Cesar Millan at Western Veterinary Conference – Good or Bad?

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By Dr. Sally Foote, DVM
Interim Director of CattleDog Publishing

I’ve just returned from the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas, which I attended as an exhibitor with CattleDog Publishing, the company created by Dr Sophia Yin. Vetz Petz, an Australian based supplement company, featured Cesar Millan at the booth. Mr. Milan is the celebrity spokesperson for Vetz Petz and it’s Antinol® joint supplement where Mr. Millan is featured on the packaging & advertising.

I am sure many readers are aware of Cesar Millan. His show on National Geographic is popular, despite his use of outdated force and flooding training methods. The dog may show a decrease in aggression, yet the method of training often results in injury to Cesar himself or to another animal. This is a common result of force based training – increased aggression, fear and anxiety. Mr. Millan may talk as if he is knowledgeable about behavior and interpreting the animal in training’s body language, but often his observations are not accurate. The use of force causes pain, inhibits normal fear warning behaviors and increases anxiety and fear. For this reason, I question if he is the appropriate spokesperson for any veterinary or animal health product.

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A number of board certified behaviorists stopped by the booth to talk to the Executive Director Kevin Cook about the choice of Cesar Millan as a spokesperson. Dr. Gary Landsburg, Dr. Theresa DePorter, Dr. Lynn Honeckman directly asked why the choice was made for Cesar Millan and not another celebrity.   They were not satisfied with the answers given to them, sparking face book posts to draw attention to the situation. Two of the doctors stopped by the CattleDog booth with a request for me to stop by Vetz Petz to address the situation. I stopped by the booth where I diplomatically asked the executive director, “Why Cesar Millan?” Mr. Cook said he had no idea there was controversy over Mr. Milan. I responded that I was surprised about that. I asked why Mr. Millan over other media personalities – because he draws a large crowd was the response. Their choice was all about increasing foot traffic to their booth.  Mr. Cook did pledge that after Cesar Millan’s contract is over, it would not be renewed. With that, I thanked him and said I would look forward to that.

Why am I writing this? It’s not about the choice of Cesar Millan, but about our response as veterinarians. When a company brings a representative that is opposite of proven science and veterinary medicine, it requires a response. I’m not aware of how many veterinarians or other professionals passed by that booth and were upset about Cesar Millan’s promotion. According to Kevin Cook, not many. That may be true – I don’t know how he defines “many”. In any event, the leaders in veterinary behavior did make their feelings known. When professionals tire of speaking up because our voice is not heard and they go silent, this concerns me. I know not everyone is comfortable confronting an executive director of a company at a large conference, but there are other ways to be clear with the public on who and what is good for animal care and welfare.

The 5 freedoms from hunger/thirst, discomfort, pain, express normal behavior, and fear and distress are essential for all animals. When we see trainers, veterinarians, and animal care workers interacting with animals, we must keep these in our minds. Speaking up – in a diplomatic, respectful way – allows us to improve who ends up marketing products for animal care. Why a company chooses a spokesperson and how much attention they give to the background, integrity and relevancy of the spokesman to the product is just as important as scientific research and safety, in my opinion.

If this company was so relaxed in screening a spokesperson, how careful are they with the product they manufacture?

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35 responses to “Cesar Millan at Western Veterinary Conference – Good or Bad?

  1. I agree wholeheartedly with you. He is a highly inappropriate choice. Furthermore I would not support any product he either endorses or is associated with in any way.

    1. Cesar; has been resilient in his own troubled life. If I met him, I’d hug him because he has traveled a very tough path, that led him close to death. He also deserves some sort of credit for his show exposing the public to the idea of rehabilitation and importance of dogs in our modern world.

      Also it’s obvious to any serious student of: canine companionship, training, ethology that the message that made his TV success IS JUST THAT A T.V. SHOW, whose methods and demonstrations which people no doubt will emulate are detrimental to our shared passion of respecting dogs. And for the person at PETZ VETZ had their only moment of inspiration when they synthesized the name. For them to say they knew nothing about Cesar is either untruthful, or neglectful; neither of which we can tolerate as the modern movement to bring canines into our urban lives and new roles the wonderful promised fulfilled.

