Cesar Millan on Traveling with Dogs
The sixth season of Cesar Millan‘s Emmy-nominated show Dog Whisperer premieres this Friday, October 9th, at 9 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel. To mark the premiere and launch his latest book, How to Raise the Perfect Dog– Through Puppyhood and Beyond, Cesar stopped by Nat Geo headquarters Monday (accompanied by miniature schnauzer Angel) for an advance screening of the first episode and to take questions from the audience. Traveler Senior Researcher Meg Weaver sat down with Cesar while he was here to find out how he got started in his career. And click through for a preview of the premiere episode in the season.
Known as El Perrero (The Dogman) when he was a teen in Mexico because of the packs of dogs that always seemed to follow him around, Cesar Millan aspired to be the best dog trainer in the world. But when he arrived in the U.S. and started working at a kennel in California, he realized American dogs didn’t need training, their owners did. Dogs do best when they’re balanced, Cesar says, and training doesn’t necessarily equal balance. He espouses the training philosophy, well known to Dog Whisperer fans, of “exercise, discipline, and then affection.” As we spoke, an adorable schnauzer, Angel, sat snuggled at our feet. Cesar gestured to him and told me that Angel hadn’t been trained to sit, fetch, or roll over. He’d been trained to be balanced and, sure enough, he was very well behaved for an adolescent dog.
Since Cesar himself is often on the move, I asked what suggestions he’d give travelers hoping to bring Fido on the road. He explained that we need to consider the travel experience from a dog’s perspective: If the change of setting and scent (and altitude, if flying) are disorienting for us, imagine their effects on a dog. Dogs are used to traveling on four feet, experiencing every step of the way with their nose, ears, eyes, and body, so traveling in cars or planes can cause confusion and anxiety. Before heading off on a trip, Cesar recommends being sure your dog isn’t full of physical energy. If you normally walk him a half-hour in the morning, extend the walk to an hour and a half so that his body tells his mind to relax. Bring things familiar to him: his bed, bone, Kong, etc. And, just as we benefit from being shown around a new place by someone familiar with it, try to hook your pup up with a local of the canine kind.
Later, I told Cesar about Traveler and Intelligent Travel and
the type of travel–cultural, authentic, and sustainable–that we champion.
I asked him which places he’s been to that fit these criteria. In the
U.S., he praised Monterey and Carmel, California. Monterey’s proximity to the beach makes it dog-friendly, he noted, and many of the town’s boutiques
and cafes are open to dogs. Overseas, he raved about Australia, where
he just returned from filming some of the 30 episodes of Dog Whisperer‘s new season
(and where he apparently was able to Rollerblade with a dingo). Australians, he opined, are nature
lovers and very into conservation, and the country’s wildness impressed
him, too. So were there any differences he found “rehabilitating” dogs Down
Under? “Same problems, different accent,” he said with a laugh.
fact that Cesar has rehabilitated dogs over six seasons, launched a
magazine, and published a handful of books on the topic, I asked him if
we, as over-indulgent dog owners, will ever learn to treat our dogs as he espouses: as animals first, dogs second, the breed third and, fourth, and finally,
as individuals. Bemused, Cesar told me that people watch his show but
they don’t listen. And if people don’t listen to him, how can they expect
to communicate with their dogs? He loves the challenge, he says, and
hopes to help dog owners the world over build the loyalty and trust
that make for a balanced dog and happy owner.
To this end, he
was proud to tell me that his Dog Psychology Center has expanded from
two to 43 acres and been moved out of its former South L.A. location. He
explained that people are invited visit the center for three to four
days with their dogs to learn and practice his techniques.
conclude our interview (Angel was getting antsy), I asked if his being
from a different country, an outsider looking at the U.S., has informed
- Nat Geo Expeditions
his principles. He agreed heartily and says that while Americans love
dogs, America is not designed for dogs. He hopes to teach dog owners
how to accept and understand dogs’ instincts and make that essential
connection to their best friend.
As we said goodbye and I headed toward the elevator, I sensed something behind me, close to my left
foot. I glanced down and there was Angel, trying to make a
run for the door (Cesar told me office life bores him). Cesar made
his signature whistle/chirp command and Angel froze in his tracks, made
an about-face, and trotted back to the Dog Whisperer.
Photo and video courtesy of the National Geographic Channel
UPDATE: Back in June, Intelligent Travel revealed Cesar’s favorite place on Earth.