My thoughts on ‘Cesar’s Way’ by Cesar Millan

There’s a shiny silver word balloon on the front cover that tells me, “A Million Copies Sold,” so I know I’m a little late on this, but I just read this and now I want to think about it critically for a bit.

Here’s the short and sweet overview:

272 pages long and divided into well thought out segments. The beginning covers his observations in Mexico and how he became the kind of person who can rehabilitate thousands of dogs. The rest reads as a well thought out guide of things to be aware of about dog psychology and different areas of human life that dogs must be socialized to which are often looked over in modern society. If I could take one thing away from this book it’s that if you aren’t walking your dog around for at least an hour every day you’re doing it a major disservice. The Foreword by Jada Pinkett Smith sums up the book nicely. They included a glossary, a list of recommended reading and a section for sourcing many of the things Cesar is talking about.

Rent/Buy: Buy

I can’t underline enough how much I enjoyed this book. I definitely plan to buy it at least two more times for my Grandfather and for my 12 year old brother. After reading this, there are a lot of people I know that I’d like to hand this book to. I plan to read again and use a highlighter. Yeah, yeah, sacrilege, but I say this reads more like a study book anyways. There’s definitely a few sections I’d like to commit to memory because I know I’m weak there. I’ve been bragging about it to some of my friends and now they want to borrow it too.

Additional Notes: I pretty much started using what I learned instantly as we just adopted a new dog. It has certainly helped me work through the frustrating bits when he’s just not getting what I’m trying to communicate. I feel like I can get into his mind easier and figure out what I need to do to evoke the right response. I feel much more comfortable correcting misbehavior. I really did take this thing running and kept going. I’m almost finished with ‘How to Raise the Perfect Puppy’ as well. 🙂

Bob’s first day.

Bob

Bob

I chronicled Bob’s first week and planned to write a lovely blog with all my thoughts on the matter, but I didn’t quite have the drive to do all that with the fireworks, whistles, and bells that I imaged. Here are my notes from his first day, June 23rd:

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I went to bed at like 8:30 the night before we picked up Bob. We woke up at 7:00 a.m. or so and started getting ready. We ended up being really early even though we stopped for breakfast on the way. Fortunately Daniele could meet us. She dropped off Bob and we put on his new collar and leash. It took him a bit to settle down in the car on the way home, but he eventually laid down.

We went straight to Font Le Roy. My friend Nemmy met us there. I walked Bob around the park assessing his leash skills while Lou drove home to get Rin and water for us and the dogs.

We walked the dogs around the circular path. I had Rin because I expected her to be more difficult. We followed behind Lou and Bob about fifteen feet away. Then both the dogs got water and we sat down at a picnic area and let them sniff each other. Everything went just fine. Both of the dogs were tuckered out and hot. We watered them and walked some more before letting them play a little. We worked on some of their commands and fed them lots of treats. It was hot as hell and I’m as red as a lobster, but it was really fun to be at the park with the dogs.

Rin rode in the front with me as usual and Bob rode in the back. He’s soooo big and it’s right in the middle of shedding season. I probably brushed him five times today and my clothes are still covered in fur.

When we got home we fed them separately. Bob absolutely horks down his food. He scatters it all over the floor with the force at which he goes at it. I’m assuming that’s because he had a hard time finding food before he was picked up as he’s still a bit underweight. I need to figure out how to address this so that meal time is a calmer, happier experience for him.

After they had napped and been walked separately I wanted to see how they acted off leash. Everyone wanted to meet Bob, but I’d convinced them all to just let me keep him in my room and acclimate him to the house my way, without all the excitement and fuss. I didn’t want them all coming out before I could see the two of them together so just me and Lou went out with the dogs. We took the water bowl, a tennis ball, and a wubba. Both dogs loved to chase the ball and Bob really wanted to play with Rin. Rin was mostly focused on me and the ball. As usual, Rin got a little too over excited with her play and things were in danger of escalating so I corrected her behavior and didn’t let her play again until after she was patiently laying on the ground of her own volition.

The dogs played without incident after that so we had the kids and Grandpa come out. I always forget to have the talk with them about how they should approach a dog. It’s really, really important and most people have no idea. They came running out, yelling different commands, trying to pet on the dogs. I’ve talked with them enough on how to keep Rin from pouncing on them by their body language and actions so at least I didn’t have to worry about that. I stayed by Gramps just in case either dog tried to jump up on him.

They played for a while before we brought them back inside to cool off. At this point we had fed Bob one meal and tons of treats. He’d been walked several times and still hadn’t poo’d, but it was obvious he needed to go because he kept getting up and walking to the door. We kept taking him out on the leash and walking around the yard, but he just sniffed the air or walked along obediently never doing what I knew he needed to do.

