Cesar Millan training methods can lead to dog abuse

Monday evening, September 9, 2013. Pictures of a woman jerking, kicking and dragging three dogs behind her made the round on Facebook. Not much was known. KTVU report Amber Lee posted a picture on Twitter. Shortly after KTVU showed the whole footage: http://www.ktvu.com/news/news/crime-law/sj-dog-abuse/nZrd6/.

My first response was “boil in oil”! How can someone treat their dogs like that? The body language these three dogs provide to us is clear. Their bodies are crouched, their tails are all down, their ears back and they go into a dead stop every few steps. They are moving slowly and at a great distance behind her. This is not behavior that happy dogs provide us when enjoying a walk with their handler. These are dogs that appear afraid.

I watch the woman continuously correct the dogs. Jerking the leash and kicking the dogs. Methods promoted on National Geographic through the infamous Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan. Mr. Millan doesn’t use the words jerking and kicking. His style is definitely more fine tuned and gracious. A kick is a “tap” and lifting a dog in the air with the feet of the ground is called “helicoptering”. Words that sound much friendlier then the actions really are. They are cruel and disturbing. What would you do if you saw this woman treat three kids this way? Dragging the kids by the hair, kicking them when they refuse to continue and choking them for just a second to put them back into their spot so they get the message? What would you do?

Lisa Mullinax, professional dog trainer in Sacremento of 4 Paws University, had a very good point after she saw the footage. “These methods aren’t methods that are invented by her. This may be the only thing she knows to do.” Indeed. How can we blame someone using methods like these when they are widely promoted? What is on tv must be good. Right?

The video was difficult to watch for me. I agree with Lisa Mullinax that the use of punishment often comes out of frustration. You want the dog to do one thing but it does something else. It appears that the woman is knowledgeable in the same methods Cesar Millan uses.

Hanging/Jerking/Helicoptering by Cesar Millan (left) and the woman (right)

Choking dog

Kicking or tapping Cesar Millan (left) and the woman (right)

Kicking dog

I don’t want to excuse her behavior because I know that a lot of people simply don’t know and understand that these methods are outdated and cruel. If she is identified she may face animal cruelty charges but what about Cesar Millan? Will he face charges since he promotes those methods out there? Doesn’t he set an example?

As a professional dog walker and trainer my methods include a $10 treat bag, high value treats and a big dose of positive reinforcement. Yes, I reward good behavior and I can move up to 8 dogs on-leash happily forward. Treats are not there to bribe the dogs but to motivate the dogs to show good behavior. Education on science based modern training techniques could have prevented this situation. If identified the burden she will carry will be heavy. If she is a professional dog walker she may lose her business. If she is the owner of the dogs she will live in shame.


I hope the dogs are okay. These methods cause damage. As Kathy Sdao once said: “Using these methods means you are buying yourself a project down the road.” To hire a professional that uses force free methods please visit:

Hiring a dog professional:


Understanding Cesar Millan:




Nathalie Mosbach is the owner of Beyond Companions LLC. K9Consultant, The Dog Hikers and pawDOGraphy are a few of her successful businesses.



KTVU.com for news story

Thank Dog! Bootcamp for Cesar Millan images

Lisa Mullinax: Owner of Sacramento Dog Behavior: sacramentodogbehavior.com

Cesar Millan training methods can lead to dog abuse

14 thoughts on “Cesar Millan training methods can lead to dog abuse

  1. crystalpegasus1 says:

    I saw this today and immediately thought…well this person has obviously been taught this. The footage isn’t great, but I didn’t see anger in the human as much as reaction. Anger is yelling and screaming, this was…controlled almost. I am obviously not justifying it, I’m a positive reinforcement trainer myself, and I found the video harder to watch, but not any harder than half the stuff I see put out by CM and trainers like him. The only difference between this woman and “trainers” like CM is that no one knows who she is.

  2. Thankfully, there is now a professional organization dedicated to vetting trainers as force free, and encouraging pet owners to join, too. The Pet Professional Guild rejects the use of the tactics in this video, and trainers cannot join and remain in the Guild unless they practice force free training. It’s an uphill climb when we have TV networks more concerned about ratings than about the animals’ welfare, but we will not give up until people realize that these methods belong in the past, and are no longer suitable to use in a relationship with a living being.

  3. So there is no proof what so ever that this unidentified woman is using techniques solely based on Cesar Millans methods?

    Maybe this woman is just the type of woman that shouldn’t own dogs? How do you know she owned these dogs? How do you know that these dogs didn’t just come from a shelter?

    It seems like this article is stating that they know so much about this individual and her influences when they don’t even know her name!

