Cesar Millan Says He Doesn't Train Dogs — Here's Why - Exclusive

For many dog parents, Cesar Millan's name has become synonymous with dog training. The Mexican-born star of "The Dog Whisperer" and National Geographic's "Better Human, Better Dogs" first learned the importance of communicating effectively with animals in his rural childhood. "I grew up on a farm, so I grew up with a belief that you have to gain trust and respect so the animals can give you their loyalty," he told The List in an exclusive interview. "My first language, in a way, was talking to animals. I didn't know — I thought it was a farm behavior until I came to America, and then I said, "Wow, what I learned from my grandfather is something I can share with people."

His intuitions proved correct. After emigrating to the U.S., he found a job as a dog groomer and quickly gained a reputation for keeping even the most difficult dogs calm (per his website). An early client, actress Jada Pinkett Smith, recognized his talent and became a vocal advocate of his work — even paying for a year of English tutoring to help him advance his career. But while he's built his career on showing people how to train their dogs, he's quick to emphasize that he does not consider himself a dog trainer –- here's why.

Is your dog angsty? Look in the mirror

We all know each dog has its own unique personality. But according to Cesar Millan, much of a dog's behavior is a reflection of its owner's behavior. Dogs, he explained, can pick up nonverbal emotional cues from their humans and essentially reflect them back in their own behavior. "The dog is just going to intensify what you already had," he explained. "You already had the fear; you already had the anxiety; you already had the confusion. No dog gives it to the human."

This means that an essential part of getting your dog under control is getting your own psychic turmoil under control. Indeed, Millan considers one's own personal energy a critical element of effective dog training. "They're animals, and animals pick up on your energy," he said. "Before you even think, you have to know what energy you have. Before you even say, 'I want to do this with you,' you have to know what energy you have."

Cesar Millan doesn't train dogs — he trains people

For this reason, Cesar Millan says he trains people –- not dogs. "I don't train dogs; I train humans so they learn how to connect, communicate, and have a relationship," he said. "In that training, I teach people about energy, philosophy, and activities. The activities [are] where you can find training techniques or strategies. [Connection, communication, and having a relationship are] one, two, three."

He emphasized that building an emotional rapport with your dog is crucial, and even proven training techniques will fail if you attempt them while filled with negative energy. "You can't go in with the mentality, 'I'm going to train you even if my energy is wrong,' or even if my mentality is wrong. That's why I focus so much on training humans to understand the most basic knowledge that we should never forget," he said. "It's impossible for a dog to live with a human who hasn't worked on that toxic side of themselves."

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