Cesar Millan, the self-proclaimed “Dog Whisperer” of reality-TV fame, has a bone to pick with American dog owners.
People who insist on treating dogs like spoiled children don’t do their pets — or themselves — any favors, according to the star of Dog Whisperer With Cesar Millan.
The show, which premiered in 2004 on the National Geographic Channel, is carried in more than a dozen countries.
“Knowledge makes you a confident dog owner,” said Millan, who, as a poor child in Mexico, learned to understand dogs by observing them on his grandfather’s farm.
He made a move to San Diego at age 21 and got a job as a groomer, eventually helping people handle canines with behavioral problems.
His message is simple: Dogs do best when treated like dogs, thanks to “pack leadership” from owners.
Regular exercise, discipline and affection represent other keys to raising calm and balanced dogs.
Millan, 42, is in the midst of a six-city speaking tour (with his pit bull, Junior) that began in Baltimore and will end in April in Norfolk, Va.
He recently set aside time to talk.
Q: Could you sum up your approach to handling dogs?
A: My approach is I don’t want to train the dog; I want to fulfill the needs of the dog. The hardest thing for a dog to learn is to be apart from his family. So, as soon as you get a dog, you have to teach him about separation so he doesn’t develop separation anxiety.
Q: How does the live show differ from what people see on television?
A: It allows me to break down the fundamentals, why they’re important and how to execute them. The fundamentals include honesty, integrity and loyalty. Multimedia allows me to show things in more detail. I can walk people through a little more in depth.
Q: Are you as nice in person as you seem to be on television?
A: Oh, man — so far, nobody has ever complained about my being inconsistent.
Q: What is the biggest mistake that people make with their dogs?
A: I would say compatibility. They choose a dog that’s not compatible with their energy. Most people choose a dog that’s cute or one they saw with a celebrity or one they saw in a magazine. A good example is (the movie) 101 Dalmatians. Everyone fell in love, and then, all of a sudden, the shelters were full of Dalmatians.
Q: Are some dogs simply uncontrollable?
A: Dogs that have neurological problems, yeah. That’s why puppy mills and backyard breeders are not healthy. You have to understand genetics. You can breed insecurity, anxiety and aggression.
Q: Your approach isn’t universally accepted. In a Facebook group called “Protest Cesar Millan Columbus,” some of the comments suggest that your methods are too domineering. What do you say?
A: I respectfully disagree. They’re not making an evaluation based on really getting to know me, on how I work and what I do. Without a doubt, I’m not for everybody.
But not everybody likes Dr. Phil or Oprah or Obama or the Dalai Lama. It’s normal and human nature to disagree. We don’t have a problem saying (golfer) Tiger Woods or (quarterback) Tom Brady dominated. But when applied to the animal world, the human comes across as a dictator. To me, dominance is to give direction and protection.
Q: Is it possible to apply your methods to other animals or even human relationships?
A: Fulfillment is what I’m suggesting — learning about the other species before you tell them what you want to do. Oprah is a good example of calm, confident energy. If you act calm and confident around animals, they’re going to give you love and respect. Oprah is dominant. She controls television. She’s the pack leader. That’s my role model right there.
I would never put a leash on a kid, but I’d take him for a walk. When a human goes to church, he becomes submissive. You will see a lot of humans being calm and submissive in church. That’s when you can hear the Word. At that moment, God is the pack leader.
Submission is about being open-minded.
Q: Even beekeepers get stung. Where’s the most embarrassing place you’ve been bitten?
A: They have not bitten me down there, but they’ve hit me down there.
Q: Can people eat dog biscuits?
A: Some people are doing some amazing biscuits. But I don’t eat dog biscuits.