All Our Children Meow and Woof: Review: Cesar Milan - Mastering Leadership (and a contest!)

All Our Children Meow and Woof

I created this blog to sort through my emotions as Finnegan, a great Irish Wolfhound, fought bone cancer for nearly 26 months. Fortunately, his battle subsided for many months and during the course of the 26 months, I shared stories about his feline siblings. On August 8, 2008, Finny passed on in my husband's and my arms. He fought the good fight and he will always have a special place in my heart. *If you have a question, please write me at finnegandog at gmail dot com.*

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Review: Cesar Milan - Mastering Leadership (and a contest!)

About a month or so ago, I was asked to do a review of Cesar Milan's latest DVD series: Mastering Leadership. First I must say that I might be the human person in the U.S. who has never seen his show. I knew some basics about him and knew several dog owners who were huge fans of his but me? I entered into this review completely blind.

As you might know, The Prof and I adopted Rudy, an Irish Wolfhound mix, in October. We spent the last eight years with an amazing, well-behaved, beautiful Irish Wolfhound. He exemplified good manners nearly all of the time. We brought him to "puppy preschool" and obedience early on. Having worked in a veterinary hospital for nearly three years, I realized from the start that I wanted a well-behaved dog, especially a dog that would grow to nearly 40 inches at the shoulder and 175 pounds. Finnegan spoiled us because he was a calm submissive dog. He would have rather lounged in the living room than played in the backyard.

Rudy is an entirely different story. I visited him several times at the shelter. He showed excitement when he saw me but did not appear to be out of control or aggressive. After The Prof met him, we decided to take him home. Had I watched the DVD before bringing Rudy home, I would have followed Cesar's directions on how to bring home a new dog. And hopefully, Cesar, I hope you don't mind I call you by your first name.

Mastering Leadership is divided into three volumes: People Training for Dogs, Becoming a Pack Leader, and Your New Dog: The First Day and Beyond. Each volume taught a different skill and used various examples to demonstrate a point; however, Cesar kept a common thread or theme throughout each of the DVDs: calm assertiveness.

In People Training for Dogs, Cesar led a seminar in front of a small audience. Initially, it had a Dr. Phil feel to me. And sadly, that is not a compliment. However, the format fit the purpose of this class: reeducating dog owners about what dogs are, how they act, and what we as humans can do to establish a pack. He broke down dogs into four groups: species, dogs, breeds, and names. He explained the importance the each group while emphasizing that dogs are basically dogs. They have a pack mentality, they follow a leader, and most importantly, the humans better be the leader of their dog. Cesar described the "psychology" of a dog and how a dog owner should behave in order to get the result that they want. The point to take home was this: the human must exert calm assertiveness. And boy, can Cesar exert calm assertiveness.

Initially, I thought that this was a bunch of phooey and in no way could my "calm assertiveness" get the Rudemeister under control. Did I mention that Rudy is likely part Tasmanian Devil? No? From the get go, he felt so excited every time he saw us, even if only five minutes went by, that he wanted to jump on us. And being nearly seven months pregnant, I cannot have a 65 pound dog jump on me. So I decided to use Cesar's advice. After all, he had clips showing him with a pack of rather large and somewhat rough looking dogs without him or anyone else being mauled.

Calmly and of course, assertively, I went over to Rudy's kennel to let him out. I kept quiet and managed to stand tall while bending over to grasp Rudy's collar. I made sure that I walked slightly in front and at the door, easily got him to sit before letting him out. Guess what? This worked! At least that time it worked. The next goal for me was to go out on the deck and throw his Frisbee without the whole jumping routine because in Rudy's mind: HI! HI! HI! I MUST JUMP! I MUST JUMP! I stood in front of the sliding glass door and singled Rudy to sit. After he stayed seated, I joined him on the deck where I continued to hold my hand in way to indicate: Rudy if you continue to sit I'll be your BFF (okay not really). He sat but almost shook uncontrollably. Finally, on my terms, I let him get up and began the Frisbee throwing process. Again, this calm assertiveness, or as I liked to call it, The Jedi Mind Trick, worked. I felt pretty proud until I let my guard down and WHAM! Rudy tried to jump on me. Did I forget to mention Cesar emphasized consistency?

