Bernadette Sedillos SelfEl Paso Times
Master the walk, urges ‘Whisperer’
Cesar Millán isn’t a household name yet, but as dog trainer to Hollywood celebs and star of a TV show, it won’t be long before Millán becomes the next Dr. Phil — for pooches, of course.
Millán, who hosts the National Geographic Channel’s program “The Dog Whisperer,” will come to El Paso on Aug. 21.
“He’s amazing, really; he definitely has a gift,” said Loretta Hyde, Animal Rescue League shelter manager. “He never raises his voice; he never hits the animals. He doesn’t just train dogs, like in obedience school; he rehabilitates them.”
The nonprofit league, which operates a no-kill shelter for dogs and cats in Canutillo, is sponsoring Millán’s seminar on dog behavior.
“He’s a hot item in California, and his popularity is really growing,” Hyde said.
He’s being propelled to fame because so many of Hollywood’s elite swear by his techniques.
Millán’s celebrity clients include Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Vin Diesel, Nicolas Cage, Ridley Scott, Michael Bay and Hilary Duff.
Millán, a native of Sinaloa, Mexico, who now lives in Inglewood, Calif., owns the Dog Psychology Center of Los Angeles. He is nicknamed The Dog Whisperer for the successful, yet calm, skills he exhibits when training troubled canines.
“What I do is fulfill the dog’s need,” Millán said in a telephone interview from California. “If we just learn to fulfill their needs before we fulfill our needs, they will never develop instability.”
Millán isn’t talking about spoiling a dog, either.
In fact, he said, many of the behavioral problems dogs develop are a result of people misunderstanding that a dog is, by nature, a pack animal. Instead, many dog owners — particularly in American cities — tend to view a dog as a little person and to deal with it as a person and not as a pack animal that is primarily ruled by instinct.
Millán said dogs develop “problems” only when they live with human beings. “They learn emotions when they live with humans; that’s where they get a taste of that.”
What dogs need more of, Millán suggests, is exercise — and not just a few minutes around the block.
“To any dog in America, it’s very important to walk every day, because it gives them access to feel that they are migrating,” Millán explained. “Birds need to fly. Fish need to swim, and the dog, he needs to walk. That’s how he becomes in tune with Mother Nature.”
Millán, who grew up on his grandfather’s ranch in Mexico, said movement to dogs is so important — physically and psychologically — because dogs are a migratory species.
That doesn’t change, even with domestication, Millán said, pointing out that humans still like to “migrate” and travel, too.
Source of the problem
Dogs’ behavioral problems are caused by people, Millán said.
On the Web site for his Dog Psychology Center, which is in South-Central Los Angeles, Millan candidly states: “I rehabilitate dogs ... and train people.”
Hyde and longtime El Paso dog trainer Angie Morgan agree that pets’ problems are caused by their owners.
“A lot of people think that dogs think like people do, and that’s just not the case,” said Morgan, who co-owns Barkerhaus Kennels with her husband and fellow trainer, Jim.
“People like to treat their pets like babies or little people, and this can confuse the dogs and, later, frustrate the owners,” Morgan said.
Millán said most dog owners in the United States are very loving with their pooches, which is fine, but only if the people understand that there has to be a certain order, routine and consistency in the treatment of the dog.
For example, in nature, the first thing a dog would do upon awakening is stretch itself and then immediately begin walking and sniffing about to search for food.
“Why do (dogs) develop separation anxiety? Well, because of lack of physical exercise and psychological stimulation,” Millán said.
He recommends that pet owners take the dog out every morning and walk it, with the owner assuming “dominance,” and leading the dog out — not letting the dog drag the owner along.
“You always have to keep your pack doing something, especially when you have boxers, German shepherds, pit bulls — sport-oriented guys,” Millán said. “You can’t just keep them laying down, looking good. that’s not what they want.”
Mastering “the walk,” as Millán calls it, will give a pet owner or dog handler “90 percent access to the brain of a dog,” he said.
Morgan, who has seen Millán’s show on the National Geographic channel, said it’s clear he understands dog behavior.
“He’s good at what he does,” she said. “Working with dogs really is all about pack dominance and pack relationships. Understanding the way dogs think and the dominance issues can make a huge difference in the way you train a dog or deal with a problem.”
On his show, Millán is always shown training other errant canines in a pack. And he is, quite clearly, the leader of the pack. He walks in front and the dogs follow — as they would follow the alpha dog in the wild.
“The only time dogs develop issues is when they live with humankind,” he said. “And all because humans, especially in America, begin with affection, affection, affection instead of, first, exercise, discipline and then affection.”
The right touch
Part of what makes Millán special, Hyde says, is that he controls dogs with natural, and
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