Yes, I know what you’re thinking, “The Dog Whisperer? That guy deals with…dogs. What on earth could he teach me about life?” Remember that yours truly has found life and relationship lessons in barefoot running shoes, the actions (or lack thereof) of an elderly cat, a campground, and a fencing strip. Oh, and I’m married to a guy who learns about life from the dojo. So, see, life lessons from Cesar Millan is suddenly not so strange now, is it? Besides, his methods have worked to make my 95-lb pit bull the world’s best dog!
1) Energy Transfer
Whenever Cesar meets with a new case, he watches the owner(s) interact with the dogs. He pays more attention to the behavior of the owner than that of the dog. His claim is that anxiety or a lack of confidence in the owner transfers to the dog. He frequently says, “I rehabilitate dogs, but I train people.” In our lives apart from dogs, we also transfer or energy. If you find that you experience stress interacting with someone, check your own energy. What are you responsible for transferring?
2) Don’t Grip the Leash Too Tightly
This is an extension of the lesson above. When you watch the owners walk their troubled dogs, they grip the leash too tightly and pull with all their might if their dogs lunges at another dog. This is transferring the anxiety to dog, but even more importantly, it is giving power to the anxiety. In order to control the dog, the owner has to learn to let go of the illusion of control and has to begin to trust their dog.
3) Prepare for Greetings
Cesar always prepares the dogs carefully before allowing them to enter a dog park or greet other dogs. He makes sure that they are calm and submissive so that they are well-received by the rest of the pack. It is worthwhile to check your own mental state before greeting someone. I know I can come in from a stressful day and take it out on my boyfriend instead of pausing and waiting until my own mind was calm. And, no, I’m not recommending that you start greeting people by sniffing their butts!
4) Work With Nature
According to Cesar, dogs process the world through their noses first, followed by their ears and eyes. Obviously, we tend to use those senses in reverse and we all too often expect that from out pets. Cesar advocated working with the nature of the animal so that you get the results you are looking for with the least amount of resistance. Look around you. Not everyone perceives the world the way you do. Do you expect them to conform to you, or do you allow them to use their nature?
5) Be Aware of the Precursors
On the show, Cesar will often correct a dog when I cannot see any misbehavior. Until the sequence is played in slow motion, that is. Then, you can see a slight tuck of the tail or a tip of the ear, a slight precursor to the attack that is about to occur. Cesar is so successful because he recognizes and responds to these early warning signs. I know in my own life, I am often too busy to notice those little signs, much less respond so quickly to them.
6) Move Forward
When dealing with anxious or aggressive dogs, especially ones that he is trying to form a pack with, Cesar frequently begins by taking them for a walk or a rollerblade ride (I think he has a death wish here!). His reasoning is that when the dogs are moving forward, it is impossible for them to focus on anything else. Now, I do think our brains are more monkey-minded than our canine friends, but we can still benefit from forward movement to calm ourselves. So, when you are angry, sad, or anxious, try going for a walk. Or a rollerblade ride if you’re more daring than I!
7) Calm and Assertive
Cesar always works to get the dogs in a calm and submissive state. The counterpoint to that in the owners is a calm and assertive state. He is very kinesthetic and models what this looks like: shoulders back, head relaxed, arms relaxed. It projects confidence and a calm mind. When I feel stressed, I find myself emulating the body language of Cesar to trick my mind into responding.
8) Trust Your Senses
Cesar relies heavily on intuition; he does not spend too much time in the “thinky place.” He trusts his instincts and, when he needs extra information, he trusts the instincts of his pack as they give him feedback on a new dog. We all too often discount intuition and try to over-analyze everything. Sometimes, it is better to trust your gut or the gut of a friend if yours is out of order.
9) See the Possible
About once a month, I see an episode with a dog that I think is hopeless. Cesar doesn’t give up. Some cases take longer and take more effort, but they can all improve. He brings the worst cases to his ranch, where they are surrounded by a healthy and stable pack. This is a good lesson in our own lives when troubles seem insurmountable. Improvement is always possible. Learn from Cesar, if you need more help, surround yourself with those who are healthy and balanced. Their energy will transfer. And, if that doesn’t work, maybe try chasing a tennis ball.
10) Redirect With Play
Need I say more?
Woof! This post is Tiger-approved.