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Leader of the Pack

23 Apr, 2006 By: Brendan Howard

"Dog Whisperer" Cesar Millan

Dog nipping at kids? Barking at the mailman? Jumping on guests? Will Smith, Nicolas Cage, Scarlett Johannson and millions of TV watchers are turning to Cesar Millan. His brand of dog psychology encourages people to become pack leaders and to learn what dogs need to be “balanced.” It's covered in the book Cesar's Way and in the National Geographic Channel show “Dog Whisperer With Cesar Millan.”

Now the show's coming to DVD from Screen Media Films as five-episode themed DVDs ($19.98 each), three-episode DVDs ($9.98 each) and a four-DVD set ($69.98) with all 26 episodes and a bonus disc with extra footage.

His work with Hollywood's elite aside, Millan doesn't see that culture as the best example for living with dogs. Instead, he praises farmers, hunters, the handicapped and the homeless as role models.

“They have 100% control over their dogs,” he said. “Dogs don't see the blind as the blind, they see them as the pack leader. When a dog lives with a billionaire, most of those clients can't even walk the dog off a leash.”

It starts from the first meeting. Millan encourages people to walk dogs to the new home. Dogs bond to each other by traveling together, he said.

“If you study the homeless, they never ask the dog's name,” he said. “They just walk, and the dog follows.”

Millan said third-world countries understand dogs and don't overly humanize them. In America, people treat their dogs like children. That's OK, Millan said, but the “stories” about dogs' emotions and thoughts need to be tempered with reality.

“The reality is, sometimes a dog wants to kill another dog,” he said. “[But people say,] ‘Sometimes Mimi is upset and doesn't like my neighbor.' They humanize the act. I don't want people to get rid of the stories, but you have to have a balance.

“Dogs don't want a friend. They want a leader.”

Millan uses client Oprah Winfrey to illustrate the point. Winfrey is a leader of people but wasn't to her dog.

“Her dog, Sophie, was aggressive for 11 years,” he said. “When I met Sophie, she was an insecure dominant one. Sophie's equipped to be a follower; not everybody's equipped to be a leader.”

Millan told Winfrey Sophie was nervous because she didn't want to lead, but couldn't find a leader in Winfrey.

Above all, Millan respects dogs.

“In Hollywood, if you pay $20 million, people will listen to somebody's screaming,” he said. “A dog won't listen to you. They're very honorable. [Their] integrity is intact. They don't listen to unstable pack leaders.”

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