Animal lovers of the world, it is time to rejoice. Cesar Millan is back, and he is joined by his son Andre to take us on new adventures and teach us new things on his new show Cesar Millan’s Dog Nation premiering March 3 on Nat Geo WILD.
Even as a child in Mexico, Millan, had a way with dogs. In fact, people called him el Perrero, "the dog boy." At 21, he crossed the border into the USA, speaking no English, and soon got a job in a pet grooming store. After building his reputation as a self-taught dog expert, he went on to star in the Dog Whisperer which aired from 2004-2012 where he taught people how to better communicate with their pets. He founded the Dog Psychology Center now located in Santa Clarita, California. His first three books were all New York Times Best Sellers.
Millan doesn’t only know about dog behavior, but he genuinely loves all things related to our canine companions and he is good at communicating to humans in an entertaining and easy to understand way. For Millan, dog behavior is easy to understand, human behavior is more complicated.
Cesar Millan spoke with TheCelebrityCafe.com about his new project Cesar Millan’s Dog Nation, his most recent book Lessons From the Pack, offered tips on how to incorporate a new dog into the family, chimed in about dogs wearing clothes, discussed his philanthropic work, addressed a question about cats and more.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: What are you up to these days?
Cesar Millan: The big new thing, of course, is my new TV show, Cesar Millan’s Dog Nation, where my son Andre and I travel all around the U.S. to meet and help canine heroes, charitable organizations and all of the people and their dogs who make this place we call Dog Nation so special. On top of that, I’ve just kicked off my European tour with an all new live show called “Once Upon a Dog,” where I use the metaphor of fairytales to show how dogs impact our lives, especially as our greatest teachers. Finally, and related to that, my new book Lessons from the Pack just came out in February, and it’s all about the many things that our dogs teach us.
TCC: How many dogs do you have now?
CM: In my home pack, I have six: my pit bull Junior, Chihuahuas Coco and Taco, Alfie the Yorkie, Benson the Pomeranian, and Gio, a pug.
TCC: Do you keep any other kinds of pets?
CM: Not at home. I do have a lot of different animals at the Dog Psychology Center — llamas, a donkey, a pony, chickens, goats, and so on. Those are working animals and not what I’d call pets, although I do feel a bond with some of them similar to what I would with a dog.
TCC: What do you have to say to people who think that humans shouldn’t have pets?
CM: I can understand where they’re coming from if they think that it’s not right to keep any animal in captivity, but I do think they’re missing out. Having pets can teach us a lot of things. For kids, they are often their first lesson in responsibility, and being responsible for the well-being of another living thing is actually great for anyone, kid or adult. It teaches empathy, consistency, and so much more — especially if that pet is a dog.
TCC: So, people get a lot of flak for wanting purebreed dogs, what are your thoughts on that?
CM: I’m okay with that as long as the dog comes from a reputable breeder, although I always tell people that breed is among the least important things about a dog. It’s more important to find a dog with compatible energy and needs that will fit into your lifestyle — a really energetic Great Dane would be a terrible choice for someone living in a studio apartment, for example. But if you are going to get a purebred dog, do your research first. Find out what the likely needs of that dog are over its lifetime. Does the breed have any special dietary needs, or any physical conditions that are more likely to occur? And will you be capable of taking care of those things if they do happen?
TCC: What are some of your favorite stories in your new book?
CM: I like some of the celebrity stories because they show that when it comes to relationships with dogs, famous people are no different than anyone else, and I write about a few very touching lessons that some of them learned, particularly Alec and Hilaria Baldwin, and Kesha — although I’m not going to tell you what, you’ll just have to read it! Subject-wise, I think I connect most strongly with the chapter on how dogs teach us authenticity, and how to be our best true selves, without fear.
TCC: Where can people find your book?
CM: They can find it at CesarsWay.com, of course, as well as at their local bookstores.
TCC: Is the book available on Audible too?
CM: It isn’t available on Audible yet, but all of my other books are so it should be out in that format soon.
TCC: Please tell me about Dog Nation?
CM: As I mentioned, it’s a show in which Andre and I travel around the U.S. and meet all kinds of people and dogs. It’s very different than my other shows and, while I do help people with their dogs in it, there’s a whole lot more going on. It gives us a chance to highlight various organizations that are improving the lives of people and animals, and present various heroes, human and canine, who are either overcoming difficulties in their own lives or helping people with theirs. We also have a much wider view because my son is on it with me. I’m representing Generation X and he represents the Millennials, so there’s a little bit of something for everyone.
