The 21st century has seen the proliferation of television programs and accompanying books that feature dog training and rehabilitation, including Joel Silverman's Good Dog U, Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan, It's Me or the Dog featuring Victoria Stillwell, The Underdog Show, Dogs in the City, and SuperFetch. The Association of Pet Dog Trainers advises that television programs are produced primarily for entertainment, and while all programs will have good and not-so-good points, the viewer should critically evaluate the information before deciding which training tips to adopt.
In the 1950s Blanche Saunders was a staunch advocate of pet-dog training, travelling throughout the U.S. to promote obedience classes. In The Complete Book of Dog Obedience, she said, "Dogs learn by associating their act with a pleasing or displeasing result. They must be disciplined when they do wrong, but they must also be rewarded when they do right." Negative reinforcement procedures played a key part in Saunders' method, primarily the jerking of the choke chain. The mantra taught to students was "Command! Jerk! Praise!" She felt that food should not be an ongoing reward, but that it was acceptable to use "a tidbit now and then to overcome a problem." Saunders perhaps began the shift away from military and police training methods, stressing repeatedly the importance of reinforcement for good behaviour in training—a move toward the positive training methods used today.
Millan's TV programs are centered on the rehabilitation of dogs while Millan concurrently educates the dog owners in his dog-handling philosophy. Conversations with owners typically revolve around his philosophy: that healthy, balanced dogs require strong "pack leadership" from their owners, while Millan demonstrates how owners can achieve and maintain a leadership role with their dogs. In some cases, Millan takes dogs with severe behavioral problems to his Dog Psychology Center for an extended period of more intensive rehabilitation. The programs are not intended as a dog training guide, and each episode contains repeated warnings that viewers should not try the behavior modification techniques at home without the guidance of a professional.
Pups between the ages of 9–12 weeks who were permitted to observe their narcotics-detecting mothers at work generally proved more capable at learning the same skills at six months of age than control puppies the same age who were not previously allowed to watch their mothers working. A 2001 study recorded the behaviour of dogs in detour tests, in which a favorite toy or food was placed behind a V-shaped fence. The demonstration of the detour by humans significantly improved the dogs' performance in the trials. The experiments showed that dogs are able to rely on information provided by human action when confronted with a new task. Significantly, they did not copy the exact path of the human demonstrator, but adopted the detour behavior shown by humans to reach their goal. A 1977 experiment by Adler and Adler found that puppies who watched other puppies learn to pull a food cart into their cages by an attached ribbon proved considerably faster at the task when later given the opportunity themselves. At 38 days of age, the demonstrator puppies took an average of 697 seconds to succeed, while the observers succeeded in an average of 9 seconds.
Millan's first job in the United States was at a dog grooming store. He later created the Pacific Point Canine Academy. Jada Pinkett Smith became one of Millan's first clients and supporters when he was working as a limousine driver, providing him with an English tutor for a year. Subsequently, Millan created the Dog Psychology Center, a two-acre (0.81 ha) facility in South Los Angeles, specializing in working with large breed dogs.
A satirized version of Millan was portrayed in "Tsst", the May 3, 2006, episode of the Comedy Central animated series South Park. In the episode, Liane Cartman enlists Millan's help in applying his principles to her misbehaving son, Eric Cartman. The principles work and Eric temporarily becomes completely reformed. However, in the end when he refuses to go on an outing with his mother, she caves in to his demands in order to persuade him to go along with her, thus reverting his behavior to its original state. In 2010, when Millan was asked if he was offended at all by the episode, he stated that the creators of the show (Trey Parker and Matt Stone) contacted him to inform him of their intentions beforehand and that he found the episode fantastic. Millan reacted to the episode in a video posted on November 13, 2019 to his YouTube channel.
Remember that training is an ongoing process. You will never be completely finished. It is important to keep working on obedience training throughout the life of your dog. People who learn a language at a young age but stop speaking that language may forget much of it as they grow older. The same goes for your dog: use it or lose it. Running through even the most basic tricks and commands will help them stay fresh in your dog's mind. Plus, it's a great way to spend time with your dog.