Changing Planet

Cesar Millan shares rules for raising better dogs

Training a well-behaved dog begins, says Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan, with a respect for canine instincts and the recognition that dogs aren’t people.
By Ford Cochran
Renowned “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan stopped by National Geographic’s Washington, D.C. headquarters yesterday to discuss Cesar’s Rules: Your Way to Train a Well-Behaved Dog. The book, which Cesar authored with Dog Whisperer executive producer and writer Melissa Jo Peltier, appears in bookstores today. The seventh season of Cesar’s hit television series premiers on the National Geographic Channel this Friday evening.

I spoke with Cesar about the book and the program.
A theme of your new book is that the key to better dog behavior is balance. What do you mean by balance?

Balance is when a dog has his needs met, and his needs are simply the needs of the body, the mind, and the heart. How do we do that? Exercise for the body. Discipline for the mind–structure, he knows what is expected of him. And then there’s the reward, the heart.

What happens to a dog when he gets exercise and is disciplined? His body becomes calm and his mind becomes surrendered. When you have a calm, submissive dog, you can teach him. You can train him. You can condition him.

Words to a dog mean nothing. But once you start putting behavior into it, that’s how dogs relate “Sit!” to putting the butt to the ground. Then they learn something about it.

It’s really difficult to train a dog when his needs are not met, because he has instinctual needs. Dog training is created by humans. It’s not part of a dog’s instincts. If we learn to fulfill the instincts, then we can come with the social part of it, which is dogs being drawn, more attracted to human beings.

That’s when they’re paying attention to the human, because now they’re hungry or now they’re playful. Those are the two most common ways to keep training exciting, because you want him to have fun with it. Food and toys create fun.

So we should be working with a dog’s instincts, not trying to defeat them?

Never! One of the things I learned growing up with my grandfather is never to work against Mother Nature. Working at negating instincts is working against nature. Every time humans try to work against Mother Nature, what happens? Mother Nature wins. You can’t train Mother Nature without actually showing respect to Mother Nature.

Many people who call themselves dog lovers don’t have the knowledge to be respectful. My goal through the show and my goal through the book is to remind people how important it is to honor the species. For example, people around horses don’t treat a horse like a human. But some people around dogs treat a dog like a human. Changing the identity of anybody creates instability.

Most of the dogs that I work with, they’re trained but they’re not stable. That means they’ll sit down, stay, come, heal, but when you bring another dog into their space they want to kill him. Balance doesn’t equal training and training doesn’t equal balance. To me, it’s very important and fundamental, the principles, the foundation. These allow you to achieve balance. Then you can train.

Let’s put it into a human example: Many people are trained, meaning they have a degree, but they’re not balanced, right? Someone might be a Harvard graduate, but can’t walk a chihuahua. That human is trained, but doesn’t know how to employ a more simplistic way of relating. The dog only sees, okay, you’re not balanced, therefore my integrity doesn’t allow me to follow you.

Humans are the only species that follow unstable pack leaders. Animals don’t follow instability, even though a person is trained. You can be a Ph.D., an M.D., and have whatever Masters you want to have–the dog is not impressed by it. You can have the most expensive suit in the world–a dog is not impressed by it. You can be the most famous human in the world, an actress, an actor–the dog is not impressed by it.

If you respect their identity, dogs give you respect back. You gain what you give.

Why dogs don’t respect my clients even though those dogs have three, four, five beds in their homes is because my clients are not respecting the identity of the dogs. This is really difficult for people to understand and to swallow. “What are you talking about? I love my dog!” But love from a human perspective versus love from a relationship perspective is two different things.

For the most part, modern humans have become very selfish. The modern human is going to fulfill his needs, and by buying things, he thinks he’s showing love. You see? A homeless human shows affection a more primal way, and therefore the outcome is going to be them being able to walk a pit bull off leash when wealthy people, or just people who have a home, sometimes, can’t walk a chihuahua off leash.

Many of the homeless have that ability to connect in a primal way. In society, these people have no money, so why should you look up to them? To me, they represent an instinctual aspect of learning behavior.
You’ve begun to answer my next question. In Friday night’s Dog Whisperer premier, we see something we’ve seen before on the show: A person who’s self-confident, famous, large and in charge, Howie Mandel, intimidated by a dog. In this case, it’s a chihuahua. Why do people, and particularly confident people, let their dogs boss them around?

