Friday, September 19, 2014

Book Notes: Cesar's Way

by Cesar Millan and Melissa Jo Peltier

The last male dog we owned (and raised from a puppy), we had to put down because he bit a child. It was terrible. I have had many dogs in my life, but this outright failure to raise Vaako well made me worried about Raccoon's new pet, Chief. Raccoon had his heart set on a male puppy. In recent years, my husband and I have adopted five older female dogs with proven temperaments. Then we rescued Storm, who is also female but definitely a handful. Now we are adding another unknown to the mix with Chief.

I had heard a little of Cesar's philosophy through his show, but I was looking for reassurance that we could raise this new puppy to not be aggressive. Right off the bat, the fact that Cesar keeps a pack of 35 made me feel more relaxed about going from four to five dogs.

After reading the whole book, I realized that two of our dogs seem to regard me as pack leader, one does some time, and the other apparently not at all. Morita, our little black dog, does not cause any trouble but she ignores me and does just what she pleases. It's interesting because I thought Storm was our mischief-maker, but it's actually Morita leading her astray. At least this is the way it seems to my inexperienced eye.

Reading the book was helpful and stressful all at the same time. I realized that I am not a pack leader, consistently, with my dogs nor with my children. But like he says, dogs live in the now and will respect me if my energy changes. Calm assertive. I feel stress about being in control and being able to change. He is right that it is a burden to constantly be in charge. I am better at being calm than at being assertive. I love that he titled one of his sections "Fake it till you make it." He advises his clients to project a persona if they feel anything but calm-assertive.

He also recommends exercise, discipline, and affection - in that order - as the cure for most problems with dogs. He says Americans are only good at the third one, affection. This is definitely true in my personal life, not just with my dogs.

So now the kids and I are walking the dogs before breakfast, and again in the afternoon. I haven't seen any miraculous changes yet, but I feel hopeful about Chief being a non-aggressive dog.

And on a different subject than dogs, Cesar's definition of submission answers a theological question I have had for years.... he explains it as being in a relaxed and receptive state, not aggressive or defensive. Very interesting, and functional I think for people relationships as well.

Disclosure: I wrote this post because I like sharing about the books I read, no one else was involved.

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