Snout to Snout: Q&A with “Dog Nation” Star Cesar Millan
Before Cesar Millan, his brilliant white teeth, and son Andre, hit the road for their new Nat Geo WILD series, we asked him a few questions about “Dog Nation.”
The first time I saw Cesar Millan, pack leader extraordinaire and TV’s most famous dog trainer, I couldn’t get over the astounding whiteness of his teeth. I swear that every time he smiled, I saw a cartoon-like sparkle on his upper left cuspid. True story.
I was a fan of the hit TV show “Dog Whisperer which was produced from 2004 to 2012. Cesar has been keeping busy since then, but I’ve missed his signature “TSST.” How happy was I to hear that Cesar is back – along with his son – for more dog training adventures on a new Nat Geo WILD series!
The world-renowned dog behaviorist and his son, Andre, hit the road in “Dog Nation,” premiering Friday, March 3 on Nat Geo WILD. The duo will crisscross the United States to work with non-profit organizations and dog lovers that are helping to save millions of dogs around the country.
I had a chance to ask Cesar a few questions about the show (and his super white teeth), and I was not disappointed by his answers.
PetGuide: When did your son know that he wanted to follow in your footsteps?
Cesar: Both of my sons have been following in my footsteps for as long as they could walk, and they’ve been appearing on my shows since they were both really young, although Andre didn’t get really serious about doing the television thing with me until the last few years. But he and his younger brother Calvin have always been there helping out with the dogs and learning from them and me.
PetGuide: What are the best and worst things about working with your son?
Cesar: The best thing is that I’m working with family, and we have a really good connection onscreen. We also complement each other in a lot of ways. Andre’s got a really big heart and he’s very open with his emotions, and that shows on “Dog Nation” a lot. And, of course, we also come from two very different generations, so we have different perspectives because of that. I won’t say that there’s a “worst” thing about working with him, but the two downsides are that we sometimes don’t understand each other’s references because of that generational difference, although it’s a great opportunity for us to educate each other. The hardest part of it, though, is not just exploding with fatherly pride and completely forgetting what I’m doing while I’m watching him work.
PetGuide: How does working with an entire organization, such as an animal shelter or pet rescue, differ from working one-on-one with dogs and their owners struggling with behavioral problems?
Cesar: Shelters and rescues are by nature different because they tend to bring together professionals and committed amateurs who do that sort of thing all the time, while for an owner this may be the first dog they’ve ever had, or they just don’t have the experience to be able to fix a behavioral issue. Not that I don’t run into behavioral problems in shelters and rescues, of course. That happens all the time. But there are just more hands on deck to help out in that kind of situation. Helping a group rehab a dog also helps the group members to help each other in the process. Everyone sort of keeps an eye out for everyone else doing it right.
PetGuide: At these shelters, you must have seen and heard some horrific stories about pets in abusive situations. With all you’ve seen, what gives you hope to continue on your journey?
Cesar: What gives me hope is that there are just so many people who are dedicated so passionately to the cause of rescuing abandoned and abused dogs, and finding them loving, forever homes. Some of the things that people do to assist border on the miraculous, whether it’s pilots volunteering to fly rescued puppy mill dogs across the country, people giving up their time and money to rehome unwanted dogs, and all of them spreading the word about solving the problem through education, spaying, and neutering. Fortunately, for every one terrible case you hear of somebody abusing a dog, there are a hundred people ready to help a dog.
PetGuide: In “Dog Nation,” what’s the most inspiring case you’ve come upon?
Cesar: Every single one of them is inspiring, so it’s hard to pick just one. I help a veteran and his family so that they can keep his service dog, which had started to act up around their baby. In Chicago, Andre and I got to see firsthand a group that rescues dogs off the streets of the South Side, and the opening of a dog park in the same area that had been spearheaded by one woman. In St. Louis, we met a lot of people who are working against the puppy mill industry, and in San Francisco Andre finds out about a group that matches prisoners with shelter dogs to improve all of their lives. And back home in Los Angeles, we visited a center for autistic kids, where dogs are actually working to help them overcome their difficulties.
PetGuide: What can the average person do to help make the world a better place for pets and their communities?
Cesar: They can educate themselves, and then educate others. Learn about pet-related issues in your community, volunteer at a local shelter, help friends and neighbors with their dogs, and most importantly pay attention to what the dogs are teaching us — how to live in a balanced world full of trust and respect, in harmony with Nature and each other.
PetGuide: Last question. You have the whitest teeth I’ve ever seen in real life. What do you use to keep them pearly white? Raw bones? Baking soda? (it’s baking soda, isn’t it!?)
Cesar: Thank you! The secret is brushing several times daily and regular visits to an excellent dentist!
Check out a trailer from the show below and make sure to watch the premiere episode airing this Friday!