Animals Are My Paradise

This dog is out of control! The owner's used to walk Max downtown, but he growled and bared his teeth every time they came close to anyone, and if another dog approached – forget about it. So they stopped taking Max outside. Now they can't even have guests in their house because Max scares everyone. They love Max, but this problem is getting worse. What can they do?
  • celebrities
  • education
  • training
Dogs for Kids in November 2007

The owners call Cesar Millan, also known as "The Dog Whisperer." Cesar makes a visit to the home. He walks in, sits with the owners on the couch. He listens carefully as the owners describe Max's scary behavior.

Cesar stands up and says "It's time to meet Max."

The owners go into the next room. They come out with Max on a tight leash, growling and baring his teeth.

Cesar tells them it's OK to let go of Max's leash.

"Are you sure?" both owners ask. Cesar tells them again to let go of the leash.

The owners drop the leash. Cesar goes right up to Max, cool and confident, standing tall, calm, and steady. His eyes are focused on Max's face.

"I can't watch," one of the owners says, covering her eyes.

Max sniffs Cesar's shirt. Instead of growling and baring his teeth, Max sits. Cesar moves closer. Slowly, Max sniffs Cesar's hand and arms. Max's eyes follow Cesar. His whole body is relaxed.

Cesar takes Max's leash and walks back towards the owners. Max follows behind like a puppy, then curls up quietly at Cesar's feet.

"I can't believe it!" one owner says.

Cesar sits with the owners and describes some simple steps they can take to make sure Max is like this all the time. The owners follow Cesar's advice. Pretty soon, they are going downtown with Max. They can invite people over their house without worries. Max is a great dog!

You can watch Cesar in action on his TV show, which appears weekly on The National Geographic Channel. He travels the country, walks into homes with all sorts of troubled dogs – Boxers, Chihuahuas, Pugs, Labs, Poodles, and every mix you can imagine. No matter what the problem, Cesar understands the dog's thoughts, the dog's feelings.

Cesar is known as a dog trainer. But he never went to school to learn about dogs. He grew up on a ranch in Mexico, in a very poor family, where he spent time with all kinds of animals. He just had a natural connection with them.

"From the very beginning, animals were extremely important to me," Cesar says. "I loved moving with the pigs and chickens and birds on the ranch. I didn't care about getting muddy and dirty. To me, as long as I was with the animals, it was paradise."

Cesar learned that he can have a great relationship with animals if he "whispers" to them, instead of yelling at them. "I always heard them," he says. "I never worked against Mother Nature. I had this ability to just be with the animals. I wanted to gain their trust and respect, so they would gain mine. I never ask them to do anything for me I'm not ready to do for them."

For Cesar, dogs were the most special of all animals. "Dogs are the closest thing we have to Mother Nature that we are allowed to live with," he says.

If you want to become a good trainer, Cesar says, try seeing things from the dog's perspective. Think about how dogs experience the world. "Humans are all about eyes first. But dogs are nose, then ears, then eyes. If the dog can't smell you, they don't know who you are. When a dog wants to smell you, let them do it, let them finish. Then they know you, they know your energy."

By doing this, Cesar says, you are becoming a "pack leader." You are allowing the dog to come towards you. The dog wants to listen to you, because you are calm and confident.

Watching Cesar on his TV show, you can see that he does not raise his voice, and still he is in total control. "I never create tension or fear," Cesar explains. "That would be like punishment, not leadership. That's the wrong energy."

It's not just dogs. Cesar is the kind of guy people want to listen to as well. When he was a kid, he must have been really popular, right? Absolutely not, Cesar says.

Growing up in Mexico, kids used to tease Cesar because he spent all his time with dogs. They called him "perrero," which he describes as "A nasty word for 'a guy who smells like dogs.' They were negative, but they knew I had something because packs of dogs followed me around."

Even his father could be discouraging. "He didn't want me to be a dog whisperer," Cesar explains. "He was afraid I'd be hurt if I didn't achieve my dream."

Instead of worrying about how different he was, Cesar stayed focused on his dream of becoming a dog trainer. He says kids today who want top work with dogs have a much brighter future than he had, because there are so many more opportunities.

Even with his own television show, Cesar still has big dreams. He wants to reach out all over the country to help thousands of dogs with behavioral problems. His plan is to create "dog psychology centers." These are places where dogs with behavioral problems would come in with their owners and meet a dog whisperer, just like Cesar.

If there could be hundreds of dog psychology centers, Cesar says, there would not be so many dogs in animal shelters. A lot of those shelter dogs are really wonderful pets. They just need someone to work with them, like Cesar does on "The Dog Whisperer." Just like Max.

But Cesar cannot do this by himself. He's calling on you, the reader.

"All those kids who dream of being dog trainers – we need them!" Cesar says. "We're on a journey, a mission to help the world be better to dogs. We need a lot of dog whisperers, kids who totally believe they have what it takes to make a difference."

Cesar's two boys, 8 and 12 years old, are becoming part of this mission. "But we need to have way more kids with a passion for Mother Nature," Cesar says. "I know they are out there. They're just kind of quiet right now. But together, we're going to spread this mission all over the world."