Dog Aggression In The Red Zone

Dog Aggression In The Red Zone

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Sam Basso
PHOENIX , AZ AREA: (602) 708-4531
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Is this a dog “in the red zone”? How can you tell? What are the defining behaviors? My dog IS attempting to bite someone in this picture, but is it “the red zone”?

Cesar Millan has popularized a term he calls “the red zone”, meaning when a dog is acting dangerously aggressive. I hate this term, because it is not quantifiable, doesn’t conform to any known scientific definition of aggression that I have ever seen, and isn’t really useful in terms of defining what is going on or what to do about it. It is useful in the sense that he is referring to dogs that might be dangerous and needing behavior modification and/ or control work.

Some things I like about Cesar, but this is one that I really don’t like and I seriously caution people against meddling with. One of my main problems with Cesar Millan is that you have to translate “Cesar” into English, taking terms he has invented or borrowed and then picking them apart to determine exactly what he’s referring to. I see a lot of novices using Cesar’s methods and terminology and getting themselves in trouble when trying to deal with biting in their own dogs. On the other hand, I read his materials, and he is evolving over time to address this type of criticism. A recent book of his shows he is starting to adopt the attitude that there is more to dog training than his “dog whisperer” program, and he is learning about the variety of training theories and methodologies. That’s a good thing. I’ve met too many so-called experts who never grow, never change, can’t be reasoned with, and don’t even crack a book to learn more about what they are talking about. I believe Cesar Millan is basically an amateur in terms of skills, and that makes what he does suspect or even dangerous to apply.

Definitions matter. Defining a problem is necessary to come up with a solution. Just because a dog is dangerous today, doesn’t mean the dog will always be dangerous. Just because a dog is dangerous doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the dog: sometimes it is what the owner is or isn’t doing with the dog in those circumstances. Defining the motivation for the dangerous behavior matters. A proper diagnosis is necessary. “Red Zone” pretty much means: you have a serious problem on your hands, go consult with a professional. If that’s how the term is used, then fine. But, it doesn’t help with finding a solution to the problem when trying to change what is going on. It’s even worse when novices try to define behavior. A nutty neighbor can claim your dog is dangerous when it isn’t. And who’s to decide if it is dangerous, and by what criteria?

If your dog is having biting, fear, or aggression issues, then you should hire a local expert to help you. In my opinion, Cesar’s books and TV shows are going to be of little use to you. I’ve met people who were severely bitten by their own dogs when trying to implement solutions they’ve seen on his TV show. I believe his show is interesting in many ways, but not geared for things you should do yourself. I have met too many people now who think they are implementing his method, when in fact they don’t know what they are doing, and are actually making the problem worse. I go into evaluations all the time, hearing owners “shh” their dogs like Cesar, but the dog keeps doing the undesired thing. The dog doesn’t get it either. It’s even worse with the dog is dangerous, and the owner is trying a “do it yourself” method. They are in way over their heads and the dog is dangerous to be around. In the “red zone”…

Cesar Millan – The Dog Whisperer?
What Is Dog Whispering?
Cesar Millan’s Calm Submissive / Assertive Baloney


Sam Basso is a professional dog trainer and behaviorist, in the Phoenix/ Scottsdale metropolitan area. He’s known for being fun, kind, intelligent, and humane. Sam Basso has a unique personal touch. He has appeared on his own TV show, been a guest radio expert, gives seminars, publishes a dog related blog, does rescue volunteering, and is active in promoting animal welfare and fair dog laws.

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