Cesar and I started out well. He taught me the basic skills I needed to work with a dog I felt I lacked control over. Each time I interacted with Rudy I had to remind myself to be calm and assertive and ALWAYS do it. It is easier said than done but at least I knew it had the potential to work. I moved on to the next volume, Becoming a Pack Leader. This time The Prof watched the whole DVD with me. Rather than speak to a seated group, Cesar met with three individuals and his or her dog. Each interaction demonstrated a behavioral problem and how becoming a pack leader and maintaining calm assertiveness could benefit both human and dog.

In his first interaction, Cesar met a family with a German Shepherd. When I saw this dog, I thought, okay good, Rudy is not anywhere nearly that crazy! This dog was a little on the psycho side for my taste and the owners clearly had no control over him. Over the course of his lessons, he taught a dog to go from completely wacky to well-mannered. Initially, the dog seemed to not listen to anyone and felt ripping a house guest apart would be an awesome idea. The skills that Cesar taught were simple: calm assertiveness, exercise as a release for the dog and a way to gain control, and consistency. Of course, the owners did not pick up on everything right away but shortly, they began to grasp the basic concepts and not only could you see a change in the family but definitely in the dog.

Next, a Wheaton Terrier or something like that, felt the need for speed. Or at least she felt the need to promptly exit the premises whenever the front door opened and gallivant throughout the neighborhood. I know I should laugh at other's misfortunate but this dog cracked me up. It was if she had to sow her wild oats. Free at last! Wheeeee!!! Okay, so that was not the point of this segment. Again, Cesar demonstrated how calm assertiveness, boundaries, and consistency could tame this wild dame.

Finally, Cesar found a Jack Russell Terrier who was a nightmare on a leash. It seemed his goal in life was to destroy the enemy. And the enemy was everywhere, man. The owner, a pretty laid back young woman who obviously loved her dog, would react how probably many of us would react when our small dog went ballistic, she picked him up to reassure him. Any guesses if this is the correct method for control? If you said yes, you are so very very wrong. Again, the key is calm assertiveness, confidence, and consistency. And not picking up your cute little dog every time he wants to rip apart that yippy little Pomeranian behind the fence.

During each segment, Cesar met with the family and the dog. He assessed the situation and began by explaining what was happening. He demonstrated his methods and of course, made it all look really easy. Then, he worked with the family to implement those tools. What I liked is that it was not as if the family got it right away and everyone lived happily ever after. Instead, each person had his or her hang ups and weaknesses which needed to be overcome. However, Cesar patiently worked with the person and finally, the concepts were implemented fairly successfully. Even though the situation might not match yours or mine, the skills can be applied to different scenarios.

Again, I decided to try his techniques but this time with The Prof's help. Although Rudy does not try to kill people, run off, or act like a spaz around other dogs, he is pretty difficult on a leash. He wants to PULL so much that even The Prof feels like his shoulder could be dislocated. As per Cesar's instructions, we placed the collar higher on his neck for better control. Still, Rudy wanted to PULL and ended up gagging and choking. Next, we tried the old method of putting the leash around our back for leverage. That sort of worked but he still pulled. In order to show how calmly assertive we were, we had Rudy sit at each corner before we crossed the street. He sat but he still tried to take off when we walked forward. Cesar, care to visit us in Northwestern Pennsylvania? Oh yeah, he chases our cats too. It could be a two for one! The key is that we need to continue to work, work, and work some more with him and be consistent. At the very least, Cesar, my new buddy, gave us some important tools.

Finally the last volume, Your New Dog: The First Day and Beyond, taught potential dog owners who to adopt a dog from a shelter, a rescue group and a reputable breeder. I appreciated his emphasis on trying to adopt from a shelter when possible and to us the Humane Society of the United States as a resource for finding a reputable breeder. I respected him even more for saying that.

Cesar met with three different individuals and interviewed them about the type of dog they wanted. The first woman lived by herself in a condominium and had an active lifestyle. Due to her living situation, she required a very small dog. Cesar and the woman headed to the local shelter and looked at various dogs in her size range. He taught her how to approach a dog and what to look for. In every circumstance with each potential owner, he emphasized finding a submissive dog and one which would not require rehabilitation. After observing the dogs, he pulled out three and had them interact with each other so they could figure out how the dogs acted in a pack. Once he determined what role each played, he was able to help the woman select a dog which would be right for this woman. Sadly, the adopted dog was not the same that the woman and I thought she would pick out. But it turned out that the dog we liked was a little land shark. Go figure.

Once they determined this little dog was the one, Cesar suggested taking the dog for a walk at the shelter before bringing him home. He explained the steps for properly bringing a dog into a new home. Besides picking out the dog, he talked about what to expect next when the dog is in the house including where the dog stays in the house and generally proper behavior.

Next, Cesar met with a groovy couple who already had two large dogs and a cat. The woman decided she wanted a Bassett Hound but the hound would need to get along with her giant dogs and her fairly chill cat. Cesar suggested bringing the two dogs to a rescue shelter for Bassett Hounds so that all the dogs could meet and live happily ever after. Amen. Little did I know that there are about a bazillion unwanted Bassett Hounds. I have never seen so many Bassett Hounds in one location. Honestly, I found it a bit disturbing but hysterical at the same time because generally, Bassett Hounds appear fairly mellow and of course, they are very low to the ground. It amused me to see a "mob" of Bassett Hounds in a desert location. Again, Cesar went through the process of selecting a dog and introducing it to the dogs and the cat who resided at the rescue shelter. Thankfully, everyone got along although the three dogs did not seem terribly interested in each other as it was hot and they probably lacked much energy.

Once they determined this Bassett was the one, Cesar joined them at home to show them how to walk their little pack. Frankly, the idea of walking a Husky, some Mastiff type mix, and a Bassett did not seem appealing to me. All I could think of was being pulled in three different directions like a medieval torture device as my limbs were pulled from my body. Apparently, the owners did not have the same fear because they walked these dogs like experts and showed me who is wrong. Cesar guided them throughout the way and for a brief moment, I felt jealous but happy for this new little pack.

Finally, the last family with whom Cesar worked wanted a pure bred snazzy German Shepherd. This family had two young children and I kept thinking: Cesar! Talk them out of it! Too much work! Too strong willed for little children! Noooooo!!!! Apparently, Cesar did not hear me when he recorded this DVD months ago but he did emphasize to the family that Shepherds are strong willed dogs who need strong owners who are Cesar Milan. No, he didn't say the last part. That was my input. Cesar found a reputable breeder (who had their own van with their name on it!) and brought over Shepherds of varying ages. He showed examples of high energy assertive, high energy submissive, and calm submissive/comatose. Okay, again, I'm interjecting. Obviously, he encouraged the family to pick the calm submissive and SHAZAM! a puppy was adopted.

Once they selected a dog, he began the process of working with the family. Because the daughter appeared to be a "high energy assertive" child, he had her not be part of the initial training. Cesar went through all the keys of having a new puppy: establishing boundaries, finding an appropriate spot for the kennel, and teaching the puppy how to walk on a leash.

In each situation, Cesar matched the dogs well and taught valuable lessons including finding a dog with matching energy. Does Rudy match our energy? It depends. When we exercise him a lot like Cesar would tell us to do, he matches it. However, there are days when we cannot give him a 45 minute walk or 45 minutes of exercise. And yes, I feel bad but sometimes we do not have all the time in the world. Is Rudy submissive or assertive? When we are assertive, he is submissive but boy does he try to be assertive when we have our guard down. I must say, Cesar does make it easy to learn and really does show how his techniques, which are really mirroring the ways dogs act in nature, can create a symbiotic relationship between human and dog. Honestly, you must see it for yourself because it has changed The Prof and my relationship with Rudy and made it so much more rewarding.

The kind people who asked me to do this review also provided me with an extra DVD for a lucky reader to win! If you would like to get this DVD, leave a comment about a dog from sometime in your life and link your email (you don't have to put it in the post itself). You have until November 30 at 9:00 p.m. to enter. I will pick a winner on December 1 and let you know via email.


