Lessons Learned from Cesar Milan

I wish I could start by saying I’m sorry that Project: Best Kim fell to the wayside this month, but truth be told, I’m not. The past four weeks have been filled with some of the most amazing and most challenging moments and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.


As I mentioned briefly, Jason and I adopted a dog. His name is Hoss. He is just over one years old and a labrador/coonhound mix. He’s the most sweet, lovable, curious, rambunctious, mischievous, silly little guy and to say that I’m completely and utterly infatuated with him would be an understatement.

That being said, Jason and I weren’t ready for a dog. We didn’t really talk about it more than discussing we wanted a dog and adopted Hoss on a whim. Neither of us regret this, but as an adopted dog, Hoss has come with some challenges – some of which we assume are from the first year of his life, a year that we know absolutely nothing about.


The two biggest challenges we’ve encountered so far are establishing dominance with Hoss and his severe separation anxiety. Upon getting Hoss, in hindsight, I can tell you that Jason and I did not do the best job of establishing dominance with him. We fawned over Hoss, giving him loads of attention and love. Turns out, that is not always the most healthy way to interact with a pup!

The other problem, the HUGE problem, we’ve been dealing with is Hoss’s separation anxiety. Hoss cannot be alone (right now). We left Hoss alone – in his crate, out of his crate – and what resulted was complete chaos and emotional distress. Hoss fixates on Jason and I being gone and then flips out. He goes to the bathroom in the house, he knocks over tables and gates, he barks uncontrollably. It is not a good situation for Hoss, for us, or for our neighbors.

Over the past month, I started doing research on what to do. I’ve had dogs all of my life, but have never had to deal with this sort of issue before and I did not know how to begin remedying it. In my research, I kept coming back to Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer. I bought a (used) version of his book, Cesar’s Way and began to educate myself.

Reading this book was like having a light bulb go off in my brain. To put it simply, I needed to take control. I (and Jason) needed to be Hoss’s leader, his pack leader. I needed to provide direction and rules and guidance and for Hoss. I needed to take control. I needed to provide discipline and do that before providing affection (which is incredibly hard to do!). It was a mind blow for me. And hard, because this type of behavior is not in my nature.

The book also gave me the push I needed to reach out and ask for help about Hoss’s separation anxiety. We met with the vet and our dog trainer and Hoss is now on a medication and in doggy daycare. The vet told us, bluntly, Hoss cannot be left alone until we have a handle on his separation anxiety. It’s not ideal, but it’s working. Hoss now goes to doggy daycare three times per week and loves it. He gets to interact with other humans and other dogs, and gets lots of exercise. It consequently makes him much more calm at home and gives Jason and I the opportunity to be more calm when we train Hoss. It’s a win win for all of us.

We’ve had Hoss for one month, though it seems like much longer. What I find to be amazing is that Hoss has challenged me so much over the past month and has really helped push me to be better. With Hoss, and now within other areas of my life, I’m working to be more assertive and to take better control. It’s against my nature to try to take control of a situation and be dominant, but I’m beginning to see how important it is to have someone that is the point person, who drives what is happening, and who makes decisions. I’m also re-learning what patience is. One of my goals last month was to try not to fly off the handle so much. Having Hoss makes me confront this tendency in me almost daily, but it’s good.

Hoss has brought so much love, joy, and laughter into our lives. He may not have been 100% planned and definitely challenges us daily (hourly?!), but he makes us happier. And that makes it all worth it.


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