It’s knowledge. A lot of people, especially with little dogs, feel that if they act in a certain way or if they discipline the dog, they’re going to hurt the dog’s feelings. Some people feel that the only way to discipline a dog is physically: They think they have to smack the dog or something like that. And that’s not the truth. The way you want to relate with animals is always to understand what state of mind you’re carrying, to become consciously aware of your mind and your emotions. Are you controlled by emotions at that time, or are you controlled by your mind?

My goal is to make people mindfully aware and emotionally in tune. That gives me access to be calm and assertive, and to be conscious. Dogs don’t know that my name is Cesar Millan, I’m from Mexico, and people call me the “Dog Whisperer.” What they know is how respectful I am of their tradition, of their code, that I tap into a language that they’re familiar with.

I can go to Russia, even though I don’t speak Russian, and I can have a relationship with a dog in Russia. I can go to Brazil. I can go anywhere in the world and communicate with a dog. I can’t communicate with a human in his language, but they will understand if I’m happy or not. That energy is a universal language. You don’t have to say a word to know how a person feels.

In the dog world, they don’t really care about the words. They care about what you’re saying under the words. The integrity of the conversation is more important than the word itself.
I let my friends on Facebook know that I’d be interviewing you this afternoon, and literally within one minute, a friend put a note on my wall and said “I love Cesar Millan.” Another wrote “If you get a chance, could you ask how you would get a nine-year-old dachshund to accept a new baby into the pack?” She’s got a brand new child, and I guess she’s having some struggles at home with the dog. Could you share any advice for her?

To me, it’s not that the dog is having a struggle with it. It’s the humans who are having a struggle with it. A lot of the time when there’s a dog and a kid, the human, the parent has a problem believing that the dog is going to get his feelings hurt. In fact, the dog is going to be absolutely happy remaining part of the family. We don’t know a lot of details about this case, but if the dog has a new baby in the house, what that says to me is that the dog has had control of certain areas of the house. A lot of times, it’s the whole entire house.

When you’re taking a dominant position, the leader position, away from someone, it’s a transition which happens that is absolutely normal. And then the dog goes into a more social behavior, a social state of mind which is the follower position.

When people call my dog very obedient and very sweet, say that he loves everybody, that’s because he’s showing a submissive state or a follower state. There are only two states of mind in a pack of dogs: the leader and the follower. Dogs in America lead humans. In most other countries, humans lead dogs. That’s why there are no psychological problems with dogs in those countries. They’re skinny, but they don’t have psychological problems.

So to me, the question that should be asked is this: Do I have a problem with the transition of my dog to becoming a dog? That to me is the more important question–How do I help my dog have a transition from what we believed that he was to who he really is. We have to focus on the reality, not the story.
Could you share one or two additional tips from your new book that will help people interact better with their dogs?

What I love about the book is that I asked four professionals to come and join me, because to me it’s all about giving people options. I always say my way is not the only way, it’s just a way. Once you have five different ways, your job is to choose one. You learn all these methods that are available from experts, from masters. Your job, then, is to make sure you fall in love with one of them.

The next thing you do is to make sure you honor and follow the master. When some people fall in love with things, it’s like buying accessories, and then they get rid of them. But when you’re talking about a philosophy, you fall in love with it and you practice it like a religion (without becoming obsessive about it). Practicing the rules, you have to begin, middle, and end, which means to follow through.

My goal is to educate the world. Dogs are always hopeful the human will get it, will choose a way, and will stick to it.
Get Cesar Millan’s new book, Cesar’s Rules: Your Way to Train a Well-Behaved Dog, and watch the premier of Dog Whisperer on the National Geographic Channel.

Ford-Cochran.jpgFord Cochran directs Mission Programs online for National Geographic. He has written for National Geographic magazine and NG Books, and edits BlogWild–a digest of Society exploration, research, and events–and the Ocean Now blog. Ford studied English literature at the College of William and Mary and biogeochemistry at Harvard and Yale, with a focus on volcanoes, forests, and long-term controls on atmospheric CO2. He was an assistant professor of geology and environmental science at the University of Kentucky before joining the National Geographic staff.

