Few dog trainers have received as much attention as Cesar Millan, known to most as “The Dog Whisperer.”
What started in 2004 as a back-channel cable TV show begat millions of books sold all over the world; videos and DVDs; a monthly magazine; a website; the Millan Foundation; a Dog Psychology Center; and celebrity endorsements from the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith and Nicolas Cage.
But oh how the mighty have fallen. These days, Cesar Millan’s methods are hotly debated, with readers on online forums boiling over with anger. Even some veterinary behaviorists don’t like The Dog Whisperer. And the furor isn’t just online; a protest took place on January 15, 2012, for example, at a theater in Rochester, New York, where Millan gave a talk.
And that’s apparently not all. “There has been so much attention to this that other cities where he is performing are doing the same,” says Ada Simms, Rochester protest organizer.
“Protests are being organized in Columbus and Akron, Ohio, where Cesar is performing,” Simms says. “There have been inquiries from as far away as Europe, where Cesar will be on tour after his US tour ends.”
What happened? Where did things go wrong for TV’s onetime top dog guru?
How the Juggernaut Began
Millan received no formal training; he is a noncertified, self-taught expert. This real-world learning began when he was a kid in Mexico and was known as “the dog boy” because he had a natural touch. Later, in the United States, he worked with aggressive dogs as part of a grooming business. He then created a canine academy, which attracted some high-profile clients.
The TV series Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan premiered in the fall of 2004 on the National Geographic Channel and was a runaway success. The bestselling book Cesar’s Way quickly followed.
Millan’s training philosophy in a nutshell? Your dog needs strong “pack leadership” from you (the true “alpha dog”) in order to be healthy and balanced. Call it dominance theory.
The longer version: He says to handle your dog with “calm-assertive energy,” giving it plenty of exercise, clear boundaries and rules, and lots of affection when the time is right. Your dog is a dog, not a human, and is to be treated like one, Millan says. You need to put your dog in its place when it is aggressive, using force — finger jabs to the abdomen, “alpha rolls,” even choke collars — if required. (Please note: Pets Adviser does not advocate this.)
THERE’S MORE… This article continues on page two, where we talk about how Cesar Millan critics are starting to speak up. Keep reading here: Page 2
Here’s an interesting Wall Street Journal video interview with Millan, worth watching: