While attending the Living with Animals Conference at Eastern Kentucky University last month, I was able to attend a variety of talks, many of which were relevant to my research (thankfully!) I thought I would write about one here and give my opinion concerning its effectiveness (as a presentation and the information provided). This talk, by a visiting professor (from Poland, a behavioral psychologist, I believe) at EKU named Michal Piotr Pregowski, was entitled, “Dog Training as Taming, Dogs as Wild Beasts: Whispering versus Canine Science.” Dr. Pregowski quickly engaged his audience by not only being a lively speaker but also by combining pop culture and science: that is, he spoke of Cesar Milan and his dog whispering techniques alongside the science of such techniques.
Indeed, Dr. Pregowski first explored the history of dog training beginning with Prussian police commissioner, Konrad Most. His information concerning Most proved highly relevant to my research project (as mentioned in another post) and I quickly jotted down the name in hopes of adding his work to my paper. Ultimately, Most played a major role in the training of World War I military working dogs and I may not have otherwise stumbled across his name had I not attended this particular talk.
What proved most interesting about Dr. Pregowski’s talk was his analysis of Cesar Milan’s ideas and techniques along with a similar British dog trainer named Jan Fennell. Ultimately, Dr. Pregowski pointed to the fact that both Milan and Fennell were never trained in psychology and both present outdated, inaccurate or debatable concepts as facts within their books. They also both contradict themselves quite regularly. Nevertheless, Dr. Pregowski noted that this lack of accuracy or formal training does not seem to diminish their popularity. And it seems the wider public will continue to take cues from these “authority” figures when it comes to training our dogs, whether scientists agree with them or not.