Being the pack leader

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We're housesitting a chihuahua for a couple of dear friends this month. Tiny is a bundle of energy, which often gets redirected in some very negative ways. She jumps up, bites gently to get attention, barks and growls a bit, and her mother told me she chewed up the carpet a couple of weeks ago.

In other words, she's got some issues.

I'm no expert on dogs, so I went online to see what I could find. A lot of the advice I saw talked about the "pack mentality" of dogs, and especially about how important it is to be the "alpha dog" in your house.

And a lot of the sites referred to a guy called "The Dog Whisperer." His name is Cesar Millan, and he has the uncanny ability to come into a house where a dog is misbhaving and somehow, with what looks like no effort at all, bring the dog under control.

He's so good, he's got a show on the National Geographic channel. Unfortunately, it's not part of my cable package. But National Geographic has posted about thirty short clips from the show (click through the "view more clips" link . . . you'll find them). I watched about twenty of them last night, and I was transfixed.

For Millan, the idea of "pack mentality" goes to a new level. He uses phrases like, "calm/assertive" and "calm/submissive" to refer to the way owners and dogs should act, respectively. He "bites" dogs gently, "touches" them instead of hitting them, and never raises his voice. He holds himself in a way that tells the dog that he's in charge, and he doesn't back down (even though it's assertive, not aggressive) for any reason whatsoever.

Last night, I tried some of the techniques I learned from watching the short clips. And this morning, Tiny was a model of good behavior, following me around the house, laying down when I asked her to, and even waiting patiently for the nanny to come through the door, without barking once, even though Bella (our chichi) was barking and charging the door like crazy.

I'm so amazed by how well it worked, I've got this yen to travel to L.A. to study with this guy. That won't happen, but I plan on getting his book.

Now, if I can just figure out how this whole "alpha dog" thing applies to human relationships . . .

1 Comment

Cesar is truly amazing and his techniques, when not taken so literally, do seem to work on my coworkers :)

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This page contains a single entry by Jeremy published on September 13, 2006 4:23 PM.

Zoe, it's September was the previous entry in this blog.

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