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Dog Daze

By Margaret Hicks in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 28, 2006 1:35PM

dog.jpgDue to the lively dog debate that happened a couple of weeks ago, and the newest member of the Chicagoist offices, (see pic!), we decided to check out the best-selling book, “Cesar’s Way”, by Cesar Millan. Millan is known as “The Dog Whisperer”, and we believe he actually might be. In the last few days, our “dog whispering” walks have been thoroughly enjoyable.

Millan’s theory is that we spoil our dogs in this country; we humanize their emotions, and forget that our dogs are just that…dogs. He starts with the basic principle of what a dog needs: “exercise, discipline and affection, in that order.” With exercise, it’s not as much about time (we know, the more time the better!), but it’s also about the walk itself. Dogs in packs are always on the move, they may stop to rest or hunt, but most of the time, they keep moving. For a dog, a walk is returning to his true self, cruising with his beloved pack leader.

For discipline, he teaches that energy is our most powerful dog-training tool. He says our energy should be “calm-assertive” and the dog’s should be “calm-submissive”. Dogs can sense our energies and moods, and “calm-assertive” will let them know we are the natural leaders.

One thing that really challenged our ideas is the difference between “excitement” and “happiness”. Some of us let our dogs pounce and bounce around the living room, feeling secure that it’s just “our dogs love us so much they can’t stand it”, but that’s not it. Their energy is out of control and they are venting the only way they know how. And then we pet them, and tell them they’re funny, and smugly think it’s because we’re so fabulous. Notice that affection is last in the pecking order (or should we say, packing order) of what dogs need, they should (and want) to earn affection, and they must be in the calm-submissive state of mind before they can get it.

This isn’t a “how to” book, it’s beyond tricks and treats, and honestly, we’ve been walking with this calm-assertive energy, correcting our pup each time he stops paying attention to us. We’ve had such good walks, our dog staying right next to us, clipping along at a great pace, and fulfilled in the knowledge he has a strong, calm, assertive pack leader to make sure he doesn’t get in any trouble. We recommend this book, but be prepared to let go of some your hard and fast doggie ideas.