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Meet Cesar Millan

World-renowned Dog Coach and host of the National Geographic Channel series, The Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan provides tips that help you be the best pet parent. 

Cesar Millan is a strong advocate for shelter animals and the Millan Foundation supports shelter and rescue groups nationwide.

 

 

Browse Cesar's Q&As:

My Maltese messes up when I’m sick!
Q:

I have MS, and whenever I get sick or upset, our Maltese, Biggie Smalls, pees on the rug in our bedroom—odd, as it’s also his favorite place to play. We’ve replaced the rug many times, and even though we watch Biggie, we rarely see him do the deed. He also pees and has diarrhea everywhere when we leave him at friends’ homes, but other than this, he’s a wonderful dog. Any ideas?

A:

Your dog is very much in tune with you, but he doesn’t know how to react to your biological changes in a helpful way. He becomes afraid and pees, when what he needs to do is alert people to your distress. Try using his sensitivity as a positive starting point and getting in touch with a center that trains MS therapy dogs. They’ll steer Biggie in the right direction and make him the kind of asset he wants to be. His behavior in other houses is linked to his behavior at home; once that’s addressed, the rest will resolve itself. Encourage this dog; you have a real opportunity here.


Submitted by Nikki
Answered by Cesar Milan
I Panic Around Dogs
Q:

Cesar, How do I become calm-assertive? Fourteen years ago, my 90-pound Border Collie/Lab mix, Toby, was attacked by a Rottweiler as I was walking him on a leash. The dogs fought furiously, and though -neither was hurt, I was completely traumatized. And to this day, I continue to be! Toby died two years ago, and three months later I adopted Turbo, an 18-month-old Black Lab/Pit Bull mix who’s wonderfully trained. But -although I no longer scan for other dogs when we’re out walking (or run back home when I see one!), I still haven’t conquered my fear of them. I’ve learned a lot from your TV programs; I even know how to be calm-assertive—until another dog comes into view. As soon as one does, I become tense and fearful, and, of course, Turbo goes on alert and becomes determined to protect me. Turbo is wonderful, and I want him to have all the freedom and friends he deserves. But as long as I keep going into panic mode at the simple thought of another dog, I know that’s not going to happen. Is there any way I can have the life with my dog that I dream of?

A:

First, let me tell you that some very -positive things are going on here. One is that you obviously have the ability to see -reality—you’re clear that when the Rottweiler attacked, no one was hurt. And the second good thing is that you’re aware of your own tension and the effect that it’s having on Turbo. When I help people change their state of mind in -order to change their energy, it’s sometimes very tough to get them to own their feelings—and to admit to the damage those feelings are doing—so be happy you’ve already mastered that.

Once we’ve lost control of our emotions, though, what none of us can do on our own is change our behavior. To help guide you through that part of the process, I would advise you to turn to someone you trust and respect. This person doesn’t have to be a therapist or professional of any kind. In fact, a loyal friend—one who’s calm and confident around dogs—is probably your best bet. With your friend at your side, take Turbo for his walk—and when you see another dog approaching, keep moving toward him. Stay four to 10 feet from the dog you’re afraid of for a while, identify all the fearful thoughts you’re having, and write them down. Keep hanging out near the dog until you’ve started to relax. The energy you draw from your calm, confident friend is what will enable you to complete this exercise. Repeat it as often as you need to, until you’ve achieved your goal of a fear-free walk. And if you find you’re losing faith, just keep reminding yourself that the only way to get out of a tough situation is to go through it. Good luck!


Submitted by Kathy
Answered by Cesar Milan
Donkey Tale
Q:

I live on a farm in New Mexico with a number of animals, including an eight-year-old Pit Bull named Tank (who I’ve had since he was eight weeks old). The problem is that Tank attacks my large animals—but he does it only when guests are here! He’s fine with our chickens, cats, and other dogs, but last night he attacked a donkey in front of friends who were visiting from Costa Rica. Earlier this year, when people were over, he attacked a bull, and before that, a goat. Other than this, he’s a great dog. Is there anything I can do? My friends are telling me to put him down (“three strikes” and all that), but of course I don’t want to.

A:

Because Tank behaves this way only when new people come over, we need to consider that your guests are altering the reactions of your animals—your bull, donkey, and goat. Since this is possible, why not have the dog on a leash until people who are new in the environment become knowledgeable enough that they can help your farm animals feel comfortable? Everybody’s curious, but when the dog feels that the bull, donkey, or goat is becoming nervous, excited, or tense, it’s normal for him to try to protect or help the humans.

