Who is Cesar Millan

Cesar Millan : From hairdresser to world star: The dog whisperer

Duffy didn't come with me. Maybe lucky, because most likely he would have embarrassed me here. Duffy, six and a half kilos, nine years old, is our little Tibetan Terrier mix from the animal shelter, who most people who see him for the first time think is incredibly cute. But he has his flaws.

What are his worst, asks Cesar Millan. He often does this at the beginning of his therapy sessions, I know his videos. But this is not a movie, the most famous dog trainer of all is standing in front of me in person, on the arid desert ground of his headquarters in the Santa Clarita Valley, California. No dog expert around the world has as many TV viewers as he does - in at least 20 countries, including Germany, when he holds his office hours on the Sixx broadcaster on Sundays. And no one else fills so many halls internationally with his performances, again in Berlin in March.

Duffy's mistake. Well where do I start? Maybe that he really enjoys chasing postmen, banging my leg every now and then, setting the direction and speed when going for a walk or annoying at breakfast by constantly staring at me with incredibly sad eyes. He's really good at that.

The real patients are the masters

Cesar Millan, 47 years old, stocky and strong, shows his incredibly white teeth with a smile. He doesn't say it, of course, but I think he's thinking behind his smile, what a loser. And by that he doesn't mean my dog. Even if the words "Dog Psychology Center" can be seen behind Millan in huge white letters on green artificial turf, the dog psyche is only apparently the focus here.

The center at the gates of Los Angeles is the almost 17 hectare centerpiece in Millan's dog cosmos. Around 20 dogs that used to have behavioral problems live here under palm trees and citrus fruits together with sheep, llamas and chickens, have a swimming pool and, of course, their sports facility. Millan has seen lows, including a suicide attempt after divorcing his first wife. And he has achieved a lot since he crossed the border fence between Mexico and the United States 26 years ago to seek fortune as an illegal immigrant.

The real patients in this "Psychology Center" are the masters. In Millan's training videos, it comes down to this message very often: Your dog behaves this way because he does not recognize you as his pack leader. And if the human is not leading, the dog will feel the gap. But when the master appears, always in a controlled manner, always calm, it takes less than five minutes for even an excited Rottweiler to calm down again.

Why do I have to take out a pack that is strange to me?

That must be magic, believe his followers. Not because, critics grumble, accuse Millan of brutal methods. He would drill his dogs with blows, spiked collars and electric shocks: they are aversive methods. The main witness is Holly, a Labrador. You can see the video on YouTube of how he attacked Millan, biting him, that was five years ago. There is no shortage of experts who explain this case that the trainer has no idea.

From outside, beyond the fence that surrounds the center, loud barking can be heard, it sounds like anger, coupled with despair. As if the dark side of the Santa Clarita Valley were right next to this dog heaven. A farm, says Millan without a smile, the farmer takes in dogs whose owners are meanwhile to work.

Doesn't the howling bother him? These are other people's business, he replies. And he couldn't take care of all of them. Then he pushes seven lines into my hand. At the other end are: a mastiff, a labrador, a pit bull, a pomeranian, a pug, a Yorkshire with a pink bow in its hair and a mix with plenty of dachshunds in it. In addition, it is as hot as the California sun can shine in winter. Sweat quickly stands on my forehead.

Why do I have to take out a pack that is strange to me? That doesn't become entirely clear by the end of the lesson. But it might have to do with showing you how tense you are. Being tense is very bad. Because energy, Millan explains, is transferred from humans to dogs, for better or for worse.

It's good that nobody saw that

I resist the temptation to wipe my sweat off because it might seem somehow looser. Millan runs next to me, relax, he calls out to me, don't look at the dogs or the floor. The dogs should follow me, not me. The pit bull is already pulling past me, it's junior, Millan's darling. Gio, the pug, follows him, at least Holly stays behind me, the Labrador who once bit Millan and now looks very peaceful.

Go a little faster, says Millan. And explains to me what is important. That I set the direction, that I bring structure into it. That I'll take the lead. First the dog has to follow me, then, if I allow it, it can sniff around a bit, sometimes mark its territory, but not constantly just because it feels like it. Otherwise he'll always dance on my nose. Junior immediately stops, lifts his leg and makes a veritable lake. Millan almost stepped on the pug, which also stopped abruptly. It's good that nobody saw that, otherwise it would be called Cesar Millan again.

I proudly say that my duffy often leads the way. But when I shout “car” at the fence, he turns right, to the garage, and when I shout “baker”, he goes to the left because the bakery is there. But of course nobody listens to the word "baker" here. And that Duffy sometimes just runs straight ahead because he saw a squirrel, I prefer to hide it. Only later do I see one of Millan's videos in which he explains the basic mistake many people make: They think they could get an intellectual or an emotional connection with their four-legged friend. But the dog is guided by his instincts, words are at best a second choice.

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