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Cesar Millan

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Cesar Millan (born August 27, 1969) is not a professional dog trainer (in his words, he "rehabilitates dogs, trains people"). He is best known for his television series, Dog Whisperer, which is beginning its fourth season (Sept. 2007) and airs on the National Geographic Channel. He is also the co-author of a 2006 best selling book,[1] Cesar's Way.[2] The International Association of Canine Professionals awarded Cesar and his wife Ilusion with honorary membership in March 2006.[3]

"Dog rehabilitation" is Millan's primary profession, which is portrayed on the program through real-life cases with owners and their dogs. Millan opened The Dog Psychology Center[4] in the mid-1990s, prior to his success with National Geographic. Cesar's strongest interest is in rehabilitating aggressive dogs, and he holds a special fondness for what he refers to as the "power breeds," such as pit bulls and rottweilers.

Biography Edit

Early childhoodEdit

Millan, a native of Culiacán, Mexico, was born in 1969 to Felipe Millan Guillen and Maria Teresa Favela de Millan. Millan credits his grandfather as the man who most influenced him in his desire to become a dog trainer. In his book, Millan states that in every dog he sees the spirit of his grandfather.

Millan spent much of his early childhood at a farm in Ixpalino, about an hour away from Culiacán, where his grandfather was a campesino. His grandfather's main job was to care for the dozens of cows, herding them from pasture to stream and back again each day. They lived in a small house made of brick and clay with only four rooms and no running water, but Millan states that he never felt poor—he regarded the farm as "paradise," and none of their neighbors had modern conveniences either. He was fascinated by all animals from an early age, but was most drawn to dogs and spent a great deal of time observing the behavior of the packs of farm dogs and how they worked on the farm, such as by helping his grandfather to herd the cows or guarding family members from aggressive animals. Millan points out that those dogs never needed any special training or commands or to be rewarded with cookies—they just naturally "did the jobs that needed doing," as was in their nature. He cites those working dogs as being his true teachers in the art and science of canine psychology.

Millan also noticed how the behavior of the packs would change between different farms. In some packs, the dogs would fight often for dominance to see which one would be pack leader, while the owner family would simply look on. However, the dogs on Millan's farm didn't seem to have a pack leader, because his grandfather always maintained a calm assertive leadership role, which is now one of the principles of Millan's philosophy.


When Millan was six, his family moved to Mazatlán, the second largest city in the state, on the Pacific coast across from Baja California. His father (another major positive influence in Millan's life) had decided that he wanted to move the children near better schools. They moved into a small apartment in the working-class part of town, and Millan's father got a job delivering newspapers. According to Millan, the worst part of the experience was not having the animals. They tried bringing the dogs (and chickens) to live in the apartment with them, but it just was not manageable. It was in the city, though, that Millan saw his first purebred dog, an Irish setter belonging to a local doctor. He was struck by the dog's beauty and grooming and how different it was from the common dogs he had seen on the farm. Two years later, after repeated requests, the doctor gave Millan one of the dog's puppies, which Millan named Saluki and kept as a companion for the next ten years.

Millan's childhood in the city was fairly normal. He played sports with the neighborhood children but missed the outdoor farm life, so to help him cope with the stress of the city, his family enrolled him at the age of six in a judo class. Millan excelled and had won six championships in a row by the age of fourteen. His mentor there, Joaquín, told him stories about Japan and taught him various meditation techniques. Also when he was fourteen, Millan's father got a better job as a government photographer and moved the family into a much nicer part of town, a block away from the beach.

In adolescence, as Millan was deciding what to do with his life, he knew it had to be something to do with dogs. When his family got their first television set, he watched television shows such as Lassie and The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin (black and white, and dubbed in Spanish), and once he figured out that the behavior of the dogs on the show was something that they must have been trained to do off-screen, he decided he wanted to get that job for himself. He dreamed of moving to Hollywood and becoming the world's greatest dog trainer. At fifteen, he got a job at a local veterinarian's office, helping out by sweeping and grooming and cleaning up after the animals. He says that it became rapidly apparent that he had a natural talent, as he had no fear of dogs and could grab dogs that "even the vet wouldn't go near." He was teased for this in school, as some of the other children began calling him el perrero, the dog boy, an unkind term in a city where dogs were seen mostly as mangy scavengers and nuisances.

