Cesar is amazing.
Please do not seek the advice of a trainer who still bases their approach to dog ownership on dominance theory, which has been debunked by veterinary animal behaviorists who have spent years studying the adverse effects on dogs AND people from using these techniques.
Most “normal” dogs are so resilient that Cesar’s way will not harm them, but that’s not the case for novice owners of puppies or adoptive dogs turning to him as a guide for training their dogs.
Dr. Karen Overall, faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania, is a diplomate of the American College of Behavior Medicine (ACVB) and is board-certified by the Animal Behavior Society (ABS) as an Applied Animal Behaviorist. Here is what she writes about trainers like Cesar Milan:
“The single most devastating advice ever given to people with dogs is that they should dominate their dogs and show the problem dogs “who is boss.” Under this rubric, untold numbers of humans have been bitten by dogs they have betrayed, terrified and given no choice. And for dogs that have an anxiety disorder that involves information processing and accurate risk assessment, the behaviors used to dominate a dog (e.g., hitting, hanging, subjecting the dog to dominance downs, alpha rolls and other punitive, coercive techniques) convince that troubled, needy, pathological dog that the human is indeed a threat, resulting in the dog’s condition worsening.”
I speak from experience here, as we were advised years ago by an “expert” to show our rescue “who was boss”, against my better judgement from years of working as a behaviorist with humans.
We ended up consulting Dr. Overall and our aggressive dog was able to live with us for the rest of his life. Even no-kill shelters had told us that they would have to euthanize our dog as he would be deemed a threat to their staff. We did not have children in the home, so it was possible for us to do what was necessary to give this abnormal dog a chance at life.
In my humble opinion, the characteristics of your breed, combined with the medical issues and the nature of a household with 3 children are not a good match.
The fact that your dog is not aggressive will make it much easier to find a suitable home for him.
If it were me, I would speak with the breeder of your dog or the breed rescue volunteer in your area. If the breeder and/or volunteer agree that your home is not a good match for the dog, they can reassure you that the decision to turn the dog over to them is in the best interest of the dog.
You will feel guilty, some may shame you for not following through on your commitment when you purchased the puppy, but put yourself in the dog’s place and consider things from his point of view. For a dog who needs a calm environment with clear and consistent expectations and consequences, can your home provide that? If not, do what is best for the dog and give him the opportunity for a life with someone who can provide what he needs. Forget value judgements from yourself and others—do what is in the best interest of the dog and you will make the right decision.
If you feel that your wife and kids can REALISTICALLY work with a trainer who can help you set up an environment for success in living with this dog, realize that there are NO QUICK FIXES (despite what Cesar Milan’s snapshots may show).
Working with anxious, nervous dogs who may have underlying neurological issues requires a training coach who truly understands animal behavior.
For more science-based information on dog behavior, please refer to these articles:
http://drsophiayin.com/philosophy/dominance/?/dominance.php (some good video here)
I am sorry if I’ve offended anyone. Trainers like Cesar Milan have been a “pet” peeve for years.
To me, you sound like a responsible family trying to do the right thing for your dog, given your current situation. You can use this experience to educate others about the need for researching the characteristics of a breed prior to purchasing or adopting a specific breed, the benefits of working with a breed rescue group (HOPEFULLY you will have a positive experience—there are nuts out there in every endeavor) and what it means to truly love a dog. Sometimes that means admitting that your home is not the best place for the dog, or that you made a mistake in choosing a breed that wasn’t a good match for your family/lifestyle.