Today on the New York Times editorial page Author and Dog Expert Mark Derr takes issue with the methods of Author, Dog Expert and Media Star, Cesar Milan, also known as "The Dog Whisperer." Apparently Mr. Derr feels that Mr. Milan has both simplified and harshened dog training with his "cookie cutter approach" which is "designed to correct the problems resulting from a failure of the human to be the pack leader and to dominate the dog completely". Mr. Derr, a noted dog historian, advocates a more individualistic, psychologically based and reward oriented solution to these same problems.
Well, as an Author, Dog Lover and Self Appointed Dog Expert myself, I would like to weigh in with my own very special third plan which I call" Flexible Cohabitation."
When practicing "Flexible Cohabitation" I encourage the human in the equation to view the pet companion as they would an exchange student from another planet. For instance, Neptune. Once that is accomplished, all that is required is to sit back with an ice cold beverage and allow the dog to behave as he or she wishes. And watch the show with interest and amusement.
Because unlike Mark Derr, I have never had the patience and follow through necessary to get very far with the psychology and reward approach to training. And unlike Cesar Milan, who was raised in the macho culture of Mexico, I don't have any tremendous urge to dominate. Therefore I don't expect anyone who subscribes to my plan to put themselves in harm's way or subject themselves to painful puncture wounds by doing the alpha rollover when their dog appears agressive.
No...If I want to be covered in dog hair and mud, all I need to do is sit down on my own furniture!!
But Merrill, you say, you can't mean that you are advocating letting dogs run wild through your home? To which I reply 'Obviously you have never been to my home." It is no accident that frequent visitors have compared my living room to The Bad Lands of South Dakota.
By adopting my approach, you will learn the benefits of "asphalt water skiing" (patent pending), my way of taking your dog for a walk that not only exercises the animal but also shapes and tones your own calves, thighs, biceps and abdominals. Yes, I can show you how to simply hook the pet to the leash of your choice, then hold on tight and get ready to go on the ride of your life!
And that's not all.
Under the rules of "Flexible Cohabitation" you will also learn; how allowing your dog full access to your plate at meal times can help you cut down your calorie consumption by thousands of calories a day; how letting dogs make their own rules within your home teaches a form of Zen non attachment to material goods that can increase your life span for years, if not decades.
Plus no one ever points out how bad it is for the self esteem to try and force a dog to heel or walk slower than you do. I think you'll be amazed at how much more free time you will have when you try my plan of not expecting the dog to do anything except enjoy himself . And if , for some reason, these results are not quite to your liking , you can still go to bed at night pleased with the knowledge that your dogs are happy. (Unless they sprawl across the bed on their backs, like mine do. Then you can probably sleep better on the couch.)