  2. Yes, simply appalling, Dr. Foote. Do these companies realize Mr. Millan is currently under investigation for Animal Cruelty? THANK YOU for speaking up. We MUST speak up. I’ve developed The Hierarchy of Dog Needs, an adaptation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs — a Wellness and Behavior Modification guide for Force-free professionals and pet parents as well. Gentle Veterinary Care is included as foundational in the The Biological Needs section and I will be writing about the enormous contribution Dr. Yin has made to this movement. It’s being used by veterinary behaviorists, shelters and pet parents as well. I would be honored to add you and Dr. Yin to the page, if you were to provide a quote of support! We are of the same mind. Onward! Contact: LindaPositively@gmail.com
    Linda Michaels, M.A., Psychology, PCT-A, Certified Veterinary Assistant. http://www.dogpsychologistoncall.com/hierarchy-of-dog-needs-tm/

  3. So glad you raised awareness on this issue. I know I would not buy anything endorsed by Ceasar Milan or anyone else who supported his style of ‘training’. Thank you for the work you continue to do!

  4. Calling out another trainer by name is unprofessional. The blogging from this company needs to employ the same philosophy it CLAIMS to espoused for training. Positive feedback ONLY.

    1. I agree! I knew the founder of this company and she would NEVER have called out Cesar by name. Sophia never would have backed this article or any like it! Shame on you Cattledog and Dr. Foote!

      1. Dr. Yin includes her views on Cesar Milan in the Dominance controversy portion of her website that describes her philosophy. https://drsophiayin.com/philosophy/dominance/ She also wrote on other’s experience with dominance techniques in this blog https://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/experts_say_dominance-based_dog_training_techniques_made_popular_by_televis/. The AVSAB has written resources and articles on the problems with dominance techniques made popular by tv programs in articles such as this http://avsabonline.org/blog/view/dominance-in-domestic-dogs-useful-construct-or-bad-habit-bradshaw-blackwell.

      2. Unfortunately I never got to meet Dr. Yin; from what little I do know I don’t believe she would have been silent; she knew better and was so brave.
        Also I can’t imagine her “shaming” anyone with the sincere motive advocating for dogs lives.

        My great regret is that I wasn’t able to be present with Dr. Yin as Dr. Foote was, I would guess that they had many values in common.

  5. Bad! The man is an out-dated thug and only in his field at this point for whatever money he can squeeze out of his very few renaming days. This conference should be ashamed for inviting him.
    David Abrams
    Washington, DC

  6. Thank you for sharing this. I was surprised and more than a little dismayed by his attendance at the conference. For some companies (NatGeo and Vetz Petz included) it’s all about the bottom line. Publicity in any form brings attention, and generally improves that bottom line. For many of us, vets, behaviorists and trainers alike, there is so much more to the work we do than the almighty dollar.

    1. I do not think that he was actually AT the conference, just featured by the company with his image on the packaging.

      1. Er, maybe I am incorrect. The wording in the article is making it difficult to know if he was actually there in person, or just represented thru his image. I apologize if I am incorrect.

  7. Isn’t it the company’s choice whom they use for a spokesperson? While I’m sure the people that spoke up believed they were doing it for the rights of the animals, my question is what gives them the right to complain to a company so that someone gets fired just because they do not believe in that person’s methods? If you disagree with someone’s methods, don’t use them – why do you believe people believe that its okay to ruin a person’s reputation and livelihood just because they don’t agree with how they do things? If everyone did things the same way we wouldn’t have billions of dollars spent on training books because there would only be a need for one.

    1. You seem to be saying that company owners are free to market any way they choose, yet the public are not free to voice their opinion on said marketing measures. Do I have that correct? If so, that’s very undemocratic.

      Also, not having a fixed term contract renewed at the end of the contractual period is not at all the same as being fired. He would have to have his contract cancelled prior to the term ending to be fired.

    2. It is their right, but he is counter productive to science based training. His methods don’t really train a dog, just so you know. And he puts pet owners at risk of bites or something more because what he does is stress dogs out (all you need to do is be able to read canine body language to assess this)…a stressed out dog is likely to snap.

      Also, I believe Dr. Sophia Yin is a certified Veterinary Behaviorist and Cesar is not.

    3. “my question is what gives them the right to complain to a company so that someone gets fired”

      The First Amendment.

