October 10, 2009

National Geographic’s Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan: How to Raise the Perfect Puppy. {Videos}

FSC Disclaimer: National Geographic sent me an Advance Press Screening Copy of Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan: How to Raise the Perfect Dog, and Cesar’s new book by the same name. I’ll review the book at a later date. ~ ed.

Just watched the season premiere of the sixth season of National Geographic’s Dog Whisperer, in which Cesar Millan, one of elephantjournal.com’s idols and a future Walk the Talk Show guest (we’re working on it!) raises four dogs, from very different breeds, showing viewers how to guide their puppies through the most important time of life.

Junior: an American Pit Bull

Marley: a Labrador Retriever

Angel: a Schnauzer

Mr. President: an English Bulldog.

Cesar starts the hour-long premier by showing what he looks for when adopting a dog: medium energy. While one might be attracted to the high energy puppy in a litter or at the humane society, a more relaxed yet still alert dog might be best. He then goes through “a start-to-finish guide to puppyhood covering birth to sexual maturity, energy, leash training, the ethics of spaying and neutering, and even the proper kinds of play” with the kind of detail, instruction and demonstration that helped me raise my rescue pup, Redford—and train myself to be kinder, gentler and more understanding in the process!

The season premiere begins with Junior, a pit bull pup Cesar hopes will someday assist him with his toughest cases now that his trusted right hand Daddy is nearing retirement. Daddy and Cesar have been a team since Daddy was four months old, and any fan of Dog Whisperer knows Daddy accompanies Cesar on many of his hardest cases — including a visit with Oprah!  But with age come limitations.

So, in order to ease Daddy into retirement, Cesar adopted the first young puppy for his puppy project — Junior. Daddy and Junior were instantly attracted to one another, and thus Junior joined Cesar’s pack. Next Cesar selects a Labrador pup to join the pack. Southern California Labrador Retriever Rescue brings two labs to Cesar’s Dog Psychology Center. Cesar is immediately drawn to the calm, submissive male, whom Cesar slowly introduces to the pack at the center. The pack mentality of all the dogs has never been clearer, as you can see firsthand how — with no human interaction — the pack slowly takes in the new puppy. Cesar eventually names this little guy Marley, after one of the world’s most famous bad dogs (the subject of last year’s hit movie “Marley & Me,” about the life of Cesar’s client and friend John Grogan).

Note: given the Recession, and the fact that the US kills 8 million un-adopted dogs and cats a year due to not enough adoptions, please consider rescuing a dog from a Humane Society or Rescue Breeder first.

Cesar quickly works to establish rules, boundaries and limitations—and to create good, obedient, relaxed dogs through plenty of exercise, then gentle discipline, and then affection last.

Video snippets:

Excerpt from the book:

Common Problem 1

Jumping Up on People

When a puppy comes running up to us and jumps on us, we think, “She loves me, she is so happy to see me!” We feel special and chosen and cherished. And who doesn’t thrill to watch puppies jumping and leaping about in play? They are so carefree, so full of the joy of life. These are the reasons we want puppies in our lives, to bring us that enthusiasm, that appreciation of the everyday things we take for granted.

But clearly, 51 percent of our newsletter survey respondents have had more than enough of their puppies’ jumping on them. Generally, when jumping up on people is a chronic problem for a puppy, it will continue to be problematic as she grows older and larger. “A German shepherd puppy jumping on you may seem cute,” says Thinschmidt German shepherd breeder Diana Foster, “but a 120-pound German shepherd dog can actually knock you down and injure you.” Puppyhood is the best time to nip this behavior in the bud.

Since puppies’ strongest ability is their sense of smell, and since their primary purpose during the first eight months of life is to investigate and learn about everything in their new world, they will naturally want to check out and smell every human that comes into their environment. As humans, the strongest scents we project comes from our genital areas and from our mouths. We’ve all had the experience of a less-than-well-mannered dog sniffing our crotch areas – though within the dog world, sniffing genitals is good manners! Puppies need to stand up on their hind legs and put their paws on a person in order to get close to those areas. Since we tend to cover our genital areas with clothes, the next strongest scent for a dog to check out is coming from our mouths. Puppies and small dogs will want to jump up to get closer to our faces and find out what’s going on there.

It’s a challenge for humans not to see a puppy jumping on them as an “I love you,” or a “hug.” The truth is, sometimes puppies are just anxious, and they have learned that if they jump up on the human, the human will pick them up and bring them toward them and calm them down. A lot of people say, “Well, as soon as I pick him up, he calms down.”

Unfortunately, this is a Band-Aid solution. The behavior you want to remove is not gone. It’s only put on pause. When you stop a puppy and scoop her up in the middle of an anxious moment, you are never allowing her to develop the vital life skill of learning to calm herself down, on the ground.

As always, I advocate that prevention is the best medicine. You can avert a jumping-up problem from day one, by practicing the simplicity of the no touch, no talk, no eye contact rule whenever you first greet your puppy. This sends a calming signal and helps a puppy to stay focused on her nose. Her nose will keep her on the ground, and her eyes and ears will react differently. Chris and Johanna Komives took the prevention route with Eliza from day one, and the results have paid off. “We don’t give affection if she’s jumping on us. We wait until she’s seated (or better, goes to her place), before acknowledging her when we return from work.”

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