Cesar Millan is a widely known best-selling author, public speaker, dog behaviorist and dog trainer. His career in the area of animal behavior and rehabilitation spans more than 25 years.
Biography, Career and Dog Training Program
Millan was born César Felipe Millán Favela in 1969 in Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico. He spent the early years of his life working with animals on his grandfather’s farm in Mexico. There he earned the title el Perrero, ‘the dog boy’, because of his natural ability to handle dogs remarkably well.
At the age of 21, César Millan crossed the Mexican border into the United States. He had no visa and spoke no English. His first job was at a dog grooming store. Later he became a limousine driver which one day led to his meeting with Jada Pinkett Smith, the wife of famous actor Will Smith. She was one of his first customers and later became a client and supporter. She provided him with a tutor to help him with learning English.
While he had other jobs, he never lost sight of his ability and success working with dogs. While living in Los Angeles he opened the Pacific Point Canine Academy and the Dog Psychology Center. His Dog Psychology Center was a 2 acre facility in Los Angeles where he specialized in working with large breed dogs.
Millan’s reputation as a self-taught dog behaviorist and his work successfully rehabilitating dogs earned him great acclaim. A little more than a decade after his arrival into the US, Millan was profiled in the Los Angeles Times and began working with MPH Entertainment.
A successful television pilot led to the creation of The Dog Whisperer, a reality TV series which followed Millan as he worked with dogs with behavioral problems. The Dog Whisperer premiered on the National Geographic Channel in 2004, and subsequently moved to National Geographic WILD. During the years that followed, The Dog Whisperer was seen in more than 80 countries.
Daddy, an American Pit Bull Terrier, was an integral part of the program. Daddy was one of Millan’s personal dogs and assisted Millan in his work rehabilitating dogs with behavioral issues. When Daddy died in 2010, Junior, another Pit Bull, was selected to assume Daddy’s role in Millan’s work. The final episode of The Dog Whisperer was broadcast in late 2012.
In 2009, Millan added to his many titles that of Editorial Director when he launched the magazine Cesar’s Way. This magazine combined advice from Millan to dog owners and articles about the relationship of dogs and humans.
In the ensuing years Millan added to his media credits with
- Cesar Millan’s Leader of the Pack (2013), a National Geographic WILD documentation television series
- Cesar 911 (2014) National Geographic WILD
- Mutt & Stuff (2015) Nickelodeon channel series for preschoolers
Dog Rehabilitation and Training
Millan attributes his success rehabilitating and working with dogs to his calm-assertive energy handling technique. His work with animals at an early age and in particular with dogs, which are pack animals, led to the development of his unique training and handling philosophy. Dog owners are not merely “owners” but rather play the vital role of pack leader for the dog. Millan believes that dog owners must establish themselves as calm assertive leaders of their pack.
As a pack leader, communication between owner and dog is crucial. Dogs communicate primarily with body language and sounds; humans primarily with speech. It is important as the pack leader than the owner understand the signals that he or she is sending. To that end Millan emphasizes the use of vocalizations (tstk, tsch), gestures and body language to communicate effectively with dogs. Millan believes that dogs understand and interpret a person’s energy more easily than speech.
Through his work, Millan came to believe that dogs have three primary needs.
As with any dependent, it is incumbent upon the owner/leader to provide these needs. Millan emphasizes that they must be provided in that specific order: challenging exercise appropriate for the dog’s energy level, clearly communicated boundaries, limitations and rules, and affection.
Unfortunately, American owners in particular tend to use a human perspective and reorder this hierarchy by giving a lot of affection, insufficient exercise and even less discipline. To put it bluntly, the pack virtually has no leader. This puts stress on the dog to provide those functions for himself and thus begins a string of undesirable behaviors… on both ends as the owner is not pleased with the dog’s behavior and the dog has been put in a position in which he has had to take on the role of pack leader.
In his work rehabilitating dogs Millan guides the dog owners by explaining to them how their own attitudes, physical postures and internal emotions have an effect on a dog’s behavior. He shows them how strong postures and calm-assertive energy projects the type of pack leader to which a dog will positively respond. Millan’s TV appearances demonstrate him using his techniques to rehabilitate dogs and educate their owners on his dog-handling philosophy.
In some instances the behavioral problems are severe and warrant more intensive rehabilitation at his Dog Psychology Center. These series episodes are not intended as a substitute for professional assistance but demonstrate what can be accomplished with assistance of a professional trained in behavior modification techniques.
Read further about Cesar Millan’s dog training approach and Pack Leadership Techniques