Dog behaviourist Cesar Millan, who restores peace to areas terrorised by misbehaved canines, is ready with a new show where he explores how such dogs can affect relationships between people. In an email interview, the 44-year-old talks about his four-legged friends, and how he can calm down the most ferocious canines
Q. When did you feel that you have a natural way with dogs? Were you ever scared of handling them, especially, the aggressive ones?
A. I think my relationship with dogs is something I was born with. My mother has told me stories of how drawn I was to all animals, but especially dogs, even before I can remember anything. I was also very lucky to have a grandfather who was a farmer. When he worked the farm, so did the dogs. Whenever I went there as a kid, which was often, I was fascinated by how the dogs there just knew what to do. Watching those dogs and my grandfather, I learned the value of working always with Mother Nature, never against her.
Cesar Millan standing on a mountain with a pack of dogs in California. Pic courtesy/Adina Pliskin
I love all animals, but I’ve always had a special connection with dogs. I was only 13 when I decided that I wanted to be the best dog trainer in the world. That time I didn’t know that I would end up training people as well, in order to rehabilitate their dogs. I am never scared of dogs. Handling the aggressive ones is the best part, as I like the challenge. Experience and being aware that losing my calm in such situations will only make it worse, works for me. Staying calm but assertive can defuse the danger, especially with animals.
Q. What is your approach that makes you so successful with canines?
A. My approach is to have a calm, assertive energy in all situations. Dogs are pack animals, so they need a pack leader, who provides clear direction. Pack Leaders have to learn how their dogs experience the world and communicate, and they have to become aware of what they are communicating to their dog through their energy and body language. It’s all about listening to Nature and working with her, not against her.
Cesar Millan poses with his faithful friend and companion, Junior — a pitbull
Q. What is a big no-no when it comes to handling dogs?
A. One of the biggest mistakes I see is that owners give their dogs affection first and most often. The key to a well-balanced dog is to provide exercise, discipline, and affection – in that order. You should share affection with your dog after exercise and discipline.
Millan making a dog swim. Pics courtesy/ National Geographic Channel
Q. Which are your favourite breeds and why? How many dogs to you have?
A. In my home pack, I have five dogs: my pit bull Junior, Chihuahuas Coco and Taco, Yorkie Alfie, and Pomeranian Benson; they all are my favorites. At the Dog Psychology Center at any one time, I’ll usually have twenty to thirty dogs, along with my horse, llama, tortoise, turtle, goats, ducks, and macaw.
Cesar To The Rescue will premiere on August 30 on National Geographic Channel. An exclusive screening of the show will take place on August 23, 11.30 am at Loca Loca, Khar (W).
Dog dossier according to Cesar
>> The overwhelmed part of a dog’s wrong behaviour doesn’t come from the dog but from the owner’s reaction. And, while that owner may not be in control of the dog, they can be in control of their emotions and energy. Approach the situation with calm energy, and remember that your dog wants to behave the way you want it to. You have to learn to send clear, definite signals to tell them what you want.
>> Dogs develop behavioural problems when we fail to give them structure and guidance. If they get nothing but affection, they will have no idea what they’re supposed to do. Depending on the dog’s energy levels, this leads to all kinds of misbehavior. They may become aggressive and try to take control, or they may become fearful of everything.
>> There can be a tendency to see dogs as little humans, but they’re not. They need to have rules, boundaries, and limitations, and they need to work before being rewarded.