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Hailing Cesar: Times looks at Millan’s empire


With “The Dog Whisperer” starting its sixth season, his new magazine hitting the stands last month and his fourth book going on sale, the New York Times Saturday took a long and mostly complimentary look at Cesar Millan and the empire he has built since crossing the border illegally 20 years ago.

Proclaiming him a “cultural icon”  the article recounts how the once-penniless native of Culiacán, Mexico (he became a U.S. citizen this year), became a dog trainer to the stars, then the world.

One of his first clients was Jada Pinkett (before she added the Smith) who in the early 1990’s was 20 and starring in a television sitcom. Millan helped Pinkett take control of her four Rottweilers, and they went on to become friends. When Millan told her he wanted to be on TV, the article says, she told him he wasn’t ready, and needed to study English.

Pinkett and Will Smith started recommending Mr. Millan to friends in the entertainment industry, starting with director Michael Bay, who needed help controlling his 230-pound mastiff, Mason. He’d later go to the aid of  Oprah Winfrey, former Disney chief Michael D. Eisner and director Ridley Scott, among others.

In addition to books, a magazine and a television show, Millan and his wife, Ilusion, runs Cesar Millan Inc., a constellation of businesses that coordinates Millan’s speaking engagements and executive leadership seminars;, and puts out a line of products including DVD’s, collars, organic dog food, fortified water, shampoos and toys. His website, cesarmillaninc.com, grosses annual sales in the mid-seven figures, according to a company spokesman.

The Times article devotes only one paragraph — tssst! — to the debate over Millan’s macho leader of the pack techniques:

Not everyone agrees with Mr. Millan’s methods. “Positivist” trainers like Ian Dunbar reject the idea that a submissive dog is a happy dog. Mr. Dunbar advocates treating dogs as companions, not followers. While Mr. Millan uses his hand like a mother dog uses her mouth — to nudge dogs to behave — Mr. Dunbar shuns physical corrections and relies instead on treats and rewards.

Despite any controversy, Millan’s fame and empire are only expected to grow.  This summer, the National Geographic Channel struck a deal with Fox to syndicate “Dog Whisperer” next fall.

(Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic Channel)


Comment from Sarahkate
Time October 12, 2009 at 3:41 pm

I am definitely not a fan of this man who calls himself an animal trainer, in fact I would not let any animal within a country mile of him. Maybe worse than the man’s methods are the really scary copycats out there who think they are dog trainers because they watch his show and imitate the things he does to threaten and intimidate dogs.

Comment from Rebecca
Time October 12, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Couldn’t agree with you more Sarahkate…and Ian Dunbar isn’t the only trainer who disapproves of Milan’s methods – Victoria Stillwell and Patricia McConnell.

Comment from Lillie
Time October 13, 2009 at 12:29 am

Sarahkate … Millan has never called himself a dog trainer … if you have ever watched his show or read any of his books you would know that … maybe not. To call what he does threatening and intimidating is misleading at best. If confronted by an aggressive dog, I’d want Millan to handle it. I’d be the one protecting Victoria. Scary thought!

Comment from Jayne
Time October 13, 2009 at 10:42 pm

They say there’s more than one way to skin a cat…..so why can’t we all agree that there are a number of successful ways to work with difficult dogs? I personally believe Mr. Millan’s success speaks for itself, but that does not mean there aren’t a number of great dog trainers around. I drive a Toyota, does that mean EVERYONE has to, too?

Comment from James
Time October 13, 2009 at 11:53 pm

Ian Dunbar is not a Mr. He is a Dr, with doctorates in veterinary science (DVM) and animal behavior.

Mr. Milan is an entertainer who has a TV show and a gift for self-promotion. He refers to himself as a “behavior specialist” but has no training or credentials in behavior. His methods are considered archaic and barbaric by nearly every major association of actual, credentialed trainers and behaviorists.

Good training is, unfortunately, rather boring TV.

Comment from Ruth
Time October 16, 2009 at 7:58 am

Well James, of all the books that Dunbar has been taught from, where did the first one come from? Someone had to write it and they had to have knowledge that didn’t come from a book. Do you have children? Hope you went to school for that or you are not qualified to raise them. And his methods don’t just apply to animals.

Comment from Elmo Corleone
Time November 3, 2009 at 7:37 pm

I’d bet the house that since Cesar became popular many more dogs are being saved from euthanasia at shelters.

Comment from Thomas De Grauw
Time July 1, 2010 at 6:59 pm

I think a combination of both is the best solution. When my dog is being naughty or doing something severaly dangerous, I correct him physicaly by grabbing his neck and saying ‘no!’.

For example:
– going on the street without my permission, he has to stay on the sidewalk, if a blind-help-dog can see the difference, mine should too, for his own safety
– stop him from chewing on electrical cords
– stop him from chasing wasps and bees
– when i say :no! he should stop and not go to random people or dogs, or kids biking, if he doesn’t listen, i phsycialy correct

I do not have the time to teach him not to do all these things using rewards, quickly. These things he must learn quickly and obey for the rest of his life.

He does so.

To make him heal, learn him all kinds of fun stuff, I use praise.

I never use food, he should listen to me coz he respects and likes me and because he liks my praise.

This is my 3rd boxer, I have learned a lot. I’m in no way a specialised behavioral trainer but for raising normal pups/dogs I think I’m pretty good. Boxers also aren’t the easyest dogs.

He’s now 6months and never pulls, he comes when called even while playing with other dogs, he doesn’t even give attention to people or kids on the street on bikes or whatever. Whenever he sees something fearfull he watches me and sees me standing proud with confident posture and he’ll know he’s safe and won’t be scared …

There’s al lot of good stuff in both theories, and I use all of it. I’m not capable of changing dogs with extreme problems though, but I don’t have to because my dogs will never develop any.

Comment from F.Daniel Maloney
Time August 15, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Cesar is quite good at what he does…has helped me with my German Shepherd Dog and best friend “Logan.””

Comment from Britney
Time August 21, 2012 at 12:19 pm

cesar is really good at what he does