TCC: What do you like best about working with Nat Geo?
CM: Well, they were the ones who took a chance on me in the first place, and now it’s been fifteen years and I’m premiering a new show with them. They also have always let me be me on my shows, and never try to change who I am or what I do. And it helps that there are so many wonderful people at the network I’ve gotten to know over the years — very smart, very talented, and very down-to-earth.
TCC: What is WILD? Where can we see it?
CM: “WILD” is Nat Geo’s second channel, and it’s available via your cable TV provider. If your cable company doesn’t have Nat Geo WILD, call them up and tell them they should, because you want to watch Dog Nation!
TCC: What is the most important thing people need to do when they adopt a dog?
CM: Do their homework first. They need to determine whether it’s the right time for them to adopt. Can they afford a dog, both in terms of time and money? Are they ready and willing to make a commitment that will last for that dog’s lifetime? And then they need to figure out which dog is the right dog for their energy level and lifestyle, because a mismatch there can cause a lot of problems. Once they’ve adopted the dog, they need to be ready to be consistent and follow-through when they create the rules, and open to learning how a dog experiences the world.
TCC: What is the safest way to integrate a new dog into a family?
CM: Have everyone on the same page first. Agree on what the rules for the dog and humans are going to be. For example, the dog won’t be allowed on the sofa, or nobody can feed the dog from the dining table. When actually bringing the dog in, the dog’s primary caretaker should do it, inviting the dog into the house on-leash, and then slowly introducing her to all of the rooms in the house she’s allowed into. During this process, everyone should remain calm and avoid heaping affection on the dog by practicing what I call “no touch, no talk, no eye contact.” This gives the dog a chance to get used to a new environment, and to get over any anxiety over the experience. It also immediately associates the new place and your family with calm, inviting energy instead of making it a source of excitement. If you’re bringing a new dog into a household that already has a dog, then you need to introduce them to each other on neutral ground and take them both for a long walk together. Then, when you bring them home, you enter first and allow your existing dog to “invite” the other dog in by letting the old dog enter before the new one.
TCC: What happens when you don’t like a dog’s human caretaker? Do you ever have it out with them?
CM: I used to have an issue with patience a long time ago if I thought that someone I was working with wasn’t getting it, although that was a matter of not liking something a person was doing, rather than not liking the person. I try to accept everyone in the context of them trying to help their dog, so I focus on the things they are doing that are making their dog misbehave. I don’t even like to say the things they are doing “wrong,” just the things they don’t know how to do right — yet.
TCC: What are some of the most common mistakes people do when trying to train their dog?
CM: The biggest mistake people make is assuming that their dogs think like little humans, and that they can negotiate behavior with them, but it doesn’t work that way. Explaining “why” to a dog is pretty useless. You have to engage their instincts in order to change their behavior. This leads to the other big mistake people make: giving their dogs nothing but affection when they are misbehaving. What they don’t realize is that affection is reinforcement for behavior, so if you do it at the wrong time you’re just reinforcing the incorrect behavior. I love my dogs and I give them affection all the time but it has to be at the right time or they get confused.
TCC: Do you believe there are any dogs beyond redemption that need to be put down for behavior, not health issues?
CM: I don’t believe in ever putting a dog down for behavior issues, because that’s just punishing the dog for something wrong that humans did. I do think there are some dogs — although it’s very, very rare — that do have to be kept away from all other dogs and all humans except for the one strong pack leader whom they trust. But I think I’ve run into less than a handful of dogs that were like that in my entire career.
TCC: Are choke chains still effective for training dogs?
CM: First, I don’t like the word “choke,” because if you use it right, that’s not what you’re doing to the dog. A slip lead, preferably not metal but something soft, is a very effective tool, again when used properly. This means that you need to make sure that the lead is positioned at the top of the neck, just behind the dog’s ears, instead of at the bottom where it meets the shoulders. If the lead is at the bottom, then pulling on it will just make the dog pull back. When it’s up at the top, then all you need is a tiny tug on the lead to give your dog a correction or redirect them out of a misbehavior.
TCC: Do dogs like wearing clothes?
CM: I think some dogs may like the attention of being dressed up by their humans because they interpret it as affection, but unless it’s something that you’ve made the dog used to from the time it was a puppy, it’s probably going to always feel a little weird and unnatural to the dog. This doesn’t mean I think people should never dress their dogs up as long as they do it for the right reasons. If you’re putting booties and a coat on your dog to protect it from the weather, then that’s a pretty legitimate reason. If you’re dressing your dog up as your favorite comic book hero or something like that, it’s all right as long as you always remember that you’re really dressing the dog up for you, not for them.