Blogger Biggie-Z said...

Wow, this post makes mine look like one-liners!!

But, it is full of great information and I have to admit I was a little skeptical since I tend to be more of the Andrea Arden/Victoria Stilwell ilk and I think Cesar's methods can sometimes seem a little harsh to me. But I wholly agree with the concept of "calm assertiveness" with my dog.

We have been pretty lucky and super-conscious of being a strong leader with Biggie, our kuvasz, since he was a little pup, for the same reasons you are with Rudy and Finnegan. Kuvasz are not great city and apartment dogs, and I totally saw ourselves in the family who wanted the German Shepherd. Biggie's litter came in "high energy/assertive" (Purple and Aqua), "high energy/less assertive" (Gold) and "less assertive/comatose" (Biggie and his sister Spirit).

Luckily (and this is part of finding a good breeder), the litter was temperament-tested at 7 weeks and Biggie has pretty much lived up to his temperament test results. Also, Biggie's breeder got him started on the right paw - he always had boundaries and always had to learn self-control: as soon as they were weaned the pups had to sit before their food dishes would be put down, and always ate in their crates. We've continued that process. She also got us started on clicker training (invaluable) and emphasized, over and over again when we'd email her with questions ("Biggie ate his dog bed! Biggie lunged at a rollerblader" Biggie fired his dog walker!") that we had to be strong, CONSISTENT leaders with him, and the more he looked to us for guidance, the more relaxed he'd be.

Cesar's point about exercise is invaluable. If you and The Prof can couple that with some routine, Rudy could do a lot better. During the week Biggie sees us less but he has a very structured routine, and he doesn't mind us being away for 12 hours a day (yes, I feel guilty about that). But he has a lot of structure in the AM - we go out for a walk to the dog park, virtually rain or shine, where he socializes and plays hard for an hour, then we come home and he eats in his crate while I get ready for work, and he spends the rest of the day in our bedroom with music and special toys. It means I have to get up 90 minutes earlier than I could without a dog, but it is a real bonding time and it takes the edge off - he is so much calmer and more relaxed with his routine, and sometimes is napping by the time I leave.

Ok, this is my entry for the DVD - also, if I win I'll post a long blurb about it on Biggie's blog too.

Biggie's Momma

11:49 AM  
Blogger Sunny,Scooter,Jamie said...

Aside from the DVD, I was happy to see y'all had adopted a new dog. I had read about dear Finnegan and had not been by here in a long time. So I hope Rudy is learning to be calm, submissive.
I love Ceasar-lots of people think he is harsh, but I disagree. He is fair. Right now I have 2 dogs. An 11 yr old Chihuahua that was my Dad's before he died and my 7 yr old STandard Poodle. My Poodle is not only my family member but she is my service dog. I have a bad leg, and she knows how to balance me when I need it, how to brace o help me up if I fall. I have taught her myself.(I have lived with dogs my whole life)
She has benefited from my watching ceasar's tv series on NatGeo. She is always learning and we would love the opportunity to see those DVD's. I hope I have told you enough about one dog in my life. Please let me know if it is satisfactory for a chance at the drawing. Thanks. And I will look forward to coming back and reading about Rudy. Feel free to drop by our blog if you wish!
The Texas sun dog at g mail dot com is our email.
Thanks!Jamie, Sunny&Scooter

11:30 PM  
Blogger Shawna L said...

Ceasar Milan is my hero. As soon as bringing Cayman home from the breeder, from day one, I put what I learned on his TV series to the test. Be Calm. Be Assertive. I did not to make the same mistakes as I had with previous dogs. And I must have done something right. Cayman was just accepted as a therapy dog and we are working our way up to bigger and better things. I would love to be entered in the contest! my blog is and my email is

6:29 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

Well, let me say that there are dogs galore in my house. I have 3, my father has 1, and my sister brings over 2 each day for "day care." One thing I got from Cesar is EXERCISE. A tired dog is a good dog. With my terrier, he became a different dog, once I started consistently exercising him. That is the key.