    Not defending her or her actions at all but this article is just biased assumptions using this woman to image a method you don’t like to further “my way is the only way” agenda.

    Alright, I am ready for my verbal abuse I am about to receive!

    1. Hi Saxon,

      Your comment landed in spam. Sorry I didn’t respond earlier. When I wrote the article not much was known. After posting the article the woman was found, the dogs were confiscated and she was charged with animal cruelty. The dogs were hers and she was a homeless person. I could do a follow up on my article and I know it was controversial. Even within the positive world some would never dare criticize a well known dog trainer. I was astonished only to receive 8 hate mails from Cesar Millan admirers.

      I don’t believe I was biased. I observed and compared techniques. My way is positive training. I used to train like Cesar Millan and defended my methods because I was ill informed and uneducated. Mr. Millan is heavily criticized by dog professionals using positive methods. There is not much difference between what the woman does and Mr. Millan. I know my article was going to get people talking. That was my point.

      I love the way you say “I am ready for my verbal abuse”. I don’t abuse. Not verbally or physically. That is not my style. That is not my training style. My way is the positive way. The way my mentor Jean Donaldson (who loved the article), Ian Dunbar, Kathy Sdao, Susanne Clothier and so many other great trainers use. I understand that people who admire and worship Mr. Millan will defend him no matter what. My hope is to plant a seed. To make people think and see beyond the tv personality and understand what methods he really uses and why all positive trainers are so against his use of force in training.

      Nathalie 🙂

    2. Abuse is not my department. I leave that part for Cesar Millan, his followers and his mini me wonna bees. I am saying that his methods are no different then what she did. Kicking and strangling your dog is part of Mr. Millans daily repertoire.

  4. addsvii says:

    Nathalie, you don’t seem very positive in your critiques of CM. His show deals with a lot of very extreme cases of animal (and as well as human) behavior. Please explain what You do when you have a vicious dog on your leash that is about to create havoc and destruction in a real world setting? That is what many owners are faced with who end up on CM’s show(s) where the condition is replicated to show the problem. Many times they state that the dog/owner was rejected by other high-credential trainers. Lastly, what value, if any, do you see in what CM does? Thanks…

    1. I am not positive in my critique when it concerns Cesar Millan. You don’t need aggression to cure aggression. You don’t need to implement fear and pain to train. It has been proven that Cesar Millan’s methods are outdated. No university or college in this world teaches dog learning according to his style of training.

      What is a vicious dog? For me there is no such thing as a vicious dog. When we take on cases we take information of the dog, we get the behavioral complaints from the owners, we look at the behavioral history and make an assessment of the issue. We set up a training plan which includes management and behavioral adjustment training such as systematic desensitization and counter-conditioning. A training plan that is 100% force free. There is no such thing as a quick fix in dog training. A quick fix is a temporary suppression of behavior that will resurface at any given time. Often resulting in more aggression.

      Positive trainers base their training on science. You can train your dog like Cesar Millan by implementing force and pain to reach your goal. Nobody has ever denied it doesn’t work. However, in our developed society we know that we can train dogs through motivation and reach a better result without the use of force like Mr. Millan does. Mr. Millan states a lot but we also know that a lot of his dogs have ended up with positive trainers after the show. The infamous Husky, who tore his shirt, ended up in the good hands of a positive trainer and doing much better then he was ever before.

      Mr. Millan’s theory is simple: dominance is often given as the reason of issues. You need to be the pack leader. It is the energy you put out. These few things are easy to remember for even the most novice dog owner but has absolutely no scientific base. The dominance theory is outdated, pack leader is not needed and your energy may contribute but is is not the basis of animal (dog) learning. It is the curse of knowledge and one day that knowledge will take over. Cesar Millan brought the awareness of needing to train dogs out there. He is an actor. A show man with absolutely no scientific knowledge of how dogs learn.

    2. addsvii: Cesar Millan bases his training methods on the outdated pack theory which has been debunked years ago. Millan has not formal education and uses positive punishment and negative reinforcement in training. Cesar is heavily criticized in the dog training world and I promise you there will be a day he will have to step back from these methods. Why implement pain to get a desired behavior when you can get the same or even better results by implementing force free methods based on positive reinforcement and negative punishment. It just makes no sense. Mr. Millan cannot even give an explanation of what “energy” really is. He recently failed to pass a dog training test in Germany where he was forced to step back from showing how to train dogs.

    1. Elise: I am sorry. I just saw your reply. Force free methods can be used not age based. It is a training method that works for a dog of any age even if behavior that you may not like has crept into their daily repertoire.

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