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7/02/2012

3 Things I learned from Cesar Millan


There is a show I love and watch religiously on National Geographic called The Dog Whisperer. It's a program about problem dogs being trained and rehabilitated by dog expert Cesar Millan. Although at the moment, I don't have my own special canine friend (but two free-spirited felines roaming about), this is as good a time as any to practice my newfound canine ways in life, on humans. And here's the theory.


Lesson 1/  Anyone can be the leader of the pack

Seriously, anyone, even super-anxious types, such as myself. It's all about the level of commitment. Being in charge is a state of mind - not a promotion you get from someone else. It's about your decision to lead and follow through with it. Anyone can do that, if he wants, and anyone will do it, if he must. Naturally, there is a much higher density in followers than there is in leaders, but leaders rise when the situation demands it. We are social beings looking for leadership. If we have instated one and trust him with our lives, we tend to do the things he wants us to do unquestioned, because we rely on the hierarchy, we trust that he knows what's right. We'll happily be willing to overlook certain "costs" if we feel well-led. We assume the leader knows what's best, and we don't want to look too closely ourselves. That would actually mean challenging the leadership. A certain Adolf H. knew that blind spot in following, and utilized it to his advantage. Just saying.


Lesson 2/  It's all about the energy

People are mirror neuron machines, dancing the dance of synchronicity with their kind. If someone's in pain, we feel it, and mirror it back, if someone is happy we feel that, and mirror it back. A smile is infectious, much as a virus. Stories as well are a powerful tool to play with our emphatic neediness. Mirroring emotion is what we naturally do, but it's not something a leader does. He wants to control the masses, rather than being one of the ants reacting. His goal is to bring about the feeling he wants others to feel. If a dog or a person, or any socially receptive being is overexcited, the right way to calm them down is not to chime in with hysteria, but to relax yourself, and exude an aura of calm. (I find this hard!) Mothers learn to do that naturally with their children. Childless hags such as myself have to go elsewhere to exercise. Again, just saying.


Lesson 3/  Exercise, Discipline and Affection

Exercise calms us down naturally and makes us more receptive to submission. Don't look at me like that. I'm not talking about the dirty kind. Anyhoo, too much energy is always a problem, in dogs same as in people, especially little people. That's why we go for walks with them, and engage them in activity, dogs and people. They surrender more easily to our leadership when they are a bit worn out. That's the right time to apply some discipline. Exercise - Repeat. Positive reinforcement does the trick here. Reward only wanted behavior, and those you lead will preferably show that very behavior. That's the reason you shouldn't pet a nervous dog or reward him in that anxious state of mind, because it would reinforce the unwanted behavior in the long run.

Simple, uhmmm, sure, in theory, but I can't say that a mouthful of pointy choppers would leave me that unfazed.

Witness Cesar uncaging the "beast" and claiming his territory :)