Now, people comment on how much different he is. He was not my only problem dog. I also have a Nova Scotia Duck tolling Retriever. They are bred to work on their own, and boy, does she like to do that. With her, consistency was the key as well.

I train my dogs for agility and flyball, and know of many people who do not like Cesar's methods. I, for one, do. Following some of his advise has really turned 2 crazy dogs into nice, semi-well behaved pets.

I am glad you gave it a chance.

our email is pups @ (no spaces)

10:16 AM  
Blogger The Puppies said...

I don't actually want to be entered for the DVD (because i actually read your blog recently and asked for it for Christmas and hopefully my husband will oblige- :)) but i love Cesar Milan's show and have read his book. I have two problem children, but for very different reasons. I rescued Marshall five years ago (black lab mix) and he is terribly scared of thunderstorms, my camera (much to my frustration), and fireworks. Also, when i grab the leash to walk him he starts jumping around absolutely uncontrollably. since watching cesar's show, i am trying the method of waiting for him to calm down before approaching him and standing there patiently with my back to him (it works sometimes- :)). I also have Opal, a one and half year old Boxer, who loves to go on walks but barks at every person, dog, or other living thing, as we walk, which i am sure makes my neighbors love me, so i am working on that also, but haven't really figured it out yet. oh yeah, and she pulls really hard for a semi-small dog. So i told you about two. :)
i enjoyed reading about your trials with Rudy though.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Alasandra said...

I am hoping to get a dog for Christmas and it is very important that it get along with my 3 cats. Asta suggested I come over here and enter your contest.

The last time I had a dog I was a teenager. I had a wonderful Border Collie. Now I am 40 something and have missed having a dog.

I think I followed your instructions about linking the email.

Alasandra & The Cats

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Jerry G Dawg said...

Hey hey now, we shepherds are GREAT with kids! But yah, a little strong willed maybe.

Your review was wonderful. I know it can help you humans to understand us more, and be better pack leaders. Good job!

Spirit Dog Jerry

11:48 AM  
Blogger Leila said...

Well, I met my forever match at a shelter in Howard County, Maryland outside I was suppose to come home with a dog who was older, small, didn't bark and didn't shed. Once I walked into the yard, a white little 17-pound bundle of energy spotted me and saw sucker on my forehead. Shouldering all the older dogs aside, he presented himself to me with a grin and a wiggle. I was sunk.

It took a year to get him to walk on leash without pulling my mother off her feet, not knocking my little nieces down with his exuberent greetings, and not stealing cookies out of children's hands (okay he still does that but the process involves a lot more stealth).

He is a champion walker, he teaches other dogs to be calm and he is the light of my life. Once I stopped worrying and calmed down, he was calm.

I wish I'd known Cesar five years ago. But that's okay, I listen to him now.

Rudy will calm down. There is hope for the cats too. They'll take care of Rudy soon enough. It's what they do.

Leila & Quizz

1:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I adopted a pit bull who was about 6 months old (2 years ago), I had 2 other small dogs at home. After one altercation that left one dog with 2 stitches I hired a trainer to come and help me.

She got us off to a good start, but all her methods were reward (food) based which doesn't always work. We also atended group classes and frequent visits to the dog park.

After about 1 year I started watching and reading Cesaer Milan and incorporating some of his methods into my trianing. What a difference, works much better for us and since Daisy is not really "food" driven I have better sucess. One thing I did realize that it wasn't Daisy (the pit bull) who was instigating some of the bad behavior it was one of the small dogs who would get overly excited. Watching the pack not I can better see the roles that the dogs play. We have a ways to go but our life together now is much more calm thanks to his TV show.

I would love to see this DVD! Please consider us! You can visit Daisy at her blog if you would like :)

4:56 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

Great review, this is helpful and good reference...^_^

dog pens

2:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed. Cesar's methods are controversial, and I roll my eyes at some of the snap judgments on his TV show, but damn if he doesn't get some results.
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3:42 PM  
Anonymous Fancy Dog Collars said...

Very interesting blog!

2:45 PM  

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