By Alan Eggleston, writer, editor, and bookseller
In the summer of 2008, we bought a Scottish terrier from a breeder in the Thumb area of Michigan and brought her home to West Michigan. For the 32 years my wife and I had been married, we had always owned Scottish terriers and they had always proved to be a loving, quiet, loyal family pets. They were always standard black Scotty, but calm. This year, our 22 year old daughter wanted something different, but we weren’t ready to give up on Scotties. The compromise was a different colored Scotty -- wheaten.
McKenzie as a pup.
We were told that McKenzie was the calmest, most endearing of all the litter. Wheaten Scotties are hard to find and we’d gone as far away as Kansas to order one, but the litter failed. Suddenly we found this litter and it was practically in our back yard. And the one puppy not spoken for was the calmest. We brought her home and what developed was a puppy with an attitude. She not only liked to play, it was all she wanted to do. She was always full of pep and energy and she continually nipped at us. Furthermore, nothing on the ground was safe from her, especially tissue paper, including tissue wrapping paper. And nothing discouraged her. She crawled all over us when we kept her with us on the sofa and she wouldn’t settle down. Outside, she barked at everything that moved. When we went somewhere, she barked incessantly. In the mud room where we kept her kennel, she chewed on the woodwork. Paper training was out of the question because it never remained in one piece.
Then one day I noticed a program on the National Geographic Channel called The Dog Whisperer. At first I was just fascinated, but then I realized the host, Cesar Millan, worked with dogs who often had similar problems to our McKenzie’s. They were never all the same problems, so it took a long time to watch enough programs to knit all the pieces together, but over time I’ve seen close to a complete picture.
Cesar Millan has a website where he also deals with dog “issues” and where you can get help, including books and DVDs. And one day while browsing my favorite book store, I also found three of his books. One of them is Cesar’s Way by Cesar Millan with Melissa Jo Peltier. I’ve been reading it and trying to apply it to our McKenzie. It’s helped a lot, although McKenzie is still a work in progress.
What I really appreciate about Cesar’s Way is that Millan explains everything about dogs, their habits, and their way of looking at the world. Then he turns that into solutions for the issues that dogs develop because of the way humans overindulge their pets. It’s about problems and their solutions. And it explains many things you see on The Dog Whisperer but don’t often get expressed. For instance, on the show Millan sometimes puts a doggie saddle on a dog when they go on walks, but he didn’t always explain why it’s effective on the dog. In the book, he explains that the dog looks at carrying a saddle as doing a job and it accepts the psychology of going on a walk more easily by wearing one (it isn’t always necessary, because going on a walk is a job in itself).
Cesar’s Way contains helpful recommendations along with their sound reasoning. It also contains examples stories of real people and their dogs that show how his theories and solutions apply. And it contains diagrams and pictures showing how to do certain things.
I’m glad I ran into The Dog Whisperer and I’m glad I ran into Cesar’s Way. I hope I’ll be able to find solutions to McKenzie's "attitude" by applying all I’m learning from both. If you have a dog with “issues” I’d highly recommend both. Also available: Cesar’s Way Deck 50 Tips for Training and Understanding Your Dog (like flashcards or index cards for quick reference.)
(Note: I just discovered I had written this some time ago and forgotten to post it. I have since bought two more Cesar Millan books that I will review in the future. This guy is amazing. If you have cable TV or satellite TV and access to the National Geographic Channel, watch The Dog Whisperer and see the amazing work he does with dogs and their owners.)
Review Disclosure. No compensation received for reviewing this book, program, or channel. Commissions may be paid for purchases made from book links made through my online book store and Amazon.com. I bought the book I reviewed. Books also available on Cesar Millan's website.