Monday, April 27, 2015

Be the Pack Leader by Cesar Millan and Melissa Jo Peltier

Be the Pack Leader: Use Cesar's Way to Transform Your Dog . . . and Your Life, Cesar Millan and Melissa Jo Peltier. New York: Crown/Archetype// Random House, 2007. e-book, 233 pps.

Cesar Millan and Melissa Jo Peltier  wrote Be the Pack Leader when Cesar was still married to his first wife Illusion Millan. Something about that failed relationship made this book poignant for me. No doubt in my brain that he loved Illusion and that her departure from his life left him wounded for a time. I indeed rejoiced when the television specials started up signifying Cesar Millan's return to his work with his beloved pack and the training of people.

[For those of you who don't know this bit of factoid, Melissa Jo Peltier is married to John Gray who is the producer of The Ghost Whisperer television series staring Jennifer Love Hewitt. There was an episode in which Cesar Millan appeared signing books at a bookstore! Cesar Millan also appeared on an episode of South Park giving tips to Eric Cartman's mom but I am less sure of how that happened.]

Americans do in general prefer to pamper their dogs and worry excessively over hurting the precious little feelings of their canines. There are other things that we ought to devote our time to instead. We ought to not be so casual about the process of dog-getting. We ought to do our research first into what breeds [or even mixed breeds] of dog might suit us and our lifestyles best, what energy level of dog might suit us best, what our own energy level is, what pitfalls and strengths do we bring to the relationship with dog, what are we willing to do in order to ensure that we develop a stable dog and not a neurotic mess of a caricature of a dog. When people tell me outright that they don't care for dogs for whatever reason, I am actually happy. The folks that don't like dogs and don't get dogs know themselves well enough to know that they ought not to.

It is easy to reinforce unacceptable behavior in a dog. What is "cute" in a puppy such as the fluffing of hair in order to make himself look bigger before hitting the top staircase leading out [yeah, I had one of them] is not endearing when the puppy becomes an out-of-control- sixty pound dog who then needs specialized behavioral rehabilitation and then whose owner needs training so the dog rehabbing will stick [or he would have gone to the glue factory]. My cute puppy was not born unstable. I made him that way. I did not know enough about animals, dogs, the several ancestors of dogs in him, or he himself to make for a stable pack leader. And I was blind to what I was doing to perpetuate his behavior that had started out to be cute but ended up to be total dog on dog aggression. Fortunately, that story had a happy ending for both of us and for the neighborhood.

My elderly dog who recently turned thirteen has been acting up in respect to loud cars going by on the roads when we walk. I think this is because I must have lost my balance one day this winter or had a non-calm reaction to a car that splashed us with rainwater or something. I've been working on correcting her from barking at the "louder" cars as they rumble down the streets. Today it dawned on me. I needed to follow through. Correction plus follow through. Today I corrected her barking with a quick sit command and then followed through by keeping her in the sit until she indicated that she was in a calm submissive state. Success! She has not barked at a car since. 

sapphoq reviews says: Cesar Millan pulls no punches. He says outright that it is the problems in us-- in our non-calm non-assertive non-leadership non-directive non-energy-- that create the problems in our dogs. If you want to know more about how to be an effective pack leader, you will read this book. And then read all of the Cesar Millan books. And watch the television shows. Because having a well-behaved calm submissive dog is so worth it.

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