When it comes to raising calm, happy pets (or kids, for that matter) trust, respect, and love are the name of the game according to “The Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan
As a lifelong dog lover, I’ve been a fan of Cesar Millan – aka “The Dog Whisperer” – since his first TV show premiered in the U.S. back in 2004. His amazing ability to communicate with animals – and almost magically transform dogs with behavioral problems – is a marvel to behold. Even more impressive is the work he’s done to fundraise and advocate for rescue and shelter dogs.
In the last few years, we’ve been lucky to have Cesar in this part of the world as he’s filmed the popular programme Cesar’s Recruit, where he works with local dog trainers to help promote his goals of preventing dog abandonment and encouraging a strong bond between dog owners and their pets. Currently filming Season 3 of Cesar’s Recruit in Singapore – it’s set to air in June through Subaru Asia – Cesar took a break to meet with local media, including two members of Team Sassy Mama who had some pressing questions for the dog training guru…
As dog owners, we’re both so excited to meet you —
One of the things I’m trying to make people understand, is that I don’t train dogs. My clients don’t have to have a dog – you don’t even have to be a religion that’s ok with dogs. The whole point of what I do is to educate people how your energy affects good or bad.
Don’t practice tension, don’t practice fear. Dog lovers tend to get overly excited [screams in a hilariously high-pitched voice]; and that draws a dog’s attention.
Living here in Singapore, you’d know that certain people don’t want dogs to come near them, so when a dog learns to be excited around humans, they don’t see religion. They just assume they’re supposed to be excited around all humans.
You’ll often see that when a doorbell rings or someone knocks on the door, a dog will go crazy barking. This heightens the tension among humans, so things somehow get even more chaotic. So when I came to America I decided, I’m not going to train dogs, I’m going to train humans!
Trust, Respect and Love are key when it comes to training animals. You’ll see it come through with horse people introducing kids to horses. Dog people, though, they focus so much on affection that they don’t get any trust or respect. That is the only reason that I have a job! Because dogs don’t respect their humans. And if your dog doesn’t truly respect you, you can’t call yourself a pack leader, which means direction and protection.
My dog is well behaved 99% of the time, sleeping by my side and following me around. But when someone knocks on the door or rings the doorbell, he goes crazy. Why is that, and what can I do to change this behavior?
One thing is a dog making the decision to follow you around. Another thing is the human asking the dog to follow you around. Most people come home, the dog follows them like a shadow, but that dog is making the decision to do that. A lot of people say, “Oh, my dog loves me so much,” but that’s just an interpretation.
So whenever they hear something, they’re going to alert you. Because they’ve heard something, you can’t set rules by those artificial limitations. Only the one who makes decisions can set rules, boundaries and limitations.
It’s very important that you tell children, or your co-workers, family members, and in this case, your dog, when to follow, when to play, and when to explore. Follow, play, explore. Even the moms of pups will make it clear when they want alone-time, yet somehow humans feel bad telling their dogs to give them distance. I don’t think most wives would feel bad telling their husbands that, though!
Eighty percent of my clients are women; and when it comes to communication with men or their children, there’s no hesitation, and no bad feelings. But when it comes to telling the dog the same thing, self-doubt and emotion creep in and overtake common sense.
It’s also important to understand the difference between calm and quiet. Quiet doesn’t mean calm – it could mean that something is wrong. Therefore the most important energy for a dog to learn, and the most important to practice, is calm energy.
The four energies you have to have are calmness, confidence, love and joy. My clients do it backwards! My clients are usually joyful, loving, not confident, and not calm. Everything in the world has a formula; if you follow it backwards, that’s the outcome!
Discipline is not punishment. It’s a matter of semantics, its meaning can even vary between countries. But discipline doesn’t have bad connotations in the animal world; if it happens to have a negative meaning for you, then you won’t project a calm energy to your dog. A lot of people don’t know themselves, and yet they want to change others. Any transformation begins with self-transformation!
Everything I do – including on Cesar’s Recruits – is to find people who have that energy, but don’t even know it, then help them take it to the next level. You can’t teach energy – you can teach skills.
Will you do any kid-related challenges on this upcoming season of the show?
All of them! In one of the challenges, they go to the beach and see people practicing “Doga” (Dog Yoga) with their dogs. And they see how calm the dogs are. And then I tell the recruits, “The mission for today is patience, and calmness. Why? Because you’re gonna go work with children!”
Immediately you see who has it, and who doesn’t. With kids it really is the same: trust, respect, love. Loyalty and honesty. Fulfill their basic needs. It’s about happiness. It’s not about how you can help them become famous, powerful and wealthy. I have clients who are all of those things, but their dogs don’t know, and they don’t care!
Everybody, at some point in their lives, just wants what is simple, natural and profound. And the closest thing you have to nature? Is a dog! Even with kids, it’s about the parents making calmness a priority.