Leader of the pack

Cesar Millan and Dog Whisperer
By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  August 6, 2007

“When good dogs go bad,” goes the voiceover introduction, “there’s one man who’s their best friend. Cesar Millan.” Then we hear from Cesar himself. “No dog is too much for me to handle. I rehabilitate dogs; I train people. I am the Dog Whisperer.”

That’s the lead-in to the Emmy-nominated Dog Whisperer (National Geographic Channel, Friday, usually at 8 and 9 pm; new season starts September 7), reality TV with unpaid, unspoilt (except by their owners) stars. Born in Mexico in 1969, Cesar came to San Diego as an illegal — and non-English-speaking — alien in 1990, with the idea of becoming a Hollywood dog trainer, but he found his niche as a dog rehabilitator. He and his wife, Illusion, now run their own Dog Psychology Center on two acres in South LA, where they have a pack of 30 to 40 residents and visitors. Cesar has appeared on Oprah and been written up in the Times and the New Yorker; he has a New York Times #1 bestseller, Cesar’s Way, and Dog Whisperer is heading into its fourth season. At his Web site (www.dogpsychologycenter.com), you can find out about his live seminars, sign up for “Webinars,” get acquainted with the members of Cesar’s pack (his right-hand dog is pit bull Daddy, who has to be the most relaxed canine on the planet), check out the Dog Whisperer TV schedule, read Cesar’s blog, subscribe to his monthly on-line newsletter, and buy merchandise ranging from the Illusion collar to Becoming a Pack Leader DVDs and “Pack Leader” sweatshirts.

Although there have been special editions of Dog Whisperer devoted to “Pups on Parole” and dogs left homeless by Katrina, the typical hour-long episode has Cesar — in T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers — climbing into his jeep and visiting three owners/families with problem dogs. Each segment begins with Cesar and his host(s) sitting in the living room and Cesar asking, “How can I help?” Italian greyhound Dasher is obsessed with his favorite toys; bassets Sophie and Riley are sibling rivals; vizsla Booker is afraid to go outside; bulldog Matilda attacks skateboards; border collie Milo herds tractors; rottweiler Bella has anger-management issues. The owners acknowledge — often without prompting, even proudly — that their dog runs the household.

Cesar then gives them the straight dope, which goes something like this: “A dog is not a human. A dog is a pack animal. In a pack, there is a pack leader, and there are followers. You are your dog’s natural pack leader: you provide shelter and security and food. But if you don’t take control, your dog will. Dogs communicate through energy; you display leadership by projecting calm, assertive energy. If you’re tense and nervous, your dog will be tense and nervous; if you project weak energy, your dog will know there’s a leadership vacuum. Your dog needs exercise, discipline, and affection — in that order. Exercise means a long walk every day, not just hanging out in the back yard. Your dog needs rules, boundaries, and limitations, the same way children do. Your dog needs to socialize with other dogs. Your dog needs you need to understand what it means to be a dog.”

1  |  2  |   next >
Related: Interview: Cesar Millan, Don't look under that rock, Cruella de Vil shows her softer, dog-loving side, More more >
  Topics: Television , Science and Technology, Culture and Lifestyle, National Geographic Society,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
    Fifty-four years after its groundbreaking Broadway premiere, Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun remains as dense, and as concentrated, as its title fruit.
  •   LIGHT WAVES: BOSTON BALLET'S ''ALL KYLIÁN''  |  March 13, 2013
    A dead tree hanging upside down overhead, with a spotlight slowly circling it. A piano on stilts on one side of the stage, an ice sculpture's worth of bubble wrap on the other.
  •   HANDEL AND HAYDN'S PURCELL  |  February 04, 2013
    Set, rather confusingly, in Mexico and Peru, the 1695 semi-opera The Indian Queen is as contorted in its plot as any real opera.
  •   REVIEW: MAHLER ON THE COUCH  |  November 27, 2012
    Mahler on the Couch , from the father-and-son directing team of Percy and Felix Adlon, offers some creative speculation, with flashbacks detailing the crisis points of the marriage and snatches from the anguished first movement of Mahler's unfinished Tenth Symphony.
    "Without The Nutcracker , there'd be no ballet in America as we know it."

 See all articles by: JEFFREY GANTZ