If you've been to a dog park recently, chances are you've noticed a bizarre trend among pup owners: They've taken to calling themselves "pack leaders" and admonishing their charges' bad behavior with an air compressor-like "tsst" noise. Thank Cesar Millan, a.k.a. "The Dog Whisperer," for this development. No really, thank him: Through his much-loved National Geographic Channel show The Dog Whisperer, Millan—pet trainer to the stars and founder of L.A.'s the Dog Psychology Center—has done more for problematic pet behavior than a landfill of choke collars (which he disavows in favor of exercise and assertive leadership). Millan is in the Twin Cities filming new episodes, and he appears tomorrow at PETCO in Maplewood for a question-and-answer session. He was kind enough to answer CP's questions in advance.
City Pages: Were you born with an innate understanding of animal behavior, or is it the result of years of rigorous training?
Cesar Millan: I have a lifetime of experience working with thousands of dogs. My training comes from being around animals my whole life, learning from my grandfather at a young age how not to work against Mother Nature. I have worked with literally thousands of dogs. My methods achieve results, but as you will see me say in the show, it is up to the owners to make it a success in the long term. I guess you could also say I have an instinctual ability to relate to dogs. I understand the way dogs socially interact—I am able to understand the world from a dog's point of view. My method uses exercise, discipline, and then affection to bring balance to a dog. I practice using calm and assertive energy in working with dogs.
CP: Have you ever met a dog you couldn't control?
CM: Very rarely. Sometimes a dog actually has a neurological condition, which is very sad, and there is really nothing you can do. But 99 percent of the dogs I have encountered I have been able to rehabilitate. The number of owners I am able to train, well, that is a different story.
CP: I can't go to the dog park anymore without hearing someone doing that "tsst" thing. Does it work on other animals as well? What about noisy neighbors? Unruly children?
CM: It's funny that you ask. People actually ask me this all the time. I have even had wives say they use it on their husbands. But for me, it is what works on the dog world.
The Dog Whisperer airs Friday nights at 7:00 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel. Cesar Millan appears Saturday, June 2, at PETCO. Free. 1:00 p.m. 7040 Valley Creek Plaza, Woodbury; 651.739.9122.