Pet Tales: Bad dog? Maybe it's the owner, trainer says

Misty is a deceptively sweet-looking black Labrador retriever mix who has bitten every member of the family multiple times, including two young children and grandma. Boxers named Chip and Mocha are handsome dogs, but they aren't sweet-looking at all. They lunge, snarl and growl and have attacked 15 dogs.

Neighbors want all three dogs to be euthanized. The owners say they love their dogs and want to keep them.

Neighbors and relatives referred to as "whistleblowers" call celebrity dog trainer Cesar Millan for help. The result is the new show, "Cesar 911," which is airing Friday nights on Nat Geo WILD.

I never watched "The Dog Whisperer," Mr. Millan's show that ran for 10 years, but I watched previews of the new show. The footage is frightening and fascinating, starting with the people who own the featured beasts. You wonder how the dogs got so bad, and you wonder why anyone would want to save them.

"This is a very serious case," Mr. Millan says as he calmly looks at the boxers. "This is a red zone case."

Of course, when Mr. Millan takes the leash of the boxers -- and every other dog in the show -- the dogs are calm. They wag their tails when he fearlessly and calmly approaches them, pets them and praises them.

Aha! Is this a show about how people screw up their dogs? Yes, it is!

"In Cesar 911, we focus more on the humans," he said in a conference call with reporters this week. "The biggest challenge is not the dog. The biggest challenge is the human being that is not willing to transform."

You want to stand up and cheer when Mr. Milan says in the show: "Nicole is a classic, classic neurotic dog owner. ... It's Nicole's lack of trust that causes Augie to bite."

Augie is a very unpleasant little shiba inu who attacks other dogs. Nicole says the other dogs are "instigators."

These aren't quick fixes. In some cases, Mr. Millan takes dogs to his "Dog Psychology Center" for extended training. All of the dogs and people are "fixed" by the end of each episode, which includes the trainer watching the families in their homes with surveillance cameras.

Each episode begins with a "do not attempt" warning. I can't emphasize that enough. Mr. Millan takes some of the dogs to dog parks to prove that his methods work. Don't try this at home, folks. The average person can't socialize "bad" dogs by taking them to parks filled with "good" dogs.

By the way, Mr. Millan notes that some dogs, including Misty, aren't actually aggressive. They are insecure, untrusting and fearful, and he says that can be harder to fix.

Many people love Mr. Millan. Others dislike him, especially trainers who advocate "positive training." I asked my Facebook friends to explain why he is liked or disliked.

Many regular pet owners said they have enjoyed watching the old shows. My theory is that Mr. Millan is a person who has a gift for working with dogs, which he has been doing for 25 years. Now it looks as if he knows how to work with owners, too. I don't expect most people could handle or train as he does.

Mr. Millan uses his own "pack" of 20 dogs to work with client dogs. There are many philosophies of dog training, and many trainers currently reject the theory that people have to dominate the dog and be the pack leader. They say that is what Mr. Millan advocates.

They also criticize him for using "alpha rolls," choke chain collars, electric shock collars and other punishment-based training methods. I saw none of that in the "911" show except for an "e collar" he used on one of the boxers. He used it twice and the dog stopped attacking other dogs, but he also explained why it's a bad tool if used at the wrong time.

Mr. Millan -- and some of my Facebook friends -- also note that his training methods have evolved over the years. Most of what I viewed could be seen as positive training, although I never saw him use food treats.

A trainer who I really respect and who has worked many years with shelter and rescue dogs said he thinks Mr. Millan can be "rough" at times, "but he takes on dogs that others would kill."

So watch the show and see what you think, but don't try these things in your home -- or at the dog park.

Dogs at the mall

The Galleria of Mt. Lebanon is having a Meet the Breeds Dog Show today from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Healthy Pet Products is the sponsor.

Many wonderful things are planned, but don't miss the doggy wedding today at 1:30 p.m. Therapy dogs owned and trained by members of Keystone Canine Training Club put on the show that's always a crowd-pleaser. Keystone is doing a teacup breed agility demo at 11 a.m. today. At noon Sunday, they'll demonstrate dog tricks, freestyle dancing and obedience.

Golden Triangle Obedience Training Club has demonstrations at 10 a.m. today and 1 p.m. Sunday. Xcel Canine Training has obedience demonstrations at 7 p.m. today and 4 p.m. Sunday. The Animal Rescue League Shelter & Wildlife Center will have presentations at noon today and 5 p.m. Sunday.

Also scheduled today: 1 p.m., canine fashion show; 1:45 p.m., Healthy Pet Products nutrition lecture; 2:15 p.m., bichon frise grooming; 3 p.m., German shepherd; 4 p.m., poodles; 6 p.m. Save A Yorkie rescue group. Sunday's lineup includes information about therapy dogs at 2 p.m. and German shepherd dogs at 3 p.m.

Your own pet dogs are not invited, but "swag bag" treats will be given to owners.

Birth of a foal

I've never seen a horse give birth, although I've spent long hours in barns waiting for foals that were due to arrive "any minute." Now we can all see the miracle of birth at, thanks to the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.

A thoroughbred mare named My Special Girl, 11, is due to foal in mid-March. The foal cam went live Feb. 26. Of course, when I logged on this week the stall was empty. The site says that means she is getting exercise or a diagnostic exam. I clicked on the site's Photo Album to see pictures of the pretty chestnut mare.

My Special Girl is in the neonatal intensive care unit at the New Bolton Center because this is the first successful pregnancy by Penn Vet using an advanced reproductive technique called intracytoplasmic sperm injection. The technique is used in human medicine to help women get pregnant.

A single sperm from frozen semen from a long-dead thoroughbred-quarter horse cross stallion was injected into a mature egg from a thoroughbred-Cleveland bay cross mare. The ICSI embryo was transferred to My Special Girl last April. The technique can be used to help "our clients who have subfertile mares and stallions," said veterinarian Regina Turner.

When the foal is born, Penn Vet will have a naming contest. The foal will be adopted by Rose Nolen-Walston, a veterinarian at New Bolton Center who lives on a nearby farm. A trainer has already been lined up for when the foal "is ready to begin its athletic career," according to the news release.

Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Contact Linda Wilson on her Facebook page, or 412-263-3064. Got a pet health question? Email it to It may be answered in an upcoming Pet Points column by veterinarians at the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic