Top Dog

The sign reads: “Beware of Dog.” But don’t worry about the rottweilers, pit bulls or German shepherds; it’s the two-legged top dog, 36-year-old dog behavior specialist Cesar Millan, who runs this kennel.

Originally from Culiacán Sinaloa, México, Millan grew up on a family ranch surrounded by dogs. Inspired by his grandfather’s and father’s knowledge of perros, he dreamed of being the best dog trainer in the U.S. He studied dog psychology and, through firsthand experience working as a dog groomer in California, Millan gained valuable insight and came up with his own formulas to keep dogs balanced.

For the past eight years he has been operating the Dog Psychology Center in South-Central L.A. It’s a two-acre facility that “rehabilitates and maintains the dogs’ natural state of equilibrium,” says Millan. But to many desperate dog owners, it’s a kind of last-chance county camp for canines who have aggression issues.

At the Dog Psychology Center, Millan is the alpha dog, handling and commanding packs of dogs at a time. Cesar stresses that dogs need a “calm and assertive leader,” and that the human owners need to learn the right way of being a canine’s pack leader.

“A dog that doesn’t trust its human to be a good pack leader," he says, "becomes unbalanced and often exhibits unwanted antisocial behaviors.”

Millan’s clients have included Hollywood couple Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith, directors Ridley Scott and Michael Bay, actors Nicolas Cage and Vin Diesel, ex-NBA dude Dennis Rodman, singer Hilary Duff and supermodel Rebecca Romijn.

The Dog Whisperer, as he has come to be known, has had so much success that he now hosts his own show, Dog Whisperer, on the National Geographic Channel, where audiences will come to know his mantra: “Dogs need exercise, discipline and affection, in that order.”

—Ben Quiñones


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