“It’s about energy” said the Dog Whisperer, after pouring half a can of Red Bull into his glass of water. But he wasn’t talking about energy in the Red Bull sense, he was talking about the energy you possess around your dog that directly translates into how they perceive your interactions with them. What you see on TV is exactly what you get; there are no differences. The real life Cesar Millan is the same charismatic, confident and even subtly intense person that you’ve seen on the National Geographic Channel. He’s that same amazing guy that can instantly calm almost any dog within minutes. He’s never out of character, for there is no character. This is really Cesar Millan; the man, the myth, the dog legend.
I had the pleasure of sitting down one on one with the Dog Whisperer on Monday, right here in DC at 1600 M St NW, the headquarters of NatGeo. Cesar was in town to launch his new book, How To Raise the Perfect Dog, as well as to host the world premiere of the sixth season’s first episode of his Emmy nominated show. As 300 people intently watched the first-ever public showing of the new episode in the auditorium, Cesar and I sat down to chat in a side room with one of his new dogs Angel, a Miniature Schnauzer. While Angel didn’t have much to say, Cesar had no problem immediately answering my questions with an eagerness you’d expect from someone just trying to make it big. But Cesar has already made it big, many times over. Over 100 episodes aired, his fourth book published, a magazine bearing his name and endless products sold under his brand, Cesar is about as big of a dog superstar as you can get. And I’m not going to lie to you, my Jack Russell Max and I love this man. There, I said it. I’m biased.
It was only natural that I ask if America’s favorite dog celebrity had met America’s First Dog, Bo Obama. “I have not, but I need to.” Cesar explained that, because the energy surrounding the President and his staffers is surely nothing but stress filled, Bo’s caretakers need to be very (wait for it) calm and assertive and ensure that he is raised a very calm dog. But not just for Bo’s sake. If Bo possess the proper level of calm energy, he can in return help lower the energy and stress level of the President and his family. It works both ways. In fact, Cesar even noted that your dogs will reflect your principles, your integrity and your morals. Over the course of our discussion, it became pretty clear to me that Cesar would fall on the “nurture” side of the never ending nature vs. nurture sociology debate.
In response to my questions on how someone who lives in a small apartment or condo, like most of us, should go about considering the dog to get, he stressed that size is not the number one thing to base your decision on. When it comes to avoiding noise complaints from your neighbors, having a Great Dane may win out over having a little Rat Terrier. But the breed does not define how the dog will act or behave, according to Cesar. The dog’s behavior is a direct result of your behavior. As Cesar always says, he rehabilitates dogs; he trains people. With his three previous books focusing on that rehabilitation, that’s why he decided to write his latest one.
How to Raise the Perfect Dog, Cesar described to me, is about preventing bad behavior from the start instead of having to correct it with intervention down the road. He firmly believes that a person can actually raise a perfect dog. I’m not going to say you will be able to do so just by buying his book, but I do know that my dog Max has benefited significantly from what I’ve learned by watching Cesar over the last few years. And Max doesn’t even have to say so, his actions speak louder than his words.
In my attempt at reigning in a celebrity of national status, who just happened to be in DC, to focus on questions relative to our fine city and its citizen dogs, I asked Cesar what he thought about dog parks; the trendy urban way to exercise your dog all around the city and surrounding ‘burbs. “Dog parks are like Starbucks” exclaimed the Whisperer, which received a chuckle from his passing publicist. For a second there, I wondered if, by that comparison, he meant dog parks sell $4 and $5 coffee concoctions to furry little dogs to keep them caffeinated, served by other furry little dogs in green aprons! Maybe that’s like an LA thing (where he lives)? Thankfully, he quickly ended my brief day dream by expanding on the notion and explaining that dog parks should actually be seen as affection. A dog park is a place for an already calm dog to go to socialize and hang out with their fellow dog neighbors. It’s a reward. It’s not a primary means of exercise. Cesar instructs that you should only take your dog to a dog park if and when it is in a calm state and has already expounded it’s energy (if you’ve watched the show, you know dogs often use treadmills in LA). Then it gets a nice pat on the head and a chance to hang out with its boys at the park as a reward for a job well done.
Just as I began to discuss the Cesar and Ilusion Millan Foundation with him and the work they are doing for animal shelters around the country, the sound of applause grew louder and louder from the adjacent auditorium. The viewing of the show had come to an end and it was time for Cesar’s live appearance with his fans. Cesar spent about 20 minutes talking to the audience and answering questions from “how do I make my dog eat” to “how do I stop the aggression”. His animated answers often involved him acting out the state of the dog in question, putting both hands in the air to demonstrate what a tense and high energy dog would be acting like. Hint: A tense and high energy dog will not listen to anything you tell them!
A group of audience members had been previously selected to skip the book signing line and get their copies, purchased at NatGeo the day before it launched to the world, signed by the dog wizard in person. Following the select crowd’s time, the gates were opened for an additional 200 or so people to line up and receive Cesar’s autograph on the inside cover of their new hardback book. Each one of those in attendance likely had at least one dog at home, hoping to strive for that ultimate title of “perfect dog.” And Cesar was giving them the drive, knowledge and inspiration they need to be the calm, the assertive, the pack leader.
On Friday, October 9th at 9PM, The Dog Whisperer begins its sixth season focusing on raising four puppies, of four different breeds, from puppyhood through adulthood in as perfect a manner as possible. The book, How to Raise the Perfect Dog, was released today.