I know it’s a hot button to bring up the teachings of “The Dog Whisperer,” Cesar Millan. People seem to either love him or hate him and his philosophy, and I’m not going to open that whole discussion here. What I am here to say, however, is that I used his techniques today and spared myself and my three Westies—Blanche, Keely and Ambrose—from falling victim to an attack by a charging rottweiler mix.

Here’s what happened. I was walking my pooches along Minnehaha Parkway in Minneapolis when I saw coming toward us a 20-something man and his two big dogs, a huge white Pyrenees Mountain dog and a rottie mix. His two dogs nearly overwhelmed him with their bucking, barking and general “I want to kill those Westies” behavior.

FYI: A Pyraneese Mountain Dog (not THE dog in the story)

A Rottweiler mix similar to the one in the story.

My dogs, to their credit, stayed quiet and calm. (I’d like to take a moment to brag about my dogs if I may. I’ve received several comments from strangers, while we’re out on our walks, who have noted what well-behaved Westies I have. This was not always so, and I thank Mr. Millan for his dog-walking tips that have taken 95% of the squirrel-chasing chaos out of our strolls.)

Anyway, back to the story. We steered clear of those aggressive dogs and went on our merry way. Some time later, on our return trip, however, I saw we were going to cross paths with them again. I casually took my dogs several yards off the sidewalk to give them a wide berth. The Pyrenees went ultra ballistic this time, which I found worrisome, because the dog had to weigh well over 120 pounds. But what really startled me was the 70–80-pound rottweiler mix—who broke free of its collar and came charging at us!

The young man hollered fruitlessly to recall his dog, as he was still struggling with the Pyrenees. Normally, I’d have screamed bloody murder to see my dogs and myself under attack, but something clicked in my brain and I immediately thought WWCD? (What would Cesar do?)

I stood with legs firmly planted, pulling my dogs (who were surprisingly calm and still during this) somewhat behind me. I used a visualization technique to see myself as the pack leader protecting my pack from this intruder. The energy I sent out was filled with pure “You will NOT touch my pack!” authority.

I then used a loud, assertive voice to yell sharply, “Hey! NO!!” as I pointed down to the grass for him to drop there, and I—with heretofore never experienced complete confidence in a crisis—stared down this bully breed. With his hackles still raised from the attack, that rottie stopped dead about four feet away from us and dropped to the ground. His owner, still 20 yards away, continued to call to the dog ineffectually. I gave the rottie one last “NO!!” when he looked like he might challenge me, I added a final “Don’t you even think it!” look and calmly walked away with my astoundingly balanced pack of Westies.

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the term “Minnesota Nice,” which refers to Minnesotans’ typical tendency to be hyper agreeable/passive so as not to upset anyone else, despite how detrimental such behavior may be in certain situations. In that split second, I said to myself, “Screw Minnesota Nice! I don’t give a ‘bleep’ what this guy thinks of my tone being used on his unruly dog. One of us humans has to show them who’s pack leader, and it obviously isn’t him!”

How empowering!

I’d never been prouder of my dogs or myself—in relation to my dog parenting. Had I not watched a gazillion episodes of “The Dog Whisperer,” I am certain I’d have screamed and tried to flee as the charging dog bore down on us, no doubt redoubling his predatory instinct. I shudder to think what the result would have been of that strategy.

(My certainty arises from past experience. I actually had that very thing happen several years ago when a neighbor’s pit bull broke free and came charging, clearly hoping to make me and my former Westie, Ludwig, her lunch. It didn’t help that the owner hysterically screamed for us to “RUN!!!!” as her pit bull went into attack mode because she knew she’d be unable to stop her dog. I barely got the two of us into our yard and shut the gate when Jasmine, her 10-month-old pit bull puppy, who was normally friendly, at least to humans, crashed into it and kept leaping and snapping at us until her owner came by to subdue her with a broom!)

That was a pretty traumatic experience for me, but thanks to Cesar Millan, I no longer automatically lump all the bully breeds into the “BAD DOG” category. I bawled when I learned of his pit bull Daddy’s death. But, I do harbor a great resentment toward owners of those breeds who either encourage aggressive behaviors in their dogs or simply don’t take seriously their responsibility to properly control and train them—for the sake of other people and their pets, as well as for their own dogs’ sake. To those people, I say,  “BAD OWNERS! BAD OWNERS!!”

Now, I just hope that young man I encountered today starts some kind of training course to get better control of his two clearly potentially dangerous, dog-aggressive canines.

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