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Cesar Millan - Secrets of The Dog Whisperer

Updated on February 28, 2008

Who is Cesar Millan?

The man known as "The Dog Whisperer" was born in Mexico and spent his childhood on a ranch interacting with a variety of animals. He learned to respect nature and to understand animal behavior from his grandfather. It is perhaps this simple and bucolic life that allowed young Cesar Millan to become aware to the way animals, especially dogs, communicate with each other and what they need to be happy or, as Cesar says, "balanced."

Growing up watching Rin Tin Tin and Lassie, Millan decided that when he grew up he would go to Hollywood and become the world's best dog trainer. Once he actually made the trip to the United States, and encountered many dogs who were neurotic, depressed, and aggressive, he changed his mind and decided to help these dogs achieve the state of "balance" he had seen in the dogs he grew up with in Mexico. In the meantime, he was working in Hollywood as a dog groomer and his reputation grew. He became known for being the one person who could consistently handle the most difficult and aggressive dogs that the other groomers wouldn't touch.

Cesar Millan and Friend
Cesar Millan and Friend

Cesar becomes famous

It was a strange twist of fate that changed Cesar's life, and the lives of countless dogs. Will Smith and Jada Pinkett, both big dog lovers, had heard of Cesar's special abilities with dogs and asked for his help with some behavior problems they were having with their Rottweilers. Cesar impressed them and the couple started recommending him to their friends. With this, the "Dog Whisperer" was born. Within a few years, Cesar Millan appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and eventually was offered his own show on the National Geographic Channel.

Cesar's approach is a simple one. Because dogs are pack animals, they naturally follow a pack "leader." The humans with whom they live should be assuming this role, but most don't. That's what causes many dogs to become distressed and confused and to try to assume the pack leader role themselves. In fact, many dog owners openly admit that their dogs run their homes. This may seem amusing to people, but is very unhealthy psychologically for the dogs.

In fact, most American dog owners don't treat their dogs like dogs at all. They treat them like small people in dog suits. Think about it. How many times have you heard someone refer to their dog as their "baby" or told some story about their dog in which they totally anthropomorphize the animal, ascribing human motivation and emotions to the dog. Again, this may be amusing, but it isn't healthy for the dog. Dogs are dogs. They are wonderful animals and are beloved members of our families, but unless we accept them for what they are, and try to give them what they need, they will be maladjusted and not be fulfilled or "balanced" members of their own species.

So what do dogs need to be "balanced?" It's really very simple. According to Cesar, dogs need: 1. Exercise, 2. Discipline, and 3. Affection. Americans tend to give lots and lots of affection to their dogs and little or no exercise or discipline.

1. Exercise. In the wild, dogs walk for 10 to 12 hours each day, patroling their territory and looking for food. Domesticated dogs get one 15 minute walk a day, if they're lucky. Exercise is essential for good health - both physical and psychological. Cesar recommends that you walk your dog for 30 - 45 minutes every day. If you aren't able to take your dog outside, a good walk on a treadmill (always supervised) is a great substitute.

2. Discipline. By this, we are not talking about punishing your dog. We are talking about making sure there are rules, boundaries, and limitations. Dogs need to know what is expected of them. If they don't know what you want from them, they can become anxious or depressed. If rules are not enforced consistently, the dog will become confused and frustrated. Make sure rules, boundaries, and limitations are clear and make sure they are enforced consistently.

3. Affection. This one is obvious. This can be physical affection, verbal praise, play time with you, a special treat, or any other way you show your love to your dog. It's also important that you give affection at the right times. We tend to treat our dogs like children, showing them affection when they are anxious in an effort to calm them down. This actually reinforces their anxiety. Affection should only be given when your dog is in a calm submissive state.

Who Cesar is NOT

One thing to keep in mind is that Cesar Millan is not a dog trainer. He does not focus on teaching dogs tricks, although his methods usually produce significantly better behaved dogs, which can seem like a trick in itself. Cesar himself says that he, "rehabilitates dogs and trains people." His focus is on the dog's mental, social, and emotional state. Once a dog has achieved "balance," he will be a happier dog and a better companion to his owner, as long as the owner remembers that he's a dog first!

Watching Cesar interact with a dog who is "unbalanced" is quite impressive. He communicates with dogs through his calm, assertive energy and gets them to respond with a calm, submissive state, thus producing a more natural and balanced relationship with the dog. His respect for dogs as well as his genuine love for them is clear to anyone who sees his work. As his message spreads, more and more dogs have hope of being rehabilitated and leading more rewarding and mutually satisfying lives with their human companions.

Up Close With "Dog Whisperer" Cesar Millan PT 1 of 3


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    • SamboRambo profile image

      Samuel E. Richardson 

      7 years ago from Salt Lake City, Utah

      Great Hub. I'm for helping animals as much as possible.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I HATE CESAR MILAN HE IS A HORRIBLE DOG TRAINER HIS WAYS OF TRAINING victoria stillwell is not a fan of cesar domonance is wrong alpha rolling is wrong

    • Random Person profile image

      Random Person 

      9 years ago from San Diego, California

      Nice hub!


      Random PERSON

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      One thing to keep in mind when you are going to employ Cesar's methods, is that you must master the Calm assertive state of mind first, i can speak from experience, that one calm assertive tug on the leash at the right moment, is worth more than a million, angry, fearful, or tense ones.

    • 02SmithA profile image


      10 years ago from Ohio

      Great post. I didn't know Will Smith and Jada got things started for him. Nice little tidbit.

    • sdorrian profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Chicago

      Thanks, Funride. I agree - we could all use a lot more exercise. ;) Walking the dog is a great start.

    • funride profile image

      Ricardo Nunes 

      10 years ago from Portugal

      Great hub! Thank you for letting me get to know Cesar Millan history.

      About the exercise issue I believe that it´s also true for humans and I speak for myself ;)

    • sdorrian profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Chicago

      Thanks for reading my Hub, pgrundy! I always love to hear from other dog owners who have enjoyed my Hubs.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      What a great hub! I love his show, and have learned so much from it. On an unrelated note altogether, people like Cesar Milan, Guillermo del Toro, and others, plus the Mexican immigrants I talk to at my bank job everyday--all these people make it hard to join in on the Mexcan bashing that's going on these days. Mostly I find lots to admire and am slowly learning some Spanish too. I wish Americans would calm down about the whole thing and actually meet some human beings.

    • helenathegreat profile image


      10 years ago from Manhattan

      Oh, absolutely! A tired dog is a well-behaved dog!! Even a dog that doesn't require over-the-top exercise will be better behaved after a long walk. And super high-energy dogs that aren't given a job to do will destroy your house without the right amount of exercise! :)

    • sdorrian profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Chicago

      Thanks for the comment Helena. I have also heard of the issues regarding the "alpha roll" and I agree, people shouldn't just try to do all of these techniques themselves, especially with aggressive dogs. That type of thing should be left to the professionals. For me, the biggest revelation was how much of a difference exercise can make for a dog with behavioral problems. They need an outlet for their energy. If they don't get enough exercise, they will simply eat your couch instead! 

    • helenathegreat profile image


      10 years ago from Manhattan

      Great hub! I don't agree with some of the techniques that Cesar uses on some of the dogs he trains (people shouldn't just go around "alpha rolling" their dogs), but his general ideas are true: dogs are pack animals, and we have to treat them as such.


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