My neighbor Cathy lent me her copy of Cesar Millan’s book, Cesar’s Way: The Natural Everday Guide to Understanding & Correcting Common Dog Problems (2006, Three Rivers Press). She insisted I borrow it.
“Lucy owns you. You don’t own Lucy,” Cathy told me. She described my female Dalmatian’s dominant behavior in my “pack”; Cesar’s way of speaking about households with dogs.
Sam’s nephew Jamie years ago recommended watching The Dog Whisperer starring Cesar Millan on the National Geographic Channel. I don’t have a television and have never seen this charismatic TV character.
What I gather now after reading this self-made national dog expert’s book is that most of his charisma is derived from his own personality. It doesn’t shine through in the book. Yes, it’s a New York Times bestseller and a million copies sold but it is not very well written. There’s too little advice for someone like me who has lived nearly half a century with dogs as part of my everyday experience.
Lucy is an alpha from birth; smart and headstrong. Reading about how to handle such natural born leaders from Cesar Millan described Lucy and how she has needed to be led, challenged, and demands so much more from me. And like many of the famous celebrity clients…from Oprah to Will Smith…Cesar challenges you to be your best pack leader. Get behind Lucy, Cesar.
I didn’t get my real diagnosis until almost the end of the book. There on p. 267 is a key sentence for me and Lucy and Scooby and our pack. “There are no strong pack leaders in a home in mourning.” Lucy listened to Sam. He was the alpha. Lucy is a daddy’s girl. Mourning is still in process, although I know I am called upon now to be a stronger pack leader.
Cesar’s suggestion of walking your dog longer and more often is a good one. Wearing them out and running down their internal batteries is Cesar’s way of being the best master of your dogs. Wish I could run or walk four or more hours a day with dogs in the hills of Los Angeles.
With all the common sense advice he packs in his book, those fans who watch his television show have a handy reference. Cesar Millan has built a platform for a book from his viewing audience. It doesn’t have to be written all that well.
Melissa Jo Peltier is Cesar’s ghostwriter and she’s at least given credit on the cover of the book. Yet the voice throughout is that of Cesar’s. And he says a lot of the same things over and over again. Did I say this was a quick read? No; not really. It’s a long and painful read.
The brand identity of Cesar Millan sells his video tutorials and lesson plans and private sessions. He’s not writing books. He’s selling leashes and dog toys and has a website and a newsletter. He’s building a corporate empire based on the millions of dog owners north of the Mexican border. Cesar’s rags to riches story of immigration is a bit sketchy and he waxes over things by name dropping the rich and famous with dog issues. He also pulls the heart strings by his case studies of rescued dogs and their rehabilitation in a pack.
It’s not really a book about how to train your dog. But how to let your dog be more of a dog and healthier, happier and more balanced as a result. Ultimately it’s not about changing your dog’s behavior; it’s changing your own. Dogs follow.