National Geographic’s “Dog Whisperer” (8 p.m.) season premiere is tonight. The Zen master of Mastiffs, the Poobah of Pit Bulls and General all-knowing of the canine world, Cesar Millan, returns for a fourth season of dog re-education for owners who need help.
The premiere has Cesar doing interventions at a problematic North Hollywood apartment complex where the residents’ dogs have “barky snarls-a lot” encounters with each other.
Millan is a quiet force in person; I met him hours ago as he was sitting in an off room inside the Fallbrook Mall Petco in Canoga Park, California.
As he was signing hundreds of bright green dog bowls for the people amassed outside, some who had been there since 10:30 PM the night before for the canine casting call, he introduced me to his latest gift, a Chihuahua and English Yorkshire Terrier, the tiniest puppy ever. “He’s half Mexican and half English, look out,” quipped Millan.
“Cesar Millan is amazing, and it’s been my dream to meet him,” said 18 year old Karrie Bostrom, who had been there waiting overnight. Bostrom is a college student studying Inter-cultural Studies, and came all the way from Montana.
Another family with children ahead of Karrie had an Italian Greyhound and were seeking advice on how to calm her spirit around other dogs, especially when it was walk time. “Cesar Millan is more than a dog trainer,” said dad Danny Dropkin. “You learn life lessons from him, as well as for the dog.”
Cesar has only been on television a short time, around four years, but his empire is growing like a wildfire as people in this country are trying to cope with their beloved pet’s behavior.
“Education is more my style,” said Millan, when I asked him if he planned on taking his television show in a more undercover path trying to put a stop to the puppy mills, bad backyard breeders and dog fighting clubs in the USA.
“Ignorance is the cause of these terrible things like the Michael Vick situation,” Millan added. “Training people to understand their energy, their state of mind affects the dogs, who need exercise and discipline too, is the start.”
“Empowering the human to make the right choices for their dog is key,” Millan shared. “I can train any dog on a 35 cent leash, there’s no need for the prong collars,” he added.
Were there exceptions ever?
“Yes, in matters of biology, neurological problems, like the dogs bred unnaturally for dog fighting (Vick’s case) the female and the male were force mated, and that biology creates the wrong animal, for the wrong reasons, there is no salvaging that,” finished Millan.
Balance was the key in Millan’s philosophy he shared, knowing your breeder, making sure they adhere to ethical breeding standards, and looking inward to one’s own energy and approach to the animal.
“The humanized small dog that serves as a child substitute, that animal needs to be treated the same as a large dog, otherwise it becomes completely neurotic,” Millan told me when I asked about psychological differences between large and small breeds. “There is no difference, they should be treated the same.”
“Pit Bulls are not the problem, it’s the lack of education of the owners that makes the problems we hear in the news,” Millan added. “The Seventies it was Dobermans, the dog ‘bad guys,’ then in the Eighties it was German Shepherds, the Nineties was Rottweilers and now it’s the Pit Bulls.”
Redirection is part of dog rehabilitation and retraining so that the animal understands the pack power structure and what is expected of it. Our own behavior, inner prejudices and preconceived notions about animals (and people) are our worst enemy, said Millan.
“Human behavior models in the animal kingdom, if you act afraid or are visibly disturbed by a dog, chances are he will react negatively towards you,” Millan said, getting up from his chair demonstrating how people act when they see a Pit Bull, then showing me how you should act around any dog, a calm presence, quiet, eyes forward.
What country was the craziest about their pets? “Oh please, here,” laughed Millan. “People leave money to their dogs in this country!”
What about France, where they take the dogs inside restaurants and shops?
“France intrigues me, I need to go there to see how they take unneutered male dogs inside restaurants with other dogs and there is no fighting, this is interesting,” added Millan. “I believe you should have your dogs with you, like how they do it in France, it’s good.”
“Americans are still the craziest thought.”
What was next on the horizon for Millan, along with his second book release October 2nd, and the new season on National Geographic Channel?
“My wife has suggested I do seminars, so we have the schedule posted on my website (www.cesarmillaninc.com)”
I asked Millan about his lovely wife. “It was love at first site, there really is such a thing,” he smiled. “She’s the brains behind me!”
Finally the people are let in, “Inside Edition” television crew is here and the meet and greet show begins as Millan hears out the stories of the long waiting fans, his producers fielding stories and giving out forms for submissions.
The event will keep going tonight until 7 PM in celebration of the premiere of his show. Close to 300 people were there when I left, many with their animals, every one of them most anxious to share their hopeless behavior stories with the producers and the gracious Cesar Millan too.