The Anti-Cesar Millan
Sirius Dog Training, as Dunbar called it, showed proven positive results from early off-leash training. His classes, and the resulting video, were embraced by trainers and owners alike. Many say Sirius spurred the demise of punitive, punishment-based training that was the vogue after World War II. In 1993, Dunbar founded the Association of Pet Dog Trainers whose mission is to promote better training through education.
The return to dominance training such as Millan's, Dunbar says, is a disservice to dogs more than anything else. Though Millan gets results, Dunbar notes that most people don't have Millan's strength or skill, and even fewer keep dozens of dogs. "I teach methods that a supervised 4-year-old can use," Dunbar says. Having been called as a witness in high-profile Bay Area bite trials -- he was one of a team who evaluated one of the dogs involved in the deadly attack on Diane Whipple in 2001 -- he is all too familiar with the violent underbelly of dog aggression. Fear, he underscores, doesn't train a reliable dog.
Claudia Kawczynska, editor of Bark magazine, is one of Dunbar's many fans. "It's irritating to see Millan treated as the expert. Ian is an animal behaviorist with decades of experience," she says, "He should be where Millan is." Kawczynska likens the Millan cult of personality and popularity to the anti-science, anti-academic sentiment she sees prevalent in American culture and politics. "Millan lived on a farm, so what? He's good looking, but he's not smart about dogs. It seems people don't want their experts to be educated."
Dunbar refuses to comment on whether his lack of profile is due to his weighty credentials, though a Millan fan on Gladwell's blog says the backlash against the Dog Whisperer is "because Malcolm had written about the unschooled Millan rather than a string of PhDs that the average person has never heard of -- and never will."