TCC: Are there any toys that you think every dog should have?
CM: It’s really specific to the dog. Some dogs could play fetch all day long, while others have absolutely no interest in chasing a ball. Some might love “find the treat” type puzzle toys and others may completely ignore them. The important things are that your dog finds the toy interesting without becoming obsessed over it, and that it is size and safety appropriate for your dog. A Chihuahua is probably not going to be a good match to a Kong as big as she is, and you wouldn’t want to risk having your Malamute swallow one of those smaller size tennis balls.
TCC: Do you ever train people and their dogs without cameras present?
CM: All the time. I do have clients outside of any filmed appearances. And even if I’m working with someone for a TV show, we don’t film the entire process. I am lucky to have a crew that’s very good at fading into the background, though, so that it doesn’t interfere with the work I’m doing or put the dog or people off.
TCC: How can people get on your show?
CM: When we have openings for the TV shows, we post them on Cesarsway.com, under the “About Cesar” tab near the top of the page.
TCC: What is the Dog Psychology Center?
CM: It’s a 43 acre ranch located in the rolling hills of Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles. This is where I personally teach my Fundamentals of Dog Behavior and Training courses and also host Training Cesar’s Way courses where people can work directly with my trainers. I like to think of it as a Disneyland for dogs. In addition to the animals I mentioned, there are hiking trails everywhere. We’ve got a dog pool, a dog park, a search and rescue area, agility course, and a lot more. The other great thing about it is that even though it’s surrounded by a pretty well-developed city, the location itself is surrounded by nature, so you get a beautiful view, fresh air, and a big dose of nature along with everything else.
TCC: Please tell us about your charities?
CM: I have had a non-profit organization for the past six years and I’m very proud of the projects we have funded. The name of the non-profit is the Cesar Millan PACK PROJECT. We worked with Yale University School of the 21st Century to fund the development of an elementary school curriculum called Mutt-i-grees. It teaches children compassion, acceptance, and self-awareness. The curriculum has been taught in over 2,500 school districts in North America and has resulted in the adoption thousands of dogs, as well as helped children have compassion for animals.
Last year we conducted several big adoption events and, in total, the PACK PROJECT helped 22,000 dogs get adopted in the U.S. and Mexico.
TCC: When not training dogs, what do you like to do for fun?
CM: Anything that involves my family, good food, music or dancing. Also, running with a pack of dogs.
TCC: How did your son get involved with the show?
CM: It was a natural progression, starting with both my boys working with me on Dog Whisperer from the beginning, although back then they were usually incidental — like having them ride skateboards past a dog that liked to chase them and things like that. Around the time that my younger son Calvin got his own show, Mutt & Stuff, Andre started doing a web series for CesarsWay.com called “What’s Up Dawg!” followed by joining the cast of Nat Geo WILD’s “Pet Talk.” So it was a natural progression to bring him on to co-host Dog Nation with me, and I cannot tell you how proud I am of him. He really stepped up to the job, and watching him quickly develop an onscreen presence was amazing.
TCC: Is every member of your family an animal lover?
CM: Oh yes. I think it’s something genetic with the Millans, because we’re all animal lovers through at least five generations now, back to my great-parents. And my fiancée Jahira is also a big animal lover — which is just one of the many, many reasons that I love her.
TCC: Is anyone more of a cat person?
CM: If anyone is, they must be afraid to tell me. I think we all connect with dogs the most because they’re pack animals. I know that cats are a little bit too aloof for me, although I wouldn’t totally object to bringing one into our pack if I could find the right match that would get along with my dogs.
TCC: What’s next for you?
CM: I’m always looking to bring my message to a wider audience. I want to share with the world that dogs are our best teachers and biggest healers. We can learn so much from them about how to live life in balance, and they are a constant source of spiritual uplift and unconditional love that is so important to have in order to be healthy.
TCC: Is there anything you wish to add?
Let your dog teach you how to get the most out of life! If we could all be more like our dogs when it comes to living in the moment, being honest and authentic, and learning how to not hold grudges, the entire planet would be a much better place.
TCC: How can people get in touch with you?
CM: They can go to the contact form at my website, Cesarsway.com
Watch Cesar Millan and his pack on Dog Nation premiering March 3 on Nat Geo WILD.