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  • kelvin

    i wanna train my pup but did not understand wht i am saying
    please try to help me out

  • Sara C. Martin

    Please help me!!! I have a female german Sheperd. Her name is Jazmin Amber Martin. I have had her since a pup. She is a great dog (baby) . Except for when people come to see me or kids. She has NEVER been abused by me. She was shot with bird shot recently but she has had this problem from the start. Once she knows you she doesn’t have a problem. I have to tell my family members except for my daughter due to she was here when I got her. Just ignore her until she decides it’s okay. I am not sure what else to do. I have taken care of the shooting problem I believe. I haven’t caught them but when she is afraid to go out and I am mostly able to go out with her I do. She feels safe with mom.(me) I bought an invisiable fence so she can’t leave her yard when we moved her. My biggest problem is my daughter is about to have a baby and I don’t know how she will react to this little one. I know my daughter is concerned just like me that Jazmin might her the baby not meaning to but just the same. I am disabled with MS and a lot of other problems though most of the time I am fine…. I play with her and love her and talk to her and when she does something she isn’t suppose to I call her by her full name use a stern voice and point the finger at her if necessary. I love her but need her more social and still be able to protect me if ever necessary. Jazmin or Jazzy jam is a great baby but I really need help I have never had any problems with dogs before. We rescued one that we still have or my daughter has named elvis… he ate a couch but since then we have made him better. I am at a complete lost. Please I am desperate. The baby with be here in April and I don’t want to make the chose between the two. Or make life stressful for jazmin. I love her like she was my child. I would do anything for her. ANYTHING!!!!! I will not give her up for any reason. I just don’t want to not have my grandbaby not be able to come here. Thank you for listening to a very much animal lover. I would love to rescue more babies. I did rescue a dachound and he loves here too. They get along great together. My mom told a friend of my once that if it ever came between them and the dog they would be gone in a heart beat. Mom said she has always been that way and hasn’t changed yet and won’t either. Mom is right.

    Thank you again.
    Sara C. Martin

  • Monica

    I don’t know if you, Cesar Millan, reply to requests made by dog owners this way. I am having real troubles and have been watching your TV shows and they do address some of my problems with my two dogs but when I try your lessons they do not work for me. I did have a dog trainer who donated his time to me because I am on disability. He did help somewhat and in fact says that he knows or has met you. If you can help me in any way I would be greatly appreciative. I do not have to get rid of one of my dogs. My motto as far as animals go I feel that once you get them they are your responsibility for the rest of their lives no matter what the circumstances. My favoriter quote that keeps me going is: “To know that one life has breathed easier, because you have lived, is the true meaning of being a success. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

  • Sandra Terrell

    I have 2 dogs, a male n female winnie dogs They are the hardest dogs to train to use a potty pad!! The female will pee on it but poop everywhere else n the male just refuses to use the potty pad at all! Please tell me how I can train them. Thanks and I love your show and it helps with other issues that come up. GOD Bless and take care 🙂

  • Melissa

    Dear Cesar: I am hoping that you can help me. My husband and I have two kids and we got an English Mastiff (6 weeks old) after losing our chocolate lab. Her name is Cruella De Vil. She is truly the most amazing breed that we have ever had!!! We started training her right away using your techniques. She seems to listen very well and is a great guard dog except for one pretty big problem…. She growls, starts to lunge and snips at kids…. she does not do it to all kids. She is excellent with our kids and even some of there friends that come over. However, there is on of my son’s friends that come over everyday and she growls at him every time!!! Ever since she was little, I have taken her to the kids soccer and baseball games and everywhere I can take her to get her used to people and kids…. I have recently stopped taking to the games because the last time I did, she actually almost bit a little kid about 7 years old… I want to be able to take her with us and not have to worry about if she is going to bite someone… I would greatly appreciate it if you could help me. Thank you so much!!!


  • Debra Jackson

    Our son brought home a St. Bernard pup last summer with all the promises of training. However, when son moved out, Sampson remained here with my husband and I. He’s somewhat trained to sit and lay down.. but that’s the only training he’s responsive to. He is too big for me to handle myself and I can’t even take him for a walk. I need help to learn how to train him effectively so that he will come when called, walk on a leash and stay when I tell him to. Also, we have a 14 yr old male German Shepherd that is always growling and snapping at Sampson even when all Sampson does is lie down in the same room. I know Mickey is probably not happy having Sampson in the home, but he’s here and that won’t be changing. Also in the house is a very friendly, happy little 3 yr old Shih Tzu who loves both of her “boys” and loves to play with Sampson but lies quietly with Mickey in the evenings. Can you help me understand why Mickey and Sampson can’t get along and how to train Sampson? Thank You

  • Michele Ratliff

    Cesar I have a 89 lb. pit bull that is fairly well behaved, I have been training him for awhile, I have a problem on walks with other dogs, he stops paying attention to me and goes into kill mode. I have tried your techneque of giving him a little tap in the tummy with my foot to refocus his attention, but he does not seem to care, I also tried to lightly pinch his tummy ( A mommy dog bite) with no results. this works on him as long as there is not something more interesting around, I have tried to stand in front of the distraction, I have tried to let him see the other dog, but hair stands up right away, PLEASE HELP ME.

  • Leonie

    Hi Cesar
    We have two dogs, a golden retriever lady named Mira who’s 8 years old and Nero, a male cocker spaniel who’s almost 6.
    We love doing sports and going to run with them. Especially we enjoy these parcours (It’s called vitaParcour) we have in Switzerland where you run about 3km and every few hundred meters you make a stop to do different kinds of exercises.
    But there is one problem. Every time we make a stop to do a workout Nero starts barking at us and approaches and walks backwards barking until we stop the workout. He does that especially with workouts where you hang on bars or rings. So we started to make shifts that one person stands next to him while the other works out (we thought it might calm him down ..) But it doesn’t really work..! He starts squeeking instead and when you stop touching his head he starts barking again.
    It’s so frustrating because people who pass get afraid and that’s why we can’t leave him off leash (well also because he tries to protect Mira from other, also much bigger, male dogs), which is unfair for him cause Mira stays calm (well.. she started barking at one exercise too, I guess to join Nero..!) and we don’t have to put her on leash…
    We really don’t know what to do, I mean, it should be best if our dogs and we enjoy going for a run the same!
    I hope you will be able to help us and we are reeeeeaaally looking forward to hearing from you!!
    Thank you so much and all the best
    Leonie and Davide
    (Btw, we love your TV shows!!!)

  • Gaby Flores

    Hey Ceasar I always love to see your Episodes. I have a Morkie(Bruce)that is previously staying at my Grandmas house because my little sister is allergic to him. My Grandma has a German Spepherd and she is very old. Bruce pees inside the house sometime a drench of pee or sometimes a mark. He usually licks my face and sometime my sister. When we take him for a walk he pulls the leash and I am using your techniques but it will not work. I am so fusterated that he will not listen to me. I am a 14 years old and I got him last summer.

  • Danielle

    My husband and I wanted to adopt from a shelter instead of getting a puppy. We fell for Bailey, who we were told was a Dalmatian – Lab mix, when we took her home we soon realized she is a pit bull mix. We have had her for three months and have been taking her once a week for training and once a week for a play time to keep her socialized. We walk her three times a day -however she never gets tired. She constantly wonders around the house and even with our best efforts we are unable to get her walk w/out pulling or chasing after other dogs. She does not appear to be aggressive, seems to want to play – but she bites, or nibbles all the time. Again biting when she wants to play or when we tell her -no. I have had some pretty big bruises. As she was picked up as a stray we are unsure about her age- maybe a year. We watch your show and read your books and try to apply what to do – but I guess we don’t get it because nothing has changed. We have a lot of family members who are young ones who have been bit by her – when she is going after something in their hand – nothing that brakes skin, but does hurt! At night I guess she gets tired and gets very affectionate and wants to be right on top of us when we are watching T.V. At the dog park she seems submissive as she is the one always on her back with the other dogs on top of her – but she is definitely the one with the unstable energy. The other dogs will all be walking around calm – then Bailey comes in and madness takes over with every other dog chasing her and trying to pin her down. As soon as we leave the other dogs are calm again. Please help as we are Baffled over Bailey!

    • Can you share some experience about adopt dog. I heard that, adopted dogs not suitable there was some problems. Like health problem, adjust environment and many more.Is it true? One thing more, Is adopted dogs are pure breed dog?

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