1 Commentby   |  04.02.13  |  Student Posts


The National Geographic Channel airs a show starring Cesar Millan called “Dog Whisperer.” In the show, Millan enteres the homes of distraught dog owners.  In most cases these dogs are presenting with behavioral abnormalities that are dangerous to themselves or their owners.  Millan begins by listening to the dog owners explain their concerns and then silently observes the animals in the setting or situation that triggers their problem behaviors.

Millan then begins to work his magic.  The dog owners watch in amazement as Cesar is able to practically eradicate a behavior that has been ingrained in their pets for months or even years within a matter of a few minutes.  His influence has saved the lives of many precious pets and empowered countless pet owners.  So… how does he do it?  Is it magic? NO!

The answer can be found in the principles of behavioral psychology.  Think back to Ivan Pavlov’s experiments with dogs and salivation.  We all know that when a dog smells meat, he will begin to salivate.  This is known as an unconditioned response.  Pavlov found that the sight of the attendant, the sight of the food, and even the sound of the attendant’s footsteps were eventually enough to make the dogs salivate.  The sight and sound accompanying the attendant are known as the conditioned stimulus.  When the dog salivates in response to the conditioned stimulus, it is known as a conditioned response.

Dogs form certain associations in accordance to Pavlov’s findings, which can occasionally lead to less than desirable behaviors.  Millan builds off of this principle, using reinforcement.  He immediately and consistently provides consequences for negative behavior.  More importantly than training the animals he encounters, Millan trains their owners.  He forces them to see that they have the power to change any behavior IF they are consistent with consequences and rewards.

This training is fascinating and makes me wonder…  How effective would something similar be if it was applied to individuals with violent tendencies?  What about applying it to people with depression or personality disorders?  Could behaviorism be used more?  Is it dehumanizing because it is focused solely on the behavior?  One thing that cannot be questioned however, is its overwhelming effectiveness.

1 Comment

  1. Carter Wells
    5:46 pm, 04.02.13

    There is one thing that truly worries me while watching this show: if so many people struggle to discipline and teach their dogs, how many more struggle with similar principles in raising a child. Now, I surely don’t think humans are as condition-able or as simplistic spiritually, cognitively, or behaviorally as a dog (or any other animal for that matter). However, it is a simple and inarguable truth that there is validity and reliability to behavioral principles. They are scientifically proven. I strongly believe behaviorism should be taught in our nation’s primary education systems rather than being reserved for collegiate level students. Parents who struggle to control their kids can utilize similar methods to peacefully, permanently change behavior and form powerful emotional bonds while doing so. We might not be able to change society as a whole like the commune discussed in class seeks to do, but we can definitely alter the faulty correctional methods and education offered to children in certain homes (and some much needed relief to the parents as well).

Add a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.