I’m giving this book five stars (something I don’t often do) not because I agree with everything Cesar Millan says (I don’t, I can’t honestly say I’ll do everything he says either) but because any book that causes you to stop, to think this much about your behavior, your lifestyle, your connection with your dog is important. And important books should be recognized and recommended. We need people whose ideas challenge our own if for no other reason than to bring into light what we believe in the first place.
Also, you should know I listened to this book on my mp3 player (check with your local library for free downloads!) so a book often “feels” different when read vs. when listened to. I’m going to blog/review Merle’s Door very soon I hope. At first I kept contrasting the two, thinking they were at odds. In some points they are (for instance Cesar doesn’t agree with letting a dog stop and smell everything he wants on a walk because you need to be in charge. Walk him and at the end decide and designate where he’ll stop and smell) but then I realized that in a lot of ways they are in more congruence than conflict. Kerasote (Merle’s owner and author of the book) advocates for unleashed free willed dogs who can be natural and do what they want. Cesar also advocates for dogs who can be in a natural state and can do what they were born and bred to do but emphasizes our dominance and pack leadership. Kerasote who lives in the middle of a wilderness can take his dog on long uninterrupted all day trips. The dog is tired and well behaved. He is worn out and therefore exhibits few if any behavior problems. There is no reason for a leash. Cesar is dealing with city and suburban dogs who are not allowed much exposure to exercise or the outside world. The dogs have issues that have to be worked out Thru Exercise. Which is exactly what Kerasote unintentionally uses that creates this harmonious environment for his dog. This is just one example where reflection revealed that despite different ways they got to it (unleashed mountain hiking or skiing, vs. inner city strict exercise routines or walking) gives them the same result.
I encourage dog owners to have an open mind and read Cesar’s book to expose themselves to a lifestyle, a philosophy of how to interact with and understand your dog. I definitely won’t be walking my dog every morning for an hour and a half, but I will be taking away with me a lot of new terminology and ideas that will help me be a better dog owner.
Here are some of the ideas I really liked:
- Calm submissive leader and energy. Something for all of us to strive for definitely.
- Exercise discipline and affection, in that order.
- Fight, flight, avoidance and submission, are the ways dogs deals and his discussion of these behaviors and how they help or hurt a dogs socialization has helped me understand my dogs behavior around other dogs.
- Nose, eyes, ears- in that order- are the order in which they perceive the world, far different than us. We should remember this in order to help develop trust with our dog, and to communicate with him.
- Humanizing a dog. Bad mistake.
- It’s the people who need to be trained in most instances, not their dog.
The end of the book is beautiful. Here is a quote to take with you that I can relate to from all of Whiskey’s hikes with me. It was a fabulous way to end the book…
“For a moment I’m feeling what they’re feeling: the cool salty sea on my skin, the thousands of coastal scents in my nostrils, the soothing rush of the surf in my ears. I’m feeling all the pure joy of this one fleeting moment and I owe them for that. I owe them everything.”
And of course he adds “We’re all exhausted but happy.” which is such a great and true statement of being with your dog in outdoor activity. If you haven’t ever been to that point of exhaustion with your canine then you should. There’s something primal and incredibly bonding about being in the wild with your dog, facing the elements and the wilderness together with your senses and communicating, bonding, and sharing your emotions and time with your dog in this place.
Book Review: Five happy tail wags