American journeyEdit

On December 23, 1990, at the age of 21, Millan decided that though he spoke no English, he was going to cross the border into the United States, not to Arizona where he had family, but to Hollywood to follow his dream. His family objected but scraped together one hundred dollars for his journey, and Millan crossed through Tijuana. He did not have a visa to enter into the United States and no prospects of obtaining one. Also, he did not want to hire a smuggler to take him into the United States, so he spent a few weeks at the home of a cousin in Tijuana, studying the border. His first three attempts to cross by himself failed, but he eventually ran into someone who only wanted to charge him the $100 that he had, so he accepted. The next night, after an arduous journey which involved spending hours in a water hole waiting for the right time to avoid the border guards, he succeeded. On the other side of the border he was put into a taxi towards San Diego, a city Millan had never heard of. He lived on the streets for a month but then got a job and eventually room and board at a dog grooming parlor. According to his book, as with his earlier job with the veterinarian, Millan rapidly gained a reputation as someone who could work easily with the difficult and most aggressive dogs, who would often behave quite differently around Millan's calm assertive personality than they did around their owners.

Millan's next job was washing limousines, work that had been offered to him by one of the San Diego clients who liked Millan's work ethic. Though the duties didn't involve dogs, Millan accepted because the new employer had also offered him his own car, a 1988 Chevy Astrovan, and it allowed a move to Los Angeles. Millan changed his career goal from that of being a Hollywood dog trainer to rehabilitating the many troubled dogs he was seeing in the United States, so he started his own business, the Pacific Point Canine Academy, and came up with a logo, a jacket, and business cards. His employer started recommending him to his friends, and Millan's client list grew, as well as his own pack of dogs. Millan freely admits that he was never licensed and was just "that Mexican guy who has a magical way with dogs." Via word of mouth, in 1994 he came to the attention of celebrities Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith (whom Millan cited as being responsible dog owners), who began recommending Millan to many other celebrities and also mentored him in other ways, helping to improve his English as well as becoming good friends.

As his English language skills grew, Millan worked on improving his own education, reading books about dog psychology and animal behavior. He particularly cites two books as major reinforcing influences: The Dog's Mind by Dr. Bruce Fogle and Dog Psychology by Leon F. Whitney, DVM.

By word of mouth, Millan's popularity continued to grow, and he was able to fund his own Dog Psychology Center, a two-acre facility in South Los Angeles with six employees, whose purpose is to rehabilitate dogs. He keeps a pack of thirty to forty "unadoptable" and abandoned dogs at the center.

Millan is president of his own company, Cesar Millan, Inc. He is also a member of the International Association of Canine Professionals, an organization open to anyone working in the dog industry.

Millan now has a green card and is in the process of applying for U.S. citizenship. In 2002, after a profile in the Los Angeles Times, he received many offers from Hollywood producers and chose MPH Entertainment, Inc., who developed the show Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan and pitched it to the National Geographic Channel, where it became their #1 show within its first season. Millan wrote a book that came out concurrent with the second season, and the book went to #1 on the national bestseller lists.[1]

He presently lives in Inglewood, California, with his American wife, Ilusion Wilson Millan, and his sons, Andre (b. 1994) and Calvin (b. 2001).

Media fame Edit

Millan guest-starred as himself in Ghost Whisperer in Season 2, Episode 218, "Children of Ghost". In the episode, Melinda (Jennifer Love Hewitt) seeks out Millan for advice on how to help "Homer", Ghost Whisperer's Ghost Dog (from Season 1), cross over into the light.

Millan has been featured twice on the Oprah program (May 2005 & September 2005).

Millan was portrayed in a tenth-season episode of the Comedy Central animated series South Park (entitled "Tsst") that aired on May 3, 2006. In the episode, Millan is hired to train Eric Cartman to behave after popular "nannies" (see Nanny 911, Super Nanny) have failed. Despite South Park's propensity for lambasting celebrities (and Cartman's lashing out with numerous ethnic slurs), the episode is respectful of Millan and his methods; the nannies are portrayed as being driven mad by Cartman's inability to behave, but Millan's dog training methods are shown to actually work on him. As a result, Mrs. Cartman gains back her confidence, but when she asks Millan on a date and is informed that he only likes her as a client, the unmarried Mrs. Cartman yearns for her son's companionship over his obedience and undoes his training.

In the foreword of Millan's book, Cesar's Way, Jada Pinkett Smith wrote, "Through his patience and wisdom, Cesar has been a blessing to my family, my dogs and me."

Millan and Christian Chaparro have also appeared on ABC World News Tonight (2002), CBS-TV (2001), Channel 7 News (May 2005), CNN (April 2006), Creative Arts Emmys 2006 (August 2006), Entertainment Insider (December 2004), Good Day Live (February 2005), Good Morning America With Diane Sawyer (September 2004), KTLA-TV (2002), Last Call With Carson Daly (November 2006), Martha Stewart Show (April 2006), Megan Mullally Show (November 2006), Nightline (July 2006), NBC-TV (2001), Today Show (April 2006), Tonight Show With Jay Leno (February 2005), The View (July 2006), WUSA-TV 9 News (April 2006) and various radio shows.

Awards and nominations Edit

In 2005, the National Humane Society Genesis Award Committee presented Millan with a Special Commendation for his work in rehabilitating animals.

