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Basic Training

Is Controversial Professor Bradshaw a Better Trainer Than Cesar Millan?

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I don’t know how you feel about the “Professor Bradshaw vs Cesar Millan” discussions, but here’s some thoughts from Bradshaw on being a better trainer, and my personal take on some of his methods. Ie, this post is an editorial!!

Author of In Defence of the Dog and his recently released bestseller Dog Sense, Professor Johnny Bradshaw may not really be a dog trainer, but he is the founder and director of the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol in the UK. The books he wrote became popular among dog owners and became US bestsellers.

And “supposedly” because he is a scientist, he does not tolerate hearsay and opinions of others. He is also not interested in things about dogs that are not proven by science. The content of his books has to do with understanding dog dominance and putting that understanding to use in training.

Note that I emphasize “supposedly”, when he uses science as an excuse to explain his contempt of other ways and other theories. I’ll explain why at the end.

Being a Better Trainer

Most already know that dogs and wolves are closely-related species; in fact, their DNA is almost the same. According to Bradshaw, dogs are different from wolves in terms of many things, such as the fact that dogs do not really form packs and dominate the group. They do not necessarily strive for domination, since they are only domesticated and friendly animals. When it comes to “dominant” dogs, Bradshaw writes that they are not really “ambitious” but rather “anxious”. Anxious for what? They are simply anxious or afraid of getting controlled by people and taking away their freedom. They don’t want to control people, they want to control their own lives. It is what we are all aiming for – to keep control of our own lives. It is a fundamental biological urge,” Bradshaw adds.

But what he really wants to aim for is for dog owners to rethink and remodel their dog training styles. In particular, he also wants to abolish brutal and inhumane disciplinary training for them. America’s well-known “dog whisperer” on TV, Cesar Millan, is also an expert on dog counseling and training. But according to a quote from Bradshaw about Millan,

He is a smart guy and sees which way the wind is blowing. He is now embracing reward-based methods. All that stuff he spouted about wolves was not based on science.

Remember that last sentence of that quote, folks.

For Bradshaw, reward-based and humane training is more appropriate for dogs today. In the book, he discusses the fact that dogs do not really feel guilt, as the dog doing things that makes the owner show anger or resentment does not necessarily mean dogs can differentiate right from wrong. He also mentioned that dogs are also capable of jealousy, which many of us dog owners already know. Another one of his claims is that they are more interested in people than in fellow dogs, unlike wolves that only know how to love their own kind.

To help in your training, here is a quick guide by Bradshaw on dog body language. I have no argument with this:

•    Body Posture – indicates a dog’s confidence.
Low to the ground – worried.
Standing tall – confident.

•    Ears
Forward – being alert and interested.
Down and flattened – afraid and being negative.

•    Tail – also indicates confidence.
Upright with wagging tip – interested.
Relaxed, wagging from side to side – excited, wants to play.
Exaggerated slow swish – aggression.
Tail in between legs – retreat, fear.

•    Shape of Back
Right – anxiety.
Rounded-up back – indecision.

•    Shaking
It is only a means of loosening up.

•    Looking Back
It means a dog want to protect the family or its territory.

Most experienced dog owners agree with the above body language assessments.

However I myself, being a scientist, find Bradshaw’s contemptuous attitude to non-scientific hearsay and opinions (you can probably safely interpret that as his contempt of Millan) to be an astonishing classic example of, and perhaps even a classic definition of, the term “double standard“.

Why? Because Bradshaw’s ENTIRE theory about dog behavior and training is based on HIS assumptions about what MIGHT have happened in the past. It is absolutely NOT based on scientific fact, but rather his personal “theories”

So what’s the difference between the foundations of his approach and his contempt of the foundations of other approaches? Bradshaw is in fact criticizing others for what he himself does! I guess we’re supposed to believe his theories over others because he’s a “scientist”? (Scientists ain’t God, folks. Ask my wife!)

Professor Bradshaw has lots of good ideas about dog behavior and being a better trainer. Cesar Millan has lots of good ideas about dog behavior and being a better trainer also.

Guess what, folks:  both methods work!! Duhhhhhhhhh!! Why is one contemptuous of the other’s methods? Actually, my personal opinion is that it is nothing but professional jealousy, and for getting publicity to sell more books.

What’s your take on this?

Interested in reading Bradshaw’s books? Just click the link below.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Of Husky Grrrl

    Husky Grrrl


    I’m not convinced about the so-called scientific opinion that dogs are not like wolves. They do differ in two specific ways – prey drive, and pack redirection. People who study wolves know they cannot be domesticated, and although they may accept a human researcher into a pack, because of the alpha structure of a pack, that acceptance is not always permanent. A wolf pup will always revert to a wolf adult, no matter their behaviour when young. But dog puppies can be socialized to accept not only humans but other animals into their packs, while wolves cannot, and will adopt a human family as their pack and find their place in its hierarchy. Stray and feral dogs form packs naturally, but only feral packs will have instinctive prey drive and even that is dampened. In domesticated dogs, prey drive has been replaced by food and/or play drive, which is sometimes used in working breeds. If domestic dogs aren’t still pack animals, how does the Prof. explain separation anxiety? I’d question Prof. Bradshaw’s science. I smell anthropomorphism and ego.

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