Monday, November 01, 2010

Cesar Millan Live: When A Dog Trainer Attempts To Be A Motivational Speaker And A Comedian

Cesar Millan, National Geographic TV's Dog Whisperer, is a figure that is well known among the majority of dog lovers and owners. He is often someone that is either beloved and followed by many, or viewed with great disdain by others. My experience has been that those that dislike him usually only know about him through second hand knowledge rather than actually watching his show or listening to what he says. It usually has to do with people not liking words like 'dominant behaviour' or being a 'pack leader.' This usually is more of a case of not understanding the context the terms are being used. Cesar feels it is more important for the dog owner to be calm and assertive, and is actually against an aggressive form of dominance and rule over the dog. It is more about the dog's owner displaying an inner confidence and calmness that allows for the dog to respect and want to obey. It is these methods and strategies that have allowed Cesar to have his own loyal human followers (along with his large pack of dogs).

Emily enjoys the Dog Whisperer and finds many of Cesar's techniques to be helpful, but she also isn't one who would swear by all his methods or follow his steps while kissing the ground behind him. I actually think that is the safer approach when it comes to listening to anyone that dispenses advice or techniques; take the information provided and decide for yourself what is valuable and useful for you. It is unlikely you'll ever encounter someone you completely agree with, unless you're looking in a mirror (and it should be that way). Emily and I wouldn't consider ourselves anywhere near devout followers of Cesar, but do admit that we've used some of his techniques and strategies when dealing with Summit.

We went to the Copps Coliseum for Cesar Millan's live show, not because we felt all his words would be gold but hoping there would be some helpful information we could apply to raising Summit, well that, and Emily won free tickets to the show. The consensus from both of us when leaving the show was that it was entertaining, but can't see ourselves ever plopping down the $65.00 plus it would take to purchase a single ticket, especially when you can watch him for free on television 5 times a week. The reality was, we felt he dispenses far more useful information and ideas on his 'free' television show than he did on the one he charged a large sum of cash for (or at least for the folks who don't win their tickets in contests). This isn't to say it was a bad show, but rather, not exactly what I was expecting from the renowned trainer of humans and rehabilitator of dogs.

I envisioned a show about the Dog Whisperer to have lots of actual living dogs, because you know, not only is dog in the name but also his television show is about him dealing with problem dogs the entire time. It is sort of his specialty, and so you'd think he would play to that strength since that is why people started watching him in the first place. Now, the show does have dogs, and he does actually work with some of them, but he spends far more time cracking jokes and dispensing advice (which wasn't always about dogs).

The majority of the time he addressed problems with dogs by acting out what dogs do, and generally running through a stand up routine for dog owners. It was funny, and fairly enjoyable, but not exactly what I was expecting. Seeing him jump out and bark like a dog is humorous, but not exactly the best way to supply me with tools of how to handle my own dog. Rather than watching him go through a routine of how several people are forced to answer the door with a rambunctious dog (one that I can relate to and did laugh at), it would have been much better served to witness him deal with a dog and owner that may need some help with that problem. There was one part in the show where he brought up a dog that was obsessed with vacuums, and after only a few minutes of working with the dog, he seemed to really help the dog and owner begin to move past the obsession along with giving many crucial tips for the audience. It would have been great to be able to see more instances of that during the show.

I realize he couldn't bring a dog with severe issues, since putting the dog in front of thousands of people on a brightly lit stage probably isn't the world's most sound strategy. It would have been nice to see a few more minor cases be dealt with, or even for him to bring up some dogs he has trained or rehabilitated in the past. I should make it clear that I did appreciate the dogs that he did interact with on the stage. It seemed like he didn't see these dogs before, and so the live training being done on the stage was authentic (there was some initial awkwardness or glitches – like not hearing people’s names properly -- that gave the feeling that these were not staged events). It wasn't the interactions that I had any problem with, but rather I really thought they were useful, and would have wished he did it much more often throughout the show.

Cesar's skill is working with dogs, and that couldn't be more evident during his live show. He was amusing with his jokes, and he seemed to capture the audiences’ attention (but it helps that the majority of the audience where obvious fans that came for the sole purpose of seeing him), but he isn't necessarily the strongest public speaker. This isn't even a criticism per say, because Cesar's first language isn't English, and he does a really great job for someone who started learning the language at the age of 21. The reality is, there are far better motivational public speakers who incorporate humour into their events. So while Cesar is entertaining live; I’d prefer to stick with his TV show.

I don’t want to make it seem like I am tearing Cesar apart here, because it was good for what it was, which was a speaking engagement by a man who has an entirely different profession. When Cesar was interacting with dogs, his strength and skill really shined. During the speaking portions, Cesar struggled at making his points clear, and tended to wander around a bit. It felt like he could get across his idea with a few sentences, but instead would take about 10 minutes instead. Cesar also tried attaching a motivational element which was about conquering hurdles in one's life, and trying to find a calmness in one's life which can be found through a strong self confidence. It sort of came tacked on, even though aspects of this idea are grounded in his main dog training strategy of being calm and assertive. I do think the message is good, but could have been presented in a much more clear and effective manner. Actually, it is a message that is presented much more crisply and precisely on his television series. It is evidence that Caesar benefits from the post production of his television show. So for me, it was a decent show that I am glad we won tickets for, but felt Caesar's expertise is far more valuable on his 'free' television program.

1 comment:

  1. I find Cesar Milan fascinating & Ben has a dog whispering crush on him- because he really is talented with dogs. I would've loved to have seen him speak!

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