In 2006 and 2007, Millan's TV Show Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan on the National Geographic Channel was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Reality Program.

In 2006, Millan and his wife Ilusion were awarded honorary membership in the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP).[5]

In 2007, Millan was awarded the Michael Landon Award for Inspiration to Youth Through Television. [6]

Methods Edit

Cesar Millan does not claim to "train" dogs in the sense of teaching them commands like "sit, stay, come, heel". Instead, he says that he rehabilitate unbalanced dogs and helps "re-train" their owners.

"Owners are learning to respect their dogs for what they are—dogs," said Martin Deeley, Executive Director, Co Founder and Past President of International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP).

Millan is known for his ability to walk large packs of dogs at the same time. Where most dog professionals work with one dog at a time, Millan teaches in packs. The dogs in his pack are all rehabilitated, rescued from a wide range of extreme behavior issues, from insecurity to severe aggression. He asserts that the pack instinct is perhaps the strongest natural motivator for a dog and teaches that in order to properly fulfill both our dogs and ourselves, owners need to become canines' calm, assertive pack leaders. He believes that a dog that does not trust its human to be a good pack leader becomes unbalanced and often exhibits unwanted or anti-social behaviors.

Millan believes the walk is an important part of establishing the relationship between a dog and its owner. He often counsels people on how to hold themselves properly while on the walk: Straighten your posture. Lift your shoulders high. Stick your chest forward. Project calm-assertive energy.

"Cesar’s singular genius is his message to owners, and strategies for becoming full participants in the household pack," said Jill Morstad, Ph.D. of Prairie Skies – Dog Training for Open Spaces.

Millan counsels people to use calm-assertive leadership and consistently gives dogs rules, boundaries and limitations to establish themselves as solid pack leaders and help correct and control unwanted behavior, which is the same message taught by trainers who use so-called positive training, as well. He asserts that there are no "quick fixes," even though changing some behaviors can appear to happen in a relatively short period of time. He believes that those changes will not "stick," unless the human acts consistently with his/her dog every day to keep unwanted behaviors from returning. In Cesar Millan's opinion, no one should ever hit or yell at a dog to correct unwanted behavior.

His methods have been lauded by many normal dog owners who put them into practice [7] and also canine professionals. [8]

Many followers of his methods have found the application of his approach in other fields, such as with children and in the workplace, to be highly effective. Nonetheless, Millan is always careful to point out that dog psychology and human psychology are distinctly different. [9][10][11]


In December 2006, Millan and his wife announced the plan for a non-profit foundation. "We want to focus on making it accessible to the public. We hope to create awareness of dog issues and help rescue groups attain their goals and fill their needs. We already have an initial start-up project in the works for incorporating pet awareness, safety and care into children’s elementary education."[12]

Millan has also been noted for his association with other social projects, such as the program for at-risk teens K-9 Connection [13] and Pups on Parole, a program for inmates [14].

Millan is also associated with the Pets911 project,[15] which works to "effect social change in this country by providing a free public service that will one day ensure an environment where all animals are valued companions and have lifetime, loving homes." [16]

Also, Millan's 2006 seminar tour gave part of the proceeds to the rescue groups that hosted the events.

On Valentine's Day of 2007, Cesar and Ilusion officially launched the Cesar and Ilusion Millan Foundation, "a national, non-profit foundation designed to aid and support the rescue, rehabilitation and placement of abused and abandoned dogs." Initial funding for the non-profit is being provided by the Millans themselves. [17]

The Cesar and Ilusion Millan Foundation gives our grants to non-profit rescues and shelters who are no-kill facilities, or working towards being no-kill facilities. [18]

The Cesar and Ilusion Millan Foundation donated $10,000 to L.A. Animal Services' new East Valley Animal Care Center. Cesar and Ilusion, along with pit bull Daddy, presented the check to Councilman Tony Cardenas. [19]

Critics Edit

There are professional trainers, behavior consultants and behaviorists that state that Millan's methods are inhumane, referring to the use of alpha rolls, flooding, and constant leash corrections. According to them, these techniques can have serious behavioral consequences. While critics agree that Millan does not hit or physically injure the dogs he is working with, they believe that subjecting a dog to these techniques is inhumane treatment. Dr. Nicholas Dodman, the director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine of Tufts University, has said "Cesar Millan's methods are based on flooding and punishment. The results, though immediate, will be only transitory. His methods are misguided, outmoded, in some cases dangerous, and often inhumane. You would not want to be a dog under his sphere of influence. The sad thing is that the public does not recognize the error of his ways." [20] In a February 23, 2006, New York Times article, Dr. Dodman says of Millan's show, "My college thinks it is a travesty. We've written to National Geographic Channel and told them they have put dog training back 20 years."[5]

