Cesar Millan is effectively changing the lives of humans and dogs, one dog at a time.
His program, The Dog Whisperer, is on National Geographic channel and it is a remarkable slice of life. It's not simply an 'improve your dog's behaviour' program, teaching dogs how to behave so humans will approve. Rather, Cesar's show is totally about teaching humans to step up to the plate, changing their own behaviour, then making a shift in their own energy levels and thereby changing their lives, making better the lives of their dogs and themselves.
Ernesto Robles and his wife and children were the subject of the show this afternoon. Ernesto has a life-long fear of dogs, known as cynophobia, that was brought on by a fierce attack by a neighbour's dog when Ernesto was a small child. He was outside playing with his friends in their neighbourhood in Mexico. One of the dogs in the area began barking furiously and then raced towards the little boys. They ran for their lives towards Ernesto's home. The other boys made it to the house, ran inside and slammed the door shut, leaving a terrified little Ernesto standing just outside of safety, to face the enraged dog alone.
The little boy only remembers closing his eyes and screaming and screaming, then waking up in the hospital with doctors giving him rabies shots in his stomach. This so terrorized him that he has lived ever since with a paralyzing fear of dogs.
Today, he's a grown man, with a beautiful wife and four handsome sons...16 year old twins and 2 younger sons, 6 and 4 years old. His 6 year old son desperately wants a dog and has been asking his father over and over again for a dog for their home. Because of Ernesto's terror, he has so far refused to allow a dog into his family's life.
Ernesto and Cesar got together to talk about this fear and to work towards doing something about it.
One of the steps that they took together happened when Cesar invited Ernesto and his family to meet him at his Dog Psychology Center in Los Angeles. As Ernesto's wife and sons moved into the outer area of the fenced compound, Cesar invited Ernesto to walk into the center of the area within the fenced yard where Cesar's pack of approximately 40 well-balanced calm dogs were waiting. With great resolve, Ernesto opened the gate, walked inside the area and, at Cesar's instructions, walked forward without looking at any of the dogs in the area.
I was amazed to see how respectfully the dogs treated him as he walked among them. For the most part, only a few approached him, wanting merely to smell him and get acquainted. He did well, considering his deep-seated and all-encompassing fear. It was obvious to me watching Ernesto's body language that he was more than a little nervous. He went ahead anyway, and within a short time, I noticed that he visibly relaxed...but only a little.
After some time of Cesar's supervision, quiet instruction and advice, and with one on one contact between Ernesto and those quiet calm dogs, it became clear that he was breaking through to that small terrified boy from long ago. There was no magic A-HA! moment for Ernesto during this show. There were, however, many small moments of knowing for him, as he experienced the blessing of calm and peaceful dogs. His tears washed away the pain and fear from that long ago day.
Next, a visit to a humane society gave Ernesto even more confidence in sorting through the many kinds of dog behaviours...learning the difference between dogs that are trustworthy non-threatening canines and dogs that are aggressive. Cesar patiently walked with him every step of the way, and it became clear that Ernesto really got it that his childhood memories were running his life and today's memories are the only ones that he needs to play over in his mind...the only story he needs to tell himself.
In the end, Louis, a Chinese Crested from Cesar's own pack, was brought into the Robles' home to strengthen Ernesto's developing trust with dogs. Louis bonded with one of Ernesto's sons almost immediately. Cesar made the decision to offer Louis to the Robles family as a perfect match for a family pet. The family talked it over and decided to accept his kind offer, and Cesar delivered his buddy, Louis, to the Robles family home at the end of the program.
By this point in the show, needless to say I've been reduced to tears more than a few times. It's remarkable to find a program on TV today that consistently touches my heart and, every time I watch it, teaches me new ways of relating to other people.
Cesar's show does this.
I think his program would make a great parenting show for people wondering how to maintain discipline in their family and how to set healthy boundaries within their home for their children.
Indulged children are unhappy children.
Just as an indulged dog creates chaos in the home where he lives, indulged children also create chaos in a vain attempt to push the envelope, hoping that someone adult-sized in their family will take the lead and run the show. This gives both children and dogs a feeling of safety and security.
It's very scary for a small child or a dog to be in charge of the situation. They don't know how to do it, they know they don't know what to do, but if no one else steps up and takes control, then the child or the dog will do it, because Mother Nature abhors a vacuum. That's Mother Nature's way of filling the void left behind when no one is taking control.
At the end of the program, I'm left with a profound sense of joy at seeing this tall, strong man return to the feelings of that little boy's panic and fear, then walk through his own process and come out of the shadows into the sunlight at the end of the day, quite able to sit with several dogs without fear.
I'm also left with a deep respect for a man like Cesar Millan, who takes the time and has the goodness of heart to help a person shed those deeply-rooted layers of fear, in order to become at ease with the warm and friendly ways of Cesar's own dogs.
“We have to use exercise, discipline and affection every day.
Most of the time people share affection, affection, affection, and that creates frustration.
In a powerful breed, that's going to lead him into aggression.
So exercise and discipline play a big role in balance.” ~ Cesar Millan