Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What I Learned From: The Dog Whisperer: Seven, Sara, and Madeliene

I think this episode may mark the first time Cesar’s work has ever sort of failed in the long run. Not that it was Cesar’s fault.

Of course, to tell that story, I have to start at the end of the episode, with Madeliene.

I’ve got to say, I really understood why the first two dogs in the episode needed to come under Cesar’s care. One was tearing up the house, and the other was becoming a danger to herself and possibly other people.

But if you have a problem with your dog being afraid of brooms, let me just say: You’re calling Cesar because you want to be on TV.

(If you disagree, feel free to drop me a comment, but really? Brooms?)

Cesar, of course, did his calm/assertive thing, and the dog ignored the broom. And then Cesar took the dog out in the car, where it barked at the windshield wipers until Cesar held up his arm so the dog couldn’t leap around the car.

Then the dog sat down. Lesson over.

Except, at the end of the episode, when they did the wrap-up, Madeliene’s owners demonstrated that the dog was no longer afraid of the broom, but that she was still going after the wipers.

Which means not only did they get Cesar to come to their house for a really silly reason, they couldn’t do the work required to fix the problem.

I have to admit some ambivalence about the story of Seven as well. Seven belongs to Jillian Michaels who is, of course, a big TV star who trains people to lose weight. But her problem sucked up a half-hour of screen time, even though the entire solution was:

If you’re going to ride your horse, and you don’t want your dog to run around barking and nipping at the horse… put it on a leash.

Yes, that was it. In fact, they showed the elapsed time for the solution to work and it took… two seconds. Literally, two seconds.

So why the half-hour story? Jillian. Nothing against her, she seems like a very nice lady who wants to help people. But her story didn’t need a half-hour.

I’ll say what I would have liked, though – a full hour on the middle dog, Sara. Sara has so much anxiety about her owners leaving that she:

Hopped a very tall fence. So the owners made it higher, and she…
Hopped the even taller fence. And…

Got up on the roof of the neighbor’s house. And…

They took her inside, where she broke out of a bunch of kennels. Then…

Tore the molding off the door, flipped the lock, and opened the front door with her mouth.

This is clearly a dog who was freaked out, and trying to help her took a lot of work.

They set up cameras in the house to see what she was doing, which was kind of heartbreaking.

They set up a Scat Mat, which gives the dog an “unpleasant pulse” when it tried to get near the door or windows. And Cesar practiced putting the dog in a kennel in a calm/submissive way.

And in the end, the owners were happy to say that they can now leave the dog up to five hours at a time. After something like four months of work.

First of all, that’s what I call a story. You feel for the people. You feel for the dog.

And it’s a real problem, one that I’m sure a lot of owners face, and could information on. But they raced through the solution so you could see the story of the little dog who needed a leash.

Eh. So I feel like what I mostly learned is that you really shouldn’t call Cesar if you’re famous or have a silly problem.

But for the sake of this entry, I’ll up the advice I really thought was valuable: Teach your dog that their kennel isn’t a prison, and they’ll go in and stay in and not tear up your house.

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