I rehabilitate dogs. I train people. I am Cesar Millan, and the world knows me as the Dog Whisperer.
I was born in Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico, and grew up working with animals on my grandfather’s farm. Because of my natural way with dogs, they would follow me everywhere. Other kids would bully me and call me el perrero—”the dirty dog boy.” But I tried to not let the negativity get to me, and for my 13th birthday my wish was to become the best dog trainer in the world. (See my It Gets Better Project video.)
It’s no secret that I jumped the border into the US when I was 21. Here I spoke no English and knew no one. I was homeless living on the streets for 2 months and eventually got a job as a dog groomer and dog walker. So here’s a Mexican guy walking 30 or 40 dogs off leash. I didn’t even know walking dogs off leash was illegal.
I developed a following and got a reputation for being able to work with the most aggressive dogs. In 1994, I met Jada Pinkett, then a sitcom actress (now Jada Pinkett Smith, after her marriage to Will Smith). She became one of my clients and biggest supporters. When I told her I wanted to be on TV, she told me I needed to learn English first and she even paid for my English tutor for the year.
Then after a profile of me ran in the Los Angeles Times, I was approached by several production companies to develop a TV show. I started working on a pilot for Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan. It first aired in 2004 on National Geographic and would become National Geographic’s #1 show. The show is now on Nat Geo WILD and broadcast in more than 80 countries!
I got married in 1994 and had two sons, Andre in 1995 and Calvin in 2001. But in June 2010, I received news of my divorce while in London and it made my whole world come down. I felt defeated, a big sense of guilt and failure. I had my boys with me, but I wasn’t feeling good. I was at the lowest level I had ever been emotionally and psychologically. It was also my first summer without Daddy, who had passed on the previous February after being with me for nearly sixteen years. In fact, Daddy had helped Andre learn how to walk, and had helped me rehabilitate many a dog and train many a dog lover. He also helped me pick out his protégé, Junior, who joined the pack as a puppy in 2008 and has grown into another calm and mellow pit bull ambassador. He has been especially helpful in dealing with aggressive dogs. Although Junior has been attacked, he has never retaliated. He just calmly stands his ground, which defuses the situation.
His was definitely the right energy to have around in that difficult summer of 2010, but it still took me two years to finally come back to a good place. This year has been a tremendous period of growth, rebuilding and rehabilitation for me and my pack. (See Back in London, Back on Top )
My son Calvin is living with me and he also has a natural way with dogs. I was really touched this past year when he turned 13 and made the same wish I did: to become the best dog trainer in the world. I had a lot of fun working on the Denny’s Skillet Whisperer video, with him playing my son in the Spanish version. My love life has also moved on and I’m dating a wonderful woman named Jahira—both she and Calvin accompanied me to the Annual Impact Awards Gala where I was recognized for Outstanding Reality Show portraying positive images of Hispanics in the media.
I’ve taken 100% ownership of my website and transformed it into far more than a fan site—a place where a highly engaged community of dog lovers can come for help with their dog, to discuss relevant dog issues openly and honestly, and to get the tools they need to lead a happy, fulfilling life with their dogs. The engagement on the site, Facebook, and Twitter is unbelievable. I’m closing in on 2 million fans on Facebook and 400,000 followers on Twitter, and I’ve never seen a group of smarter, more passionate, and engaged fans anywhere online.
One of the things I’m most proud of is the Dog Psychology Center (DPC) . The DPC started off as a dream while I was trying to make my way as a dog trainer in South Central Los Angeles. At the time, I was surrounded by a community of drug abusers, graffiti-covered buildings and an overall negative energy. This was no place to make a dream come true. But with the support of friends and family, and the luck of a vacant parking lot, that dream took roots.
Today the DPC looks a little different. It sits in the hills of Santa Clarita. I never thought my dreams of owning a center where dogs can come together as a pack and be rehabilitated would ever turn out as it has. It has been a beautiful transformation over time and I am ready to really focus on getting back to thebasics of rescuing dogs, rehabilitating them and then placing them in good homes. I want to recreate the farm experience from when I was a kid in Mexico and invite children to come learn the natural way of life, including actual farming and working with other species too. I would also love to open the facility to other dog trainers and have them come and learn together as a community.
Another longtime dream I’m really proud of isThe Millan Foundation. The foundation has provided financial support and rehabilitation expertise to animal shelters around the world since its inception on Valentine’s Day 2007. One of the many programs that is making a big difference in the lives of children is called Mutt-i-grees. Based on my principles, it teaches children empathy, social skills, self-awareness and has been shown to combat bullying in schools.
I hope that I can be an inspiration to everyone out there who is trying to live their dreams. Even though the odds of succeeding were against me, I tried to never think about the negative. Being an immigrant, not speaking English, and coming from a poor background has never been at the forefront of my thinking. The dream was always at the forefront. When you’re poor, you have nothing to lose and nothing to be afraid of. Holding onto the dream and having nothing to lose is what helped me succeed.