Fulfilling a need
By Cesar Millan
This weekend, I’m visiting New Jersey and Pennsylvania as part of my live tour, and I found out something very interesting while talking about my new treadmill. The inventor of the first consumer home workout treadmill, William Staub, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and he originally manufactured and sold his treadmills out of Clifton, New Jersey before moving to Little Falls.
Staub was an engineer who saw a need and fulfilled it. Inspired by Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper’s 1968 book “Aerobics,” he thought of and created a way for people to get their running exercise indoors, so that bad weather outside would not get in the way of that routine. He wasn’t the first one to patent a treadmill for exercise, but... he was the first to create an affordable home version of what had been expensive medical equipment up to that time.
Now, you’re probably thinking I’m trying to sell treadmills in a sneaky way, but that’s not my point. Note what I said above about Mr. Staub: He saw a need and fulfilled it. This is the same reason that I went into the profession of training people and rehabilitating dogs.
There were plenty of dog trainers around when I was 21. There were also plenty of people who could learn to give commands like sit and stay. What was lacking was an understanding among dog lovers of how their energy fits into the equation. Particularly in America, I saw people who had no problem giving their dogs endless affection and attention, but when it came to exercise and discipline, they had no idea what to do.
Actually, that isn’t quite true. People had the idea of what they needed to do. They were just reluctant to do it out of fear of hurting their dog’s feelings. What they failed to realize is that dogs, as pack animals, need a strong leader. Dogs want to be told what to do, and need to work for that attention and affection in order to be fulfilled.
Take away the work and only give the rewards, and you soon wind up with an uncontrollable dog with a lot of excess energy and no focus. Worse, the dog will associate whatever it was doing with the moment that it gets that affection, and learn that its behavior in that moment is what’s desired.
Have you ever seen someone pick up a small dog when it was in an excited barking frenzy over another dog or strange human? Then you’ve seen a small dog being taught that it’s supposed to bark in such situations. This is called “positive reinforcement.” While it definitely has its place in dog training, it can also be very easily misused, and lead to exactly the kind of behavior people are trying to avoid.
Staub saw a need and fulfilled it, just as I’ve seen what dogs need and how to fulfill them: Exercise, Discipline, and then Affection, in that order. Looking at the cold, snowy weather here on the east coast right now, I can understand why people might not want to go outside to give their dog exercise. But, as dog lovers, it is our responsibility to fulfill our dog’s needs, no matter what the weather is like.
William Staub not only fulfilled a need, but he apparently took his own advice for healthy living. He passed away last summer at the age of 96. That’s almost 21 in dog years, and it’s a nice lesson to remember: A life of fulfillment will pay you back with a full life.