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This is a work of absolute genius ...!!!!
on 23 October 2015
This is a work of absolute genius! If you are bringing a new puppy home or - like we have just done - bringing a new puppy home into a household with other dogs already, this book is invaluable. I've been a fan of Cesar for years, but have also listened actively to people who can be so anti/rabidly against Cesar - it fascinates me. In listening openly to these people, I've been told things that mystify me from all the programmes and books I've read: "Cesar is cruel!" "Cesar throws dogs into their 'fear' places on a 'sink-swim' basis!!". I have never seen either of these things (in fact, the contrary: him spending hours-and-hours(and-hours-and-hours-and-hours!) waiting/encouraging a dog to take a 'forward' step that he then supports with positivity (*if you want to see this in action, please view the episode he works with dogs recovered from a laboratory. I don't think dogs could start from a worse place of being so mentally crushed). So, this conflict has always remained an interesting mystery to me that I still try to openly understand. So, why do I now step over into 'he's a genius, and this book is amazing'.
We homed a wonderfully bred, wonderfully balanced puppy a few day ago and ...despite reading the book, also listening to everyone beforehand and 'thinking' I knew what I was going to be doing, I *so* hadn't paid attention to this book! We are blessed that one of our existing two dogs - Bertie - is a TOTAL 'Daddy'/balanced, leader. Alfie was completely screwed up mentally when we got him, but following Cesar's techniques has become a wonderful dog. So what could possibly go wrong - we had two balanced dogs, a balanced puppy (already crate trained, walking on a lead, on the way to 'sit', 'recall') - it should be perfect. But it wasn't.
We introduced all the dogs (at our house - the breeder is brilliant and even brought him round for 5-6 hours the week before he came) and something happened. Puppy did what puppies do and was playing - not even crazy, like some puppies do - but politely running at them, getting into their space. And so some neutral growling started, and neutral, gently-checking barks. Puppy took notice at first, but then when he got brave and confident started to think this was a great game so let's do it even more because it's fun. Then something incredible happened that at first I didn't understand.
One thing I've always struggled with is Cesar's rules of 'no touch, no talk, no eye-contact': when any of our dogs had been struggling my level of energy is such I can't bring this into play/make it work. It's the one thing I've totally questioned/doubted about Cesar. The new puppy was pen, bed, and crate trained wonderfully by the breeder and, as Cesar states in the book, we had all of them. So, what was going wrong when we took over. Both my dogs began to totally and utterly ignore the puppy - completely: actively looking away/stepping back if I tried to introduce him. But my leader-dog, Bertie, would look at ME intensely and calmly. On day 2, I realised we were at the start of a problem. In the book-section about introducing puppies to other dogs, Cesar even said "Warning: dogs who respond to a puppy with growling, barking or snapping (no snapping happened fortunatley) need to be given more time and effort to integrate with the puppy. But eventually one of them will proactively adopt the puppy to guide him". Well, that wasn't happening! Both my boys were doing more and more ignoring!
On day 3 we moved the puppy's day-pen to a new location during the day, feeling confident as the breeder had trained him well on separation, and he was totally happy with his bed/toys. All hell broke loose with the move: Bertie was now actively-ignoring - not looking at him at all, totally silent (even none of his usual communication-yips to me), would sit in his bed but leave an air-gap between him and the puppy-pen ...but he kept looking at me intently. I knew enough to know my current actions were undoing the brilliant work the breeder had done - just letting him cry wasn't helping him, and it would eventually make him unstable and anxious. I knew enough to know that a 'mum' would never, ever simply leave a puppy in distress without taking some form of action - checking, reassuring or comforting. So, now I knew enough that it was me and I was doing something wrong. Back to reading the book - then I realised something absolutely, totally, and 'humblingly' miraculous ...and more importantly, I realised whilst I'd read this book **I hadn't been paying attention**!!!! That's how this then becomes a work of genius:
Many critics of Cesar forget something important when they pick up comments from him like "put them in their pen/crate and walk away leaving them to cry" - they are missing the very IMPORTANT 'first-thing": that before he does this he drains their energy totally by walking. I hadn't done this: I hadn't even brought my dogs together on a walk-with-space, I was trying to bring them together in the house where their personal space felt invaded. The first thing we did was we went for a walk - all of us, including my husband. I took Floyd on his lead on one side, with Bertie - my balanced dog - on the other. I walked as I always do, calmly and assertively. *Miracle* - because he has his own space, Bertie changed and his actions became that he stopped ignoring and started to subtly show Floyd how things worked: "this is how you walk on a lead; when she makes that noise (i.e. "wait", at kerbs) she means do this" *he sits; Floyd sits*. But Bertie was still looking to me for leadership, saying "don't let that crazy thing come into my space". The walk was an absolute joy. On the way home, I switched dogs and took Alfie - he's more anxious and I wanted Floyd to respect him. I took them both either side of me again, and Alfie was amazing: same thing - to me: "I trust you that you won't let him into my space"; to Floyd "look you whipper-snapper, calm down: when she does this she means do that. Just walk calmly like this". It was amazing. When Bertie/Alfie were off-lead (*NOTE: DON'T let your puppy off-lead when you are out; but you can use a long line to help him/her learn the distinction in a change between on and off-lead behaviours) he watched fascinated and matched their behaviours. Most importantly, when we came home and I THEN put him in his pen+bed+crate he settled straight away. Alfie and Bertie didn't go close enough for touching, but curled up a short distance from the pen as if showing "this is what you do now", and providing reassurance. Floyd looked at them and was quiet, eventually going to sleep. I'm typing this in a completely different room to the pen surrounded by doggy-snores. So: before leaving puppies in pens or putting into crates/beds or putting them down for the night *exhaust their energy first* with a walk as Cesar says.
