Vallarta Living | November 2008
|A Quick Q&A with the Dog Whisperer|
Andrew Williams - Metro.co.uk
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Cesar Millan, 39, has won a cult British following through his canine-training antics in TV show The Dog Whisperer. Millan, who went to the US as a non-English-speaking Mexican illegal immigrant, manhandles the mutts and regularly insists: 'I'm not being aggressive, I'm being dominant.'
You’ve worked with Will Smith’s and Oprah Winfrey’s dogs. Are celebrity dogs more prone to being mental than average dogs?
If you don’t provide a dog with exercise and discipline, regardless of whether you’re a celebrity, it will go insane. There are dogs that fly in private planes and are picked up in limos. The owners employ a special person to walk them. They’re treated like kids. They feed the dogs ice cream. When I come back I want to be a dog in America. But dogs don’t know they live a celebrity life and have the same problems as any other dog.
What are the most common mistakes people make with their dogs?
Humanisation. Treat the dog as a dog, don’t treat him as a person. Saying ‘good morning, what do you want for your breakfast?’ is good if you’re talking to a human. A dog needs a long walk first, then you give it breakfast. It needs to follow rules first. Some people make the dog their baby or don’t have anyone to talk to and use their dog for that. The human fulfils himself through the dog rather than thinking about the dog’s needs.
What’s the most extreme case you’ve seen?
I’ve just worked with two aggressive hybrid wolves – they were huge, 80 per cent wolf and showed their teeth a lot. That’s just their way of communicating. Fearful cases are more challenging. You have to build their self-esteem. They will jump through windows to get away from you. I’m working with a dog now who won’t eat and just hides in a corner. It takes an hour and a half to feed her every day. When it comes to food, it looks like she’s hearing voices. I have never seen this before.
Will the current chav craze for pit bulls breed a generation of psychopathic mutts?
It’s a stereotype that low-income families want an aggressive dog. Some low-income families just want a well-behaved pit bull. In Los Angeles many homeless people have pit bulls but it’s never in the news that they attack people. It’s not the dog, it’s the human behind the dog. Of course, if the human consciously nurtures aggression, they’ll be aggressive. My dog centre is in a low-income area of LA and often the people get a pit bull to look tough or show off as part of a gang. Other times people just want them as regular, nice family pets. You can buy pit bulls for Ł50 in America – they’re the cheapest type of dog so no wonder they’re popular.
You’re depicted training Cartman to behave himself on an episode of South Park. Would your methods really work on children?
My philosophy is exercise, discipline and affection, and I’ve used those methods on my children – I just don’t put them on a leash. You have to earn what you get, it’s an important principle in life. I remind my children how blessed they are to live in America, a country which provides so much. Respect is the key. That kid in South Park is not very respectful…
My philosophy is exercise, discipline and affection, and I’ve used it on my children – I just don’t put them on a leash
American animal charities have said your methods are out of date and brutal. What do you make of that?
I never say my way is the only way. I’m not training dogs, I’m rehabilitating violent cases and training their owners. When you have a dog that doesn’t want to play with a toy, he wants to kill a human, you have to use different methods to those you’d use on a regular, calm dog. The people who criticise are very closed-minded. I’ve shared what I know from Mexico. I can walk a pack of 50 dogs not on a leash, no school in the world teaches you how to do that. The communication I have with dogs is a primal thing. I’m not revolutionising dog training theory, I’m rehabilitating unstable dogs. My show has done tremendous good for society in America. Adoption rates for dogs from animal shelters are higher, returning and ‘euthanisation’ rates are lower.