Since my post about Cesar Milan a while ago, and the comments I received on it, I wanted to post again. Not about Cesar… really. But about one of the comments (maybe more than one of them).

Someone said that Cesar is more a dog psychologist than a dog trainer. I have said, for as long as I have been around dogs… okay for as long as I’ve been around dogs as an adult.. since my early 20s, that whenever I am with a dog, I am training that dog. And from what I understood, it seems a number of people believe that dog training and dog psychology are mutually exclusive.

I beg to disagree. I think that they are intertwined. So much so that you cannot have one without the other when you are dealing with dogs.

Sure you can teach a dog to sit, down, stay, heel… you can teach a dog obedience, agility, flyball, herding, tracking… and any of the other dog sports out there. And this is all training. However, if you want to really have a good working relationship with your dog, and you want a dog that performs well and likes to work, you have to understand that dog’s behavior. The dog’s psychology.

On the other hand, you can understand a dog’s behavior up the wazoo, but in order to get a well mannered dog, either a house companion or a working dog, you have to incorporate training into the interaction you have with the dog.

I have done agility for over four years now. I am just barely starting to do serious obedience training. If you have followed my training with Chase, my border collie, you’ll know all about the trials and tribulations I’ve had with him. He knows all the agility contacts. He knows his job. He knows how to jump and how to weave and how to run through a tunnel (he especially knows how to ignore me completely and head for the tunnel all the way on the other end of the course). But a very huge piece of his ‘training’ was missing. And that was the behavioral part. Knowing why he does what he does… his drive, his motivation. Knowing that he lacked drive shaping and focus, and that he has a high sex drive, these things are critical when training him.

It seems to me that many, many people in competition events nowadays don’t understand the behavioral aspect of training. Understanding your dog, your individual companion and partner, is critical to the training experience. Having a dog that can think, and listen to you, and focus on his job.. these things are so important that I cannot express it in words. Without the behavior piece with Chase, without understanding his psychology, we never would have restarted our forward progress in dog training. Even in socialization, as he tends to not be good with some other dogs.

So really, to say that Cesar is a dog psychologist and not a dog trainer is something I disagree with. I believe he is both. I still don’t like his methods, though.

I look at dogs completely differently than I did only a year ago. Instead of just looking at their training I look at what their person has done, or hasn’t done, to shape their behavior, too. It’s fascinating. I love it. I want to spend more time doing it. Maybe after I retire I will be able to.

I want my dogs to have every opportunity to succeed. And, of course, I want to succeed, too. And now I have many more tools with which I can do this. And it’s fun!