I don’t see a reason to put Tank down. In that case, let’s not invite people over! I’m kidding, of course, but why not understand prevention? The leash is the way to do it, and I’d also use a Halti. Obviously this was horrible to watch, but it could have been prevented—because of the fact that your dog is attacking only when visitors come.


Submitted by Karen
Answered by Cesar Milan
Do Dogs Feel Shame?
Q:

My 13-year-old Pug/-Boston Terrier mix has malformed vertebrae and is slowly but surely losing neurological function in his back legs. His lower-body control is already so poor that he doesn’t even know when he’s pooping, and he’s stumbling more and more. I know I need to make a decision about either getting him a cart or putting him down. My friends are giving me all kinds of conflicting advice, but since I don’t know if dogs feel shame or embarrassment, I wonder what Puggy’s preference would be. He’s been treated by a chiropractor/acupuncturist, we’ve tried steroids, and he’s currently taking glucosamine and chondroitin and a supplement called Ligaplex II. During the summer I make sure he swims a lot, and I always make sure he gets lots of exercise. I have some time before he stops walking altogether, so any advice you have would be much appreciated.

A:

Your decision comes down to Puggy’s quality of life. If he shows willingness to stay alive, that’s coming from his mind, and that’s what I would choose to honor. If it’s his body alone that’s failing, I would make an effort to show him my appreciation by using devices like wheels to help him get around. When we provide some kind of stimulation to the body, this can often give us a few more years of life. This is my hope for both of you.


Submitted by Karen
Answered by Cesar Milan
Baby Blues
Q:

In February 2009, we unexpectedly lost our dog of seven years, just two weeks after we brought our newborn daughter home. After our grieving period, we started looking for another dog, but I can’t seem to get comfortable with the idea of bringing a new one into our house. I’m nervous about an unfamiliar dog being around my daughter, and I don’t want to start out with that kind of negative energy.

How do I make sure I’m bringing the right dog home? And how do I regain my confidence as a pack leader? I’ve always loved dogs and was so looking forward to raising my child in a home with one. Thanks for all you do.

A:

Before you fully commit to adopting a new pet, why not try fostering a dog? This way you’ll have an opportunity to get to know him without feeling truly attached or obligated. As you learn more about him, if you begin to sense that he’s the right dog, that feeling will help you reconnect with the pack-leading side of yourself.

It’s learning to trust a dog that’s the real key to your feeling comfortable again. In any relationship, it’s the trust that comes first. Then comes respect, and, finally, loyalty. All together, they equal love.


Submitted by Deanna
Answered by Cesar Milan
Fear Factor
Q:

When I was a kid, I was bitten by a dog, and ever since, I become a bit fearful when a person with a dog passes me on the street. I always freeze a little and avoid looking at the dog, and sometimes the dog notices and it makes him curious.

My two questions are: How can I become more comfortable around dogs (especially the big ones), and how should one behave when a dog -approaches in an aggressive way? My first impulse is to run, although I know that isn’t right. I’ve wondered about these things for so long, and I hope you can give me a clear answer. (Your show recently started airing in the Netherlands, where I’m from, and I instantly became a huge fan!)

A:

You’re absolutely right about not running away, and about the idea that a dog can pick up on the fact that you’re fearful. The best way to conquer your fear, I think, would be to ask someone who has a dog-walking business to let you come along with him when he walks his dogs. And whenever you’re with that person, ask as many questions as possible. The more you learn about the -mechanics of a dog’s mind, the more confident you’ll come to be.


Submitted by Edward
Answered by Cesar Milan
Sensitive Senior
Q:

My 14-year-old female Westie has been sleeping with me for 13 and a half years. I’d like to break this habit and have her sleep in a dog bed, but when I try, she screeches and cries (very loudly) all night. I’ve tried crating her, putting her in another room, and moving the step table she uses to get onto the bed, but my efforts only result in sleepless nights for both of us. I realize what a mistake I’ve made, and I won’t make it again—but is my dog simply too old to handle change? Should I just let things go and learn from my mistake? I don’t want her last years to be stressful.

A:

It’s never too late for a dog to change, and -although the change will entail some sacrifices, the pain won’t last forever. Your Westie has spent her life manipulating humans with her howling and whining, and she’s learned that she can control them. All change will be uncomfortable at this point in a dog’s life, but if you want to make it happen, you can.

