Because of that, there were suddenly loads of people looking to spend money on their own Dog Whisperers to help solve their dog’s problems. The culture shifted from seeing dogs with issues as “bad apples” that weren’t fit for the world, to struggling, living beings in need of help.
However, there’s a flip side to the success of the Dog Whisperer TV show – people became used to seeing dog problems solved in an hour by a dog Superman. This in spite of the fact that there were countless episodes where Cesar got bit, got others bit, the owners ended up failing, or he would take particularly difficult dogs to his Dog Psychology Center (sometimes for months) for a lengthy rehabilitation under the eye of multiple professional trainers in the best facilities on Earth.
People still watch that program and assume dog trainers are magic - even if Cesar tells them specifically that rehabilitating a dog is not magic. I even recall watching skeptical people on the show waiting to see Cesar fail the way people watch a magician hoping to catch the sleight of hand or that the illusion somehow fails.
There’s no doubt that we live in a world where instant gratification is king. We’re to the point where we want to wake up and order a tube of toothpaste from Amazon and have it delivered to our doorstep by a drone before we're done with our morning shower. And that attitude permeates the world of dog training. Trainers feed into it all the time – posting videos of how fast a dog can turn from aggressive to not aggressive or other Supermanesque transformation acts. That's our way of inspiring you to take action.
It never makes for a good sales pitch to say “yes, I will take your large sum of money and work with the dog for two weeks, but then you will have a process that will last years and the dog might never be perfect” – even if that’s the truth with your dog (yes, I do have this talk with people sometimes). My board and train programs are exceptional, but at the end of the day success or failure of the dog depends on what the owner does with the dog in the months and years following his departure from AWDT. That's true for any trainer even if we get awesome before and after videos showing the dog "fixed." Life is long and rehabilitation is a journey.
But people don’t think that’s what they see on TV (even if that’s exactly what they saw on TV).
Now don’t get me wrong. There are dogs who can be “fixed” very quickly. Good trainers, using skills we have honed over years of work and through countless mistakes, can make bad dogs look good very quickly – even if they’re still not very well behaved in the real world after we leave. I remember teaching classes where a dog would be acting up with his owner, they would hand me the leash and the dog would instantly transform into Rin Tin Tin. Hand the leash back to the owner and he turns into a little snot again - it made for a good laugh but it just reinforces that a trainer's job is to make the dog successful with his owner - not with the trainer. As I'm trying to point out, the story of a dog is more complicated than flipping a switch that takes them from good dog to bad dog.
The truth is this: true transformation takes time and effort. Whether that be in yourself or in your dog – becoming “better” is work. This of course was always the real message of the Dog Whisperer TV show, even if people missed it. While Cesar may have gotten famous because the program portrayed him as a wizard who could work magic with any dog, the truth was the show reached people because he was inspiring people to be better for themselves and for their dogs who needed a confident, active “pack leader.”
“I rehabilitate dogs and I train people.” The slogan of the show quietly tells people the truth – you and your dog both need training because your trainer, whether it is me or Cesar Millan, or the girl at Petco, isn’t going to be with you forever. Training and rehabilitation are like eating right or working out – if you do it, it will work. When you stop putting in the work, it stops working.
While silver bullets and quick fixes are all the rage, we all still know that living a healthy lifestyle is a more effective long term solution than a 30-day detox cleanse.
Think about that as you embark on whatever training you do with your dog – whether you’re pinching your pennies to pay for me or you’re a millionaire getting in touch with Cesar Millan’s agent to book him. We can take you so far, but your dog’s success will always depend on the work you put in every day. Once you embrace that, you’re a true pack leader and have found the real fix and no longer have to look for any quick fixes or silver bullets.