Cesar Millan has been working with dogs for more than 25 years. But his latest show, Cesar 911, which premiers on Friday, is all about people. In each episode, Millan fields a call from a neighbor, friend, or relative of someone who has an unruly dog. Then he shows up to give the owner, not the canine, a serious attitude adjustment. "This is a show created for the neighbors and the family members," says Millan, "because they feel that the owners of the dog aren't doing anything about it." We caught Millan on the phone to give us some insight on the coming season.
What are the most common mistakes people make that lead to big problems with their dogs?
When it comes to a family, it's about not being in agreement on the dog. The dad will get the dog for the kids because he feels guilty he's never there. The mom knows that she's going to end up with the responsibility because she knows that those kids aren't responsible. But the dad is going to overrule that because he doesn't want the kids to suffer more because he's not there. Guilt actually overrules common sense. The lack of agreement is not going to create commitment. People are not going to be able to follow through because there's no plan.
What about single dog owners?
You need to love and be loved by somebody. When you don't have a human to practice that on, you get a dog or a cat. The dog ends up fulfilling somebody's needs, but the human forgets to fulfill the dog's needs. That's a big problem because now the dog is no longer a dog: He's a human. The human is going to practice human psychology because the dog is no longer a dog – it's a baby. They're saying, 'that dog is like my baby.' I get it, but that dog has its own identity, its own needs.
Do people tend to smother the dog with the wrong kind of affection?
You can make a dog aggressive by only giving him affection. Because people are going to give affection at the wrong time – especially with little dogs. If a little dog misbehaves and goes after a big dog, what most people do is they lift them and they say, 'It's okay!' They're actually nurturing the territorial, dominant, aggressive behavior.
Most people walk with the dog in front of them. When the dog is in front, you're telling him to protect you, to give you direction. We have that habit because we misinterpret this humanization part, like okay, the dog has to go for a walk so he should do whatever he wants. The only bad part about it is, he's peeing everywhere. For a dog to pee, it's territorial. You just told him to pee everywhere on the sidewalk. As far as he's concerned, that sidewalk belongs to him.
What are some of the craziest things that you've seen through this show?
So this lady was bitten by this dog. A pit-bull mix. The victim called me and said, 'Cesar, I don't want this dog to die, I know I was bitten, you know, but I know my neighbor is in denial.' The worst part about it is the owner of the dog blamed the victim because she said that the victim triggered something for the dog to bite her. So she took no responsibility.
When a human doesn't even show any remorse, any ability to apologize, that is scary. And this is how pits and dogs get a bad reputation. This is not a gang member, this is a person that is in denial, that has created a very aggressive over-protective kind of dog. I understand that she has a reason for it: She developed a sickness and the only one that was there for her was the dog. She feels forever grateful about it, but the dog became over protective, so nobody outside her family can come near her. The nurse turned into Kujo.
The dog biting people is not the problem, it's how people deal with the problem that's the problem.
It's interesting to see how people who have a certain dynamic with their dogs for years are able to change so quickly with you. How do you do it?
The first thing I have to help people realize is, it's not the dog. They honestly believe that their dog is completely different from anything they have seen on the show. They've read every book, they've tried everything, they've hired people. But one thing they haven't addressed is what energy they're projecting.
You have to stay calm. You have to stay confident and then: repetition, repetition, and, one day, whatever you were looking for comes. It doesn't just happen right away.
Do you prefer working with mutts?
People with mutts, what happens is, they don't think they have a breed – they have a dog. That dog actually has a better rate of success because people are not so focused on 'they have a German Shepherd' or 'they have a Black Lab or a Shitsu or a Shiba Inu.' It's actually better for the mutt because he's going to be treated like a dog. The other ones, they're going to be so confused because the human doesn't know anything about a dog. They believe that German Shepherds should be treated completely differently. Dogs among each other don't see each other's breed. "What kind of breed are you? Oh you're a German Shepherd." "Oh you're a Basset Hound." They're not prejudiced.
So we're overthinking it?
Most of the world is not wealthy, most of the world is poor. So they can't afford three kinds of cookies for a dog or a bag of the best food for a dog. People used to have horses and they walked and the dog was there. I guarantee there was no anxiety, no aggression, nobody was worried about the dog – everybody knew how to be. But when the Industrial Revolution came in, people became very smart. The direction that the world took, it was more material driven. We lived organically at one point, now we have to different culture.