But what was the miracle? When I was fretting about "how do I do 'no touch/talk/eye-contact'!!, this doesn't work!" I suddenly realised two very important things, and also something else I was doing wrong through not paying attention. That 'something' makes me even more humbled by my dog Bertie. I realised that both my dogs WERE doing "no touch" (they would go close enough to Floyd's pen/crate to let him know they were there, but wouldn't allow his contact when he was unstable); "no talk" (they were both completely and utterly silent), "no eye-contact" (they would go to very great lengths not to even look at him). And the humbling part? I couldn't understand why Bertie wasn't taking the lead and showing the puppy what to do; I couldn't understand why he was just completely and utterly ignoring this puppy but WAS coming and standing in front of me and looking intently at me. Why wasn't he sorting it out? He was doggy-Leader after all ...***DOH!!!***
**DING!!** The other of Cesar's oft-tramped out feedback to owners is "you've made the dog the boss". Bertie was the leader? No: my husband and I are the leaders ...Bertie coming and looking at me intently was him saying to me "you're the leader; you need to sort this out". It wasn't for me to 'ask Bertie' to sort it out because he was the dog, I had to be the leader. Now we have a regime of walking, food, puppy-play (in pen or in a place not intruding on Alfie/Bertie's personal space) and sleep. As Cesar says in this book: allowing a puppy on an 'awwww, isn't it sweet!!' basis to trample all over your other dogs unchecked is wrong. But it's also not for the other dogs to do the checking - if they growl, they are saying the puppy is out of order and you as the leader need to intervene to check the puppy and protect your existing dog's space. I know some people have an issue with this, but - as he says in this book: "if an unruly teenager came into your house and started mussing-up on your well behaved children, would you just stand there passively and expect them to deal with it/sort it out". Absolutely not. You'd intervene immediately. So, when you see this behaviour it's important to intervene. Do you do that by shouting at the puppy? *Absolutely not* - think how you would deal with children: we don't smack them/use aggression any more. Pick the puppy up and distract with another toy, or move them away, and you actively play with them for crazy-puppy-time in a protected space. Use a pen to ensure your dogs and also your puppy know they all have their own space ...use it like you would with children - deplete the energy and then rest ("everyone needs to calm down now; let's all go to our rooms").
We now have *blissful peace*. The dogs weren't ignoring the puppy THEY were doing "no touch/no talk/no eye contact" while the puppy was in an unstable state. They didn't want to growl and snap at him, or for them to have to sort him out, they wanted me as the Leader to intervene - their communication was to tell the puppy "enough!" but also to tell me "you need to do something now, or next time I'm REALLY going to tell him!". It is YOUR responsibility to provide the rules of behaviour, not your other dogs: they will tell your puppy "look: this is how it works here - do this when she does that; do this when she says that". But just like your children, they will not step in if the puppy ignores this - that's your job. It's just like when children get anxious if a friend plays up/gets over excited at your house (and they can even 'lose it' in a panic, thinking everyone is going to get in trouble), in the same way your dogs will get anxious and will snap at your puppy - perhaps even causing great harm - if you don't intervene beforehand.
This book is a work of genius ...but please: read it before you get your puppy and put everything in place before it arrives; read it again/use it as a constant reference guide once your puppy arrives for when things don't go according to plan; *think* and re-read it on a "what is everyone telling me?" basis when you hit hurdles; remember absolutely the importance of draining energy and walking together ...and also that YOU are the boss.
I described my experience here because it's part of the practical sense of what's in this book: (1) when you bring your puppy in, don't let it have access to the whole house - as Cesar said, it's trying to work out where it's territory is; it doesn't have your whole house! Same applies to the garden, it should not have the whole garden - 'mum' would allow her puppies to venture safely a given distance from her and then bring them back; she wouldn't allow them to run off and define their own space; use your lead to achieve this (2) existing dogs do not, and should not, "have to get used to it": use a pen or a closed-off room or penned-garden area to play with your puppy in a crazy-half-hour way - you would take your kids to a ball-pool or park to go crazy and burn their energy; you wouldn't let them do it in your house, jumping on you as parents, or on grandma/aunties/uncles; good behaviour is to be expected. Respect what your dogs are telling you - and if this is "you're the leader; do something here!" then do so as you would with your kids. Wouldn't you be the first in there if a relative started telling off your kids? And it's amazing how 'puppy-crazy' becomes and likes being 'puppy-calm' very, very quickly. This, and more, is in this amazing book and that is what I've learned from it myself and avoided things going horribly wrong.
Can't recommend highly enough, and **thank you Cesar** not only for enabling me to help our new puppy, but also to have the bonus of learning what an incredible, balanced, humbling dog I also have in Bertie :o)