Do Dog Whisperers Really Work?

Training dogs can be frustrating. Rather than the traditional route, you might start wondering what else you can do. One method that has gained popularity in recent years is dog whispering, reaching mainstream popularity through the aptly named television show “Dog Whisperer” featuring Cesar Millan. The success of the show has us wondering, does it really work? Let’s take a look at a few methods dog whisperers use and how effective they may be.

Pack Leader

The most commonly used technique by Millan is showing animal owners how to become the leader of their “pack.” This is based on the theory that dogs are animals that live in packs by nature and require a guiding lead. Millan has success using this technique and with many dogs it’s effective. However, this method has sparked debate due to the use of physical force, which many of Millan’s peer believe to be inhumane. This methodology is based around dominance rather than coexistence, and while it has produced results in calming more aggressive dogs, the effectiveness is still questionable.

Positive Reinforcement Vs. Punishment

These methods are naturally on opposite ends of the spectrum, but their necessity is born from the same actions. For example, if your pup has a particular disdain for your local mailman or lashes out on walks against all forms of wheeled transportation, you have the choice of trying positive reinforcement or punishment.

With positive reinforcement, associate something good with whatever your dog may not care for. For example, any time the mailman comes around reward your dog with a spoon of peanut butter, and when a skateboard flies by treat them to a slice of an apple. With punishment, you associate something unpleasant with those same disdains, say a flick on the nose. Each method has been used by dog whisperers and both criticized equally, either for being cruel or rewarding bad behavior. With these methods it’s worth talking with a qualified dog trainer to determine the best results based on your dog’s personality.


This method was popularized by famous dog trainer Paul Owens. The premise of non-force dog whispering is educating yourself (the owner) with your dog’s personality and behavior instead of educating the dog itself. This method doesn’t allow the use of any deterrent device, like shock or choke collars, and it condemns physical punishment. The goal of non-force training is to create empathy and to grow as an animal owner.

How well your animal responds to any of these techniques is all speculative. Not all dogs are the same, so training methods that might’ve worked on previous pets or friend’s animals may not work for your current pet. If you’re having trouble training your pup, don’t be afraid to seek help from a professional dog trainer.