I had just read a passage in Cesar Millan’s book about how sometimes during transition puppies can’t relax enough to go on the leash, so you should try letting them in the yard. So I just suggested it to Louie and then he texted me like three minutes later, “That did the trick.” Good thing we kept at it! I knew he was telling me he wanted to go out.

After they were inside and quite for a bit (with Rin crated) I decided to give them each a toy. I wanted to watch Bob more, I’ve basically been using every interaction to watch him closely and gauge his personality and temperament. I’m keeping him in my room for the first several days to more closely observe him. Since we did just adopt him I didn’t want to give Gramps control of a dog until I was sure that we could trust that dog. He wasn’t really interested in the rope. He liked the frayed end, but he didn’t really want to pull it from me, which I liked because tug isn’t something I’d encourage Grandpa to do with him. I just wanted to try it and see what his reaction was. He was fine.

Later I gave them both bones. Rin was still in the crate and Bob had laid down right in front of her crate. At some point he snapped and lunged at the crate, barking and growing. Rin was in the crate and fine. I reclaimed the bone and banished Bob to the corner of the room where he instantly calmed down. It took him a few minutes to realize that I was not allowing him back into our space, but when he did he just laid down and was perfectly fine.

I know that if I come at a dog nervous or fidgety the dog will pick up on that and react negatively so I didn’t address Bob again until I was sure I was calm and assertive. The whole time he was over there I was standing over the bone. It was mine. I picked it up, called him over, and offered it to him again. Seeing how he reacted to Rin, I definitely needed to see how he reacted to a human. He stilled completely, just staring at me, and refused to relinquish it at all. It took me five minutes of careful prying to get it away from him and that was all the while moving in a way to not provoke a bite response and keeping one hand on his collar as a control. I made him sit and down and held the bone until he was chill on the floor and then I put it up where he couldn’t get it. Rin was behaving perfectly, ignoring us or quietly watching me as I gave commands, so she got to keep her bone and was safe from interference in the crate.

Bob tried to get around this by putting his nose to her crate and staring fixedly at her bone so I corrected this behavior every time until he ignored her and the bone like I wanted him to.

He was otherwise perfectly fine. I will be working diligently with his food manners. I’m not sure how to address the bone thing yet or if this is possibly something caused by the stress of transition and integrating into a new pack. I talked to his foster and she said he’d never showed any signs of aggression and she’s pulled bones out of his mouth and her dog has walked all over him.

He’s very gentle with cuddling and play. He does try to stand, sit, or lay right on top of you, but if you’re paying attention you can nudge him gently in the direction/position you want him and he’ll just lay partially on your lap or wherever. He cuddles and sits quietly in the room. He walks great for me on the leash.

Around 6:30 the dogs started getting antsy so we headed out for their walk by 7:00. We walked up and down the back street and let them rest in the grass or drink water each lap. Lou sprinted with Bob, we took them for one more lap and then headed home. Everyone was hot and quite tired. After the dogs cooled off a bit we fed them and still had to walk them one more time before bed.

I sent Daniele a text after the bone incident and she got back to me. I’m going to work with Bob for a few days, give him time to relax. I’ve got some pretty tight restrictions on how everyone else is allowed to interact until I can make sure it’s safe for everyone else. I want to give him time to be comfortable and time to figure him out, but Gramps is 78 and in the end the dog has to be trustworthy with him.

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The quick updates since then-

  • We’ve worked diligently with his food horking and now it doesn’t take much time or effort to get him to calm down before I feed him. I’m actively taking the food bowl away from him and putting my hands in it so he’s more comfortable and less worried about disappearing resources. I can trust Louie, or someone authoritative, to feed him.
  • I’ve been working on his manners in the house. He lacks some very basic communication skills because he was a stray. That means I have to do a lot of physical correction, restraint, or positioning. It’s a much more physical task than I anticipated, lol, which has taught me a valuable lesson (about raising puppies) and gotten me more active.
  • I was told he had some separation anxiety and didn’t like to be crated if he was actually restrained, meaning shut door. I’m a big believer in crate training and so I started experimenting with this one whenever Rin wasn’t around. He crates just fine after a few days of practice and I trust him enough to actually sleep in Grandpas room when crated. (Gramps only lets him out in the mornings and straight to the backyard.)
  • As for the bone thing, no one is allowed to give him toys or bones. I have been letting him have one when I put him in the crate for the night in Gramp’s room. I don’t let him have it until he’s calm and I take it away from him at least once before leaving him with it.
  • Bob. Loves. Mud. He is at his happiest when playing in the water, it’s the only time I watched him sprint around the yard in joy. He splashes in the water and then loves to play in the dirt. 🙂
  • I’ll add pictures (or a video) next time.