En español | The dogs of America—the pampered and the pruned, the defiant and the dispossessed—led Cesar Millan, Mexican farm-boy dreamer, into stardom. Of course, that’s not the way Millan himself, star of the National Geographic Channel’s Dog Whisperer series, would put it. He’d never allow a pooch to lead him anywhere. He’s the calm, assertive pack leader. Always.
Two decades after Millan, then 21, crossed the border into California, looking to make a mark with his life, he’s doing it. (He became a U.S. citizen in 2009.) Now about to enter his seventh season of Whisperer, he’s a pop cult hero to dogs and their obedient owners, delivering fulfilled, well-behaved pups. And he presides over a canine-centered kingdom of books—his fifth is out in October—DVDs, toys, food, supplements and clothes touting his slogan, “Be The Pack Leader.”
But Millan is far more than a trainer and purveyor of products. “I’m just an instinctive guy who lives in the moment,” he says. But his renown as a dog whisperer began long ago, in Culiacán, the Mexican city where he was raised by his grandfather on a ranch. He was the boy they called El Perrero (the dog man), hiking the hills with a pack of dogs, his closest friends. He had a dream he believed could be fulfilled only in Hollywood: to be “the best dog trainer in the world,” like those who turned Lassie and Rin Tin Tin into stars.
His success is rooted in his philosophy that balance between dogs and people is possible when dogs are raised with “rules, boundaries and limitations.” Dogs need exercise, discipline and affection—in that order. Humans, says, Millan, 41, lose common sense when dealing with dogs. “As a result, dogs in America aren’t fulfilled. That’s why they develop psychological problems, can’t move away from fear and have aggression problems.”