Cesar Millan’s Life Advice

Evelyn Hockstein / National Geographic Channels

What adventure changed your life?
Growing up poor, that's an adventure. I wasn't a cool kid. In Mexico they called me El Perrero, or "Dog Boy." It's a nickname, but it's not a positive one. I wanted to become a vet and work with dogs, but that was notavailable there. In Mexico they have other things to worry about, like food and water. In America people manufacture problems. I had no papers and spoke no English when I jumped the border. I had $100 in my sock, which I paid a guy to help me cross. I managed to get to San Diego, where I slept under the freeway and hustled like everybody else, washing cars and washing dishes. I learned my first English sentence: "Do you have application for work?"

What's the best advice you've ever received?
My grandfather always said, "Never work against Mother Nature." It wasn't specific to animals, but I definitely adopted his philosophy. Never make animals responsible. Never say, "Oh, we have an aggressive animal." No, it's because we did something wrong. I come from a farm family. There were a lot of life lessons and experiences that I grew up hearing. I didn't think they were going to help me run a company or a TV show, but they did.


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What's the most important thing you've learned from dogs?
I learned the roots of any relationship: honesty, integrity, loyalty. It's hard to find a human to give you all three. But every dog, that's all they know. Humans are the only species that follows unstable pack leaders. Animals don't. They don't know how. Why would they?

What should everyone know before they adopt a dog?
Dogs are easy. People are hard. They enter into a relationship loving a dog but without knowing a dog. So many people try to make dogs into human beings to fulfill a personal need, to be loved. It's wrong to treat a dog differently than what it's programmed to be. Often people follow the dog when they need to take the lead.  My clients are politicians, movie stars, powerful people, people who run the world, so why does the dog run their life?

Do you have a scar that tells a story?
Well, the physical ones are a piece of cake. They go away. Dogs bite me all the time, but they don't do it because they want to. I've never felt wounded, emotionally or spiritually, from a dog like I've felt with humans. I expect humans to know better. So when a human has betrayed me, those are the ones that are like, "Damn, why would they do that?" But people have their own agendas, and it can seem like they're really honest when they're not.

How should a man best face his fears?
That's what you do: You face them. Immigrants are so fearless because we just risk everything. We can easily die at the border, but we're willing to risk our lives so we can feed our family. That's why we do it, man. We don't do it because we want to be famous.


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What has America, a country of immigrants, forgotten about that experience?
It's hypocritical. It's a place that's built on people from another country, and then they say, "Nope, no more. We don't want to be influenced by anything else" — even though that's how this whole entire country was created. You see, a dog would never do that.

What do you want your legacy to be?
I know I can't help people economically or politically, but I can absolutely assure the world that we can eradicate ignorance and fear about dogs and aggression. The only thing we have to do, as humans, is agree that we need to be trained. We know that dogs are willing to do it, so we already have 50 percent of the team ready to go. We need the other 50 percent of the team, who are called humans.

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