  8. I find it concerning that an animal product company would choose a controversial spokesman just to drive foot traffic. Many time in the media we see\here of individuals involved in a controversial issue are regularly terminated from employment or the individual looses sponsorhsips.One would think that a company would want to steer clear of controverial celebrities as the face they put forward.

  9. Terribly sad that so many people can’t/won’t speak up. Even sadder that everyone doesn’t understand how awful his methods (and influence) are.

  10. Well stated, Dr. Foote. I was at WVC 2016 and I saw Cesar there. I told my vet that the behaviorists (techs and doctors) were not going to be happy about this company’s choice of a spokesperson. When I returned home, I was glad to see (via Facebook) that some of the well-known behaviorists approached the Vetz Petz company to voice their concerns. I wrote to Vetz Petz directly and through social media, and explained my disappointment in their choice of a certain celebrity to endorse their product. I hope that those who were offended also wrote in and let the company know what a poor decision they made. Thank you, Dr. Foote!!!

  11. ” Speaking up – in a diplomatic, respectful way” Everyone should remember this. I also encourage your peers to continue speaking up no matter if they believe their voices are heard, your message should continue to be put out there. To do otherwise would be to grant acceptance where there is none.
    As a consumer and not an animal expert, I value your opinion.

  12. What, specifically, are the training directives or behaviors Millan espouses that are “bad” “harmful” even “thuggish”? I’ve never seen him hit, kick or use the “alpha roll.” He calmly asserts his pack leadership and my use his “sheet” vocalization, or on occasion pull up on the lease, or tug it (to change the dog’s focus) but why are these bloggers so against him? What specific techniques do they prefer/use?

    1. Unfortunately I was watching one of his shows and he did actually punch the dog after cornering the dog to the point of the dog now having no choice but to attack. It actually sickened my stomach to watch this. I will never watch another show if his!

    2. He absolutely hits them with his had, kicks them, tugs them, leans over them/stares right into their eyes…..and “pack leader” has been debunked.

      his hits, kicks, tugs, etc causes stress and going face to face with a dog-or any other pet/animal is a big NO NO!! Cesar obviously can not read canine body language.

      if you want to know how to interact and train your dog- start here: victoria stilwell, the resources tab on the best friends animal society website, ASPCA, zak george, and of course, Dr. Yin’s link on this website.

  13. I so agree with you Linda Brazis. I love Cesar Milan, I think he’s bought dog training to whole new level..how refreshing! What specifically are you critics talking about? Doggie dog world??

  14. So you take all your medicine and recommendations from an unknown source on the internet? At least Hills has science to back them up.

  15. It’s interesting that the people who condemn Mr Milan all seem to have a financial or professional incentive to do so…i.e. criticizing the competition. Why is it that once Linda Brazis and I Luv Luna ask for specifics do you all go quite. Please come back and qualify your comments, don’t try to skip around the question but instead clearly state the faults/flaws with Mr Milans methods and how YOU would deal with the same situations.

  16. DogFoodAdvisor.com is run by a dentist. He has no training in veterinary nutrition, and minimal training in human nutrition. His methods for rating pet foods are biased and useless. As a veterinarian, I can tell you that I do not get free pet food. I buy my pets’ food (Hill’s RX diet for my cat, Purina for my dog) through Chewy.com or occasionally at the pet store or grocery store. No discounts there.

  17. i would applaud those who decide to boycott this event… When you bring a man in such as Milan who’s techniques are abusive and cruel you are turning your back on your oath and what you stand for as a veterinarian…

    Milan may be a celebrity however all the public sees is what is appropriate for television… His Techniques have harmed many an animal and because he is supposedly a trainer others in the world think it’s okay to use these same techniques… He does not deserve the respect of the Veterinarian’s that would attend the Western Veterinary Conference…

  18. As a consumer and 29-year marketing professor, I’m intrigued about the branding of Cesar Milan, which is why I found this web site. I’m surprised some seem to believe stakeholders for a brand (consumers, professionals, businesses, governments, etc.) need the brand’s “permission” (i.e., brand owner, sponsors, brand loyalists, etc.) to address concerns (just be careful about libel/slander). I very much appreciate the focus on animal behavior regarding good, respected research and any brand’s connections to it and to stakeholders. The bottom line with animal behavior is always the care and protection of animals and the assurance of transparency regarding anything involved. I personally have my own concerns about the Cesar Milan brand and will continue to follow news about it.

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