Start by crating her at night on weekends and on holidays—the times when you can probably sleep a little later if her antics have kept you awake. And don’t forget the importance of picturing what you want. By repeatedly visualizing a tranquil sleeping environment for both you and your dog, you will help create the energy that makes it a reality. Don’t feel bad about what you’re doing, but remember: Your Westie has been sleeping with you for 14 years, so you do need to give her time.


Submitted by Cindy
Answered by Cesar Milan
Nervous Disservice?
Q:

Wyatt, our six-year-old newly adopted Beagle mix, has been exhibiting some distressing behaviors, and I’m not sure how to deal with them. Though my husband and I keep the radio and TV on when we go out, he seems to be experiencing major separation anxiety—howling and crying when we’re gone (I can hear him from the street), when we come home, and when he encounters another dog or human being.

I’ve never been a calm person—I always lacked self-confidence—and to make matters worse, I have ADHD and ODD (oppositional defiance disorder), and I’m bipolar. Although I’ve been teaching Wyatt to shake and catch and am working on heeling, he constantly breaks his learned patterns, and I think it’s because he’s picking up on my anxiety and other problems. Also, I don’t know if this is relevant, but my dad—who was 6-foot-4 and had the same psychological difficulties I have—always rolled up a newspaper to hit our dogs, the first two of which were Chihuahuas. Help!

A:

It sounds as though your dog is saying, “I want to work—to serve—but no one’s giving me that job.” Why not take advantage of this situation and make your Beagle mix your therapy dog—train him to help you deal with your anxiety. It’s almost like getting him to see, and then, in essence, getting him to say, “You don’t look fine; let me help you.” Look for specific advice—in books or online—on how to train a Beagle mix to become a therapy dog. It’s not just German Shepherds and Retrievers who are up to the job. Any dog who is calm can take on the role.

Try to find activities—like walking—where you can help your dog help you. A dog always creates a more socially interactive environment, and people often perceive you as being more friendly or outgoing when they see you with a dog. Once you start to sense you’re being perceived that way, it may even help to quell some of your nervousness. As far as your question about your father, it’s impossible for me to say how his behavior may or may not be influencing you. What I can tell you, though, is that who you are now is more important than where you came from or what happened in the past.


Submitted by Sharon
Answered by Cesar Milan
Reflection Affection
Q:

London Longlegs, our rescue hound, has become obsessed with flashy ceiling reflections created by utensils and other shiny objects. This started in the kitchen, when we would move his metal feed pans to and from the counter, and now when anything at all—a piece of foil, a person’s watch—causes a light to dance on any ceiling, he goes nuts, barking and trying to reach the source of his obsession. I tried putting him into a “sit,” but it didn’t work. Was that the wrong technique? What should I do?

A:

It’s natural for a dog to follow smells; it isn’t natural for him to follow lights. And since you describe London Longlegs as “going nuts” when he sees those flashes of light, I’d say his behavior has reached an obsession level—meaning he’s in a red-zone phase that won’t be cured by -reframing his expectations with food or toys. On the show, if I see that a dog is escalating toward this type of fixated state, I’ll pull on his leash to break the spell. It’s never done to hurt, and it’s never done with negative energy. It’s more like what you do when you’re having a conversation with a friend who isn’t paying enough attention—even though you’ve tried getting it by saying his name a few times—so you finally touch his arm or shoulder. You’re just trying to say, “Snap out of it!”

Remember, though, that timing is really important. A dog can go from zero to 10 in one second, so use that physical touch as soon as you sense London Longlegs veering toward obsessive behavior. Just make sure to keep the energy positive—don’t touch him as though you’re sad or feeling sorry. Also, once his fixation level has gone beyond 10, he’s in a red zone and it’s time to walk away. Give him time to cool off, just like you would with a person.


Submitted by Nan
Answered by Cesar Milan
Split Decision
Q:

I have a pair of two-and-a-half-year-old yellow Lab mixes from the same litter who’ve been inseparable since birth. Although I know they both need their daily exercise, I’m a hiker, and I’m wondering if it’s OK to take one dog hiking with me one day while the other stays home, and then take the other out hiking on another day. Is it healthy for my girls to sometimes be separated?

A:

Absolutely! Separation creates a human-dog bond as opposed to a human-pack bond. And for that reason, it’s actually beneficial to sometimes separate your dogs. I do it with my dogs all the time. It’s not to show favoritism; it just establishes a one-on-one relationship—not that different from sometimes hanging out with a large group of your human friends and sometimes hanging out with just one.


Submitted by Tiffany
Answered by Cesar Milan
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