action that pet owners can take that will improve their dogs' behavior?
Cesar Millan: Dogs have found themselves in an odd predicament by living with humans. In the wild, dogs don't need humans to achieve balance. They have a pack leader, work for food and travel with the pack. When we bring them into our world, we need to help them achieve balance by fulfilling their needs as nature intended. This takes exercise and discipline before affection, and always maintaining your calm, assertive pack leadership.
The best ways to manage your dog's behavior:
More from Cesar Millan
Becoming a pack leader
Sample clip from Becoming a Pack Leader, the second entry in Cesar Millan's 3-disc Mastering Leadership series, a hands-on demonstration guide to honing pack leadership skills.
More dog training tips