Jean Donaldson, The San Francisco SPCA Director of The Academy for Dog Trainers states, "Practices such as physically confronting aggressive dogs and using of choke collars for fearful dogs are outrageous by even the most diluted dog training standards. A profession that has been making steady gains in its professionalism, technical sophistication and humane standards has been greatly set back. I have long been deeply troubled by the popularity of Mr. Millan as so many will emulate him. To co-opt a word like whispering for arcane, violent and technically unsound practice is unconscionable." [21]

Dr. Ian Dunbar, Director of the Center for Applied Animal Behavior in Berkeley says, "He has nice dog skills, but from a scientific point of view, what he says is, well ... different," says Dunbar. "Heaven forbid if anyone else tries his methods, because a lot of what he does is not without danger." [22]

Dr. Andrew Luescher, Veterinary Behaviorist for the Animal Behavior Clinic at Purdue University says, "Millan's techniques are almost exclusively based on two techniques: flooding and positive punishment. In flooding, an animal is exposed to a fear (or aggression) evoking stimulus and prevented from leaving the situation, until it stops reacting. To take a human example: arachnophobia would be treated by locking a person into a closet, releasing hundreds of spiders into that closet, and keeping the door shut until the person stops reacting. The person might be cured by that, but also might be severely disturbed and would have gone through an excessive amount of stress. Flooding has therefore always been considered a risky and cruel method of treatment." [23]

On September 6, 2006, The American Humane Association issued a press release condemning Millan's tactics as "inhumane, outdated, and improper" and called on the National Geographic Channel to cease airing the program immediately. [24]

In October 2006, the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants wrote a letter to the National Geographic Channel regarding concerns "that the program may lead children to engage in unsafe behaviors." The Association called for a change in the program's rating of TV-G. [25]


On April 28, 2006, Millan's original publicist, Makeda Smith of Jazzmyne Public Relations, and her partner, Foster Corder of Daughters 2 Feed Films, filed a lawsuit against Millan requesting compensation for damages in excess of $5 million for alleged copyright infringement, breach of contract and breach of confidential relationship. The National Geographic Channel, MPH Entertainment, Inc. and Emery/Sumner Productions, LLC are also defendants named in the complaint. Smith alleges that Millan has completely forsaken her after several years of utilizing her expertise to introduce and position him within industry, professional, and media circles, nationally and internationally, without any compensation.[6]

On May 5, 2006, Flody Suarez, a television producer for the TV series 8 Simple Rules, filed a lawsuit against Millan, claiming that his Labrador retriever had been seriously injured while at Millan's training facility during an exercise routine on a treadmill.[7] National Geographic released a statement that Millan was not present at the facility at the time of the alleged incident. Millan has also claimed that Suarez's personal dog trainer was with the dog, Gator, while it was at the Dog Psychology Center and that he did not charge for use of the facilities. He allowed the trainer to bring Gator to the center as a favor. The hearing was cancelled, since a settlement (the terms of which were not made public) was reached on March 29, 2007. [8]

DVDs Edit

The Mastering Leadership Series

  • People Training for Dogs, DVD. Millan shares his experience and wisdom from a lifetime of working with dogs and explains how his methods work. (This is not a training video.)
  • Becoming a Pack Leader
  • Your New Dog First Day and Beyond
  • Sit and Stay the Cesar Way
  • Common Canine Misbehaviors
  • Raising the Perfect Puppy

Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan

  • Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan - The Complete First Season, DVD, 2006, ASIN B000EGDALQ
  • Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan - The Complete Second Season, DVD, 2007, ASIN B000QXDFSA
  • Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan - The Complete Third Season
  • Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan - The Complete Fourth Season, Volume 1
  • Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan - The Complete Fourth Season, Volume 2

Books Edit

  • Cesar's Way by Cesar Millan with Melissa Jo Peltier
  • Be the Pack Leader by Cesar Millan with Melissa Jo Peltier
  • Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan: The Ultimate Episode Guide
  • A Member of the Family
  • How to Raise the Perfect Dog
  • Cesar's Rules
  • Cesar Millan's Short Guide to a Happy Dog


  1. 1.0 1.1 New York Times Bestsellers List dated 6 August 2006
  2. Millan, Cesar and Peltier, Melissa Jo (2006) Cesar's way: the natural, everyday guide to understanding and correcting common dog problems Harmony Books, New York, ISBN 0-307-33733-2
  3. "Cesar and Ilusion Members of IACP" International Association of Canine Professionals
  4. The Dog Psychology Center
  5. [1]
  6. [2]
  7. [3]Dog injury.
  8. [4]


  • Staff (September 2006), "Cesar Millan 1969?-" Biography Today 15(3): pp. 73-83.
  • Millan, Cesar and Peltier, Melissa Jo (2006), Cesar's Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems, Harmony Books, New York, ISBN 0-307-33733-2.

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