Planning on getting a dog but don’t know where to start? Here are some tips from Cesar Millan
THE inspiring hit TV show, The Dog Whisperer With Cesar Millan came about when the now-celebrity dog trainer expressed his wish to have his own TV show in a Los Angeles daily newspaper a decade ago.
“At that time, nobody knew me on TV. They just knew me on paper. The person who interviewed me, Mimi, asked me what I would like to do next. I said that I would like to have a TV show. That came out in the papers and by Monday there was a line of producers outside my place wanting to know what the show would be all about. So, it really came out of somebody who is not afraid to voice what he wants,” he says in an interview.
The 43-year-old Mexican-born, who has been helming the show for eight seasons since 2004, is now running the Millan Foundation which educates children about dogs.
“We already have a curriculum which is now available to the world. We cover various topics including how to maintain dogs’ instincts as well as their empathy and compassion. We hope to eventually merge with other foundations worldwide to achieve the same goal, which is providing education to children about dogs.
“We also hope to educate those who run dog shelters. People who rescue dogs, unfortunately, aren’t all that well informed. They have big hearts, but the mind is not at the same level as the heart. So, many times they will give you the wrong dog or they will give you the wrong information.”
He continues: “We also need to make sure shelters become more of a dog psychology centre, not just kennels where the dogs are housed for many years because that only creates frustration in dogs. The Millan Foundation also helps dogs or countries like the earthquake hit Chile and tsunami hit Japan. Obviously, there’s funding for food and things like that.
“We are a young foundation with a big goal and we know how we would want to go about to reach that goal. I always say that when I rescue a dog, it’s good for the karma and when I do business with people, it’s good because I can keep feeding the dogs that I rescue.
“So, the foundation is not about making money. It’s really creating the transformation and preventing people from getting in trouble with dogs. We already have enough problems amongst humans and I believe that we don’t have to have problems with dogs because there is a way. I have shown them in the show that an aggressive dog can become a normal dog which takes a big load away from people. But if we can take the load away from the world, then the world will be less tensed.”
When did you start connecting with dogs?
It started in my native country, Mexico. I was not aware that I had any special connection with dogs until I got to America.
Tell us about your job
I don’t train dogs. I rehabilitate dogs. I make people realise how much they influence a dog’s behaviour. People need to recognise and overcome their own fears as they must provide stability to a dog. So, they can’t really ask the dog to be obedient or not to hurt another dog or hurt himself because animals don’t feel safe in the presence of instability.
Can one over pamper a dog?
Yes, especially when all they do is over pamper. They give the dog affection and so it’s a circle that I normally teach people to fulfil. There must be three ingredients — exercise, discipline and affection. The people that I work with only give affection. So, that’s over pampering a dog.
It’s often said that dogs can sort of help people during personal trauma or emotional troubles. Do you feel that that’s true?
A dog is not just for companionship. We now have associations that use the ability of dogs to find cancer at stage one and that’s something a machine can’t do. Animals are also used to help people with seizures, to take their medication before the seizure even happens because the human doesn’t know when he’s going to get a seizure, but the dog does. Besides that, some people are in a spiritual journey and they’re looking for strength. They’re looking for inner peace. I don’t see a dog as a student as much as I see him as a teacher.
And so, in that regard, the world is barely getting to know the capabilities of a dog because we don’t really agree on what a dog can do for all of us.
When did you discover this intuitive understanding of dog behaviour and do you think everyone can develop the skills that you have? Or do you think that it’s something special that you were gifted with?
I believe that the only gift I have compared to the rest of the world was where I was raised and who raised me. That’s definitely a gift. But when it comes to dogs, and animals, it’s in every human being to be instinctual. It’s just the world is focusing on becoming more intellectual because money lives in the intellectual world. You don’t have to have honesty or integrity to create money. But, to have a relationship with a dog, you must understand the principles, which is honesty, integrity and loyalty because you can’t buy none of those from a dog. You must earn it.
What was the most challenging case so far?
I will say the worst case scenarios are never aggression where I think the dog is going to kill me and it’s going to be more difficult. But, the fearful cases are more difficult because it takes so many months. When you’re doing a TV show, time is so crucial because you have to deliver a show in a matter of several months.
So the budget is not as big as it should be because you’re working with a dog that is on his time. You can’t accelerate rehabilitation. The most difficult are the ones who are afraid of humans.
What attracts you to dogs specifically?
They always have hope, which is something that humans don’t really practice a lot. And the dog always accepts you for who you are.
How many dogs do you have and what are their breeds and ages? Also, what sort of regimen do you walk them through everyday?
We have 15, from three to eight years. We have eight pitbulls and the rest include rottweiler, labrador and greyhound.
Some say women are better at handling dogs than men.
I can tell you one strength about women is the ability to accept their faults and their ability to do whatever it takes to help a loved one. Eighty per cent of my clients are women. But they are not good pack leaders because women’s first inclination when they see a dog is that they fall in love. So, they don’t make the dog work for their love and that’s something that a dog takes advantage of.
Women will say “Oh, that puppy is so cute” and then they start kissing it. Whereas men will go “How old is he?” That demeanour makes a puppy become a little bit more like, “Oh-oh, this guy’s way too strong in front of me.” The dog then perceives men as strength and women as an excited source.
Do you have any recommendations for people who want to get a dog?
Compatibility. The energy is very important. Compatibility is about 60 per cent or a little bit more, maybe 80 per cent of the great relationship. For example, if you are a human who doesn’t practice activities such as running, walking, some kind of athletic activity, don’t get a high level energy dog. It’s not the breed. Trust me.
Then the second part is to know the needs of a dog. Think how you can train yourself to be a good source of direction to a dog.
That should be the question because everybody usually asks what the best training is or what the best breed is and that’s the wrong question. firstname.lastname@example.org
Dog Whisperer 5 is aired on Wednesdays at 10pm on National Geographic Channel (Astro Channel 553)