Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan

Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan
Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan
Format Reality
Starring Cesar Millan
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English, Spanish
No. of seasons 7
No. of episodes 131
Running time 60 minutes
Production company(s) MPH Entertainment, Inc.
Mobile Video Productions, Inc.
Original channel National Geographic Channel (2004-2011)
Nat Geo WILD (2011-present)
Original run September 13, 2004 (2004-09-13) – present
External links Website

Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan is a reality television series that features Cesar Millan's work with problem dogs. In the United States, the program airs exclusively on the Nat Geo WILD channel with season 8 expected to premiere in 2012.

Episodes of "Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan" feature guests’ problem dogs, introduced through documentary-style footage and an interview with the owners. Millan offers suggestions on how the owners can become their pet's 'pack leader', consistent with the theory that dogs are pack animals. He uses behaviour modification techniques and the philosophy that exercise, discipline and affection are required "in that order" for dogs to be healthy and balanced.[1]

The series premiered on September 13, 2004 on the National Geographic Channel in half-hour episodes and in 2005 was expanded to one hour and moved to prime time. In 2011, the series aired its seventh season broadcast in more than eighty countries worldwide.[2] Produced by Sheila Emery and Kay Sumner in association with MPH Entertainment, Inc. the program has an estimated audience of 11 million American viewers per week.[3]A number of entertainment-industry professionals have appeared on the program, including Jada Pinkett Smith.


Program format

Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan is a documentary-style reality television program centering on animal behaviorist Cesar Millan[4] as he works to rehabilitate dogs with behavior problems ranging from inconveniences such as excessive barking, to behaviors that if not corrected could leave the owners little choice but to medicate or euthanize the dog.[5][6]

Millan said in a number of interviews that the program is not a guide to training, but a demonstration of his rehabilitation techniques.[4][6][7] Each episode begins with the statement: "Do not attempt the techniques you are about to see without consulting a professional",[8] and repeats warnings that viewers should not attempt the behavior modification techniques at home.[1]

Viewers are introduced to the difficult dog (or dogs), and their owners, through home-movie style footage of the dog engaging in the behavior its owners find problematic. A voice-over describes the situation briefly; the owners tell their story, and Millan arrives. Program publicity states that Millan does not review the 'audition' videos of the dogs and has no advance knowledge of the situation unless the dog’s behavior makes it a potential danger to Millan and the crew.[9] Millan conducts an interview as the owners describe the issues at hand. Millan then usually offers suggestions on how the owners may alter their own habits to become a 'pack leader' for their pet. He goes on to demonstrate behavior modification techniques with the dog and shows his expertise at establishing dominance over the troubled canine. Millan frequently brings one or more of his own dogs to a training session, which Millan describes as transferring another dog's 'balanced energy'. Sometimes, the dog is taken to Millan's Dog Psychology Center where it stays with Millan's own dogs for days or weeks.[10] Each episode ends with a demonstration of the dog's altered behaviour and the astonished pleasure of the owner.

Episodes feature the owners and families whose dogs are being rehabilitated. In inviting submissions the producers look for a wide variety of dog problems, including unusual phobias, obsessions, fearful behavior, aggression, or any other unique situations that Cesar could help transform. They ask owners for anything interesting or funny about their dog, and request a short video showing three instances of the problem behavior. Occasionally the program calls for particular types of dogs for themed episodes, such as "spoiled rotten" dogs for Beverly Hills Divas.[11]

On occasion Dog Whisperer is taken ‘on the road’ with episodes recorded in U.S. cities other than Los Angeles, and from the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.[12]


Mexican American Millan is a self-taught dog trainer who established a reputation for working with aggressive breeds and hard to handle cases,[13][14][15][16] subsequently developing a celebrity clientele.

In 2002, after he was profiled in a newspaper article, Millan received offers from a number of producers, and chose to work with Sheila Emery and Kay Sumner. They teamed with MPH Entertainment, Inc., which had been involved in successful reality-based cable shows, to produce a pilot. The producers had preliminary talks with Animal Planet, but the Network would not commit beyond a single pilot episode.[17] The National Geographic Channel expressed interest in the program, ordering 26 half-hour episodes, on the proviso that MPH provide the required deficit financing.[3] Under this agreement MPH and Emery/Sumner retained the copyright to the show.[3] The channel retains control of television distribution in the United States and Canada.[3] MPH and Emery/Sumner control worldwide home video and foreign sales and share that revenue with the channel, allowing them to create and market various video collections.[18] The name of the program was similar to Paul Owens' 1999 book The Dog Whisperer. Owens, a positive trainer, has distanced himself from the program and now calls himself "the original dog whisperer".[19]

The show premiered in 2004, gradually gaining audience attention, by word of mouth.[3] For the first season, the series wasn’t positioned in prime time and the channel did little to promote the show.[3] However, in Season 2 it was expanded to an hour and moved to a prime time slot.[3] In 2009 the National Geographic Channel agreed with Fox to syndicate the series in the Fall of 2010, bringing it to a channel with exposure to approximately 50 million of the USA’s 120 million households.[3] A journalist for The Times questioned Cesar Millan on his motivation for producing the program, and quoted him as responding, "The goal that God and I have together is the whole world transformed through a dog."[20]

In 2006, former publicist Makeda Smith[21] filed a copyright infringment suit which stated that in 2001, she and her partner branded Millan as "The Dog Whisperer" by conceiving, producing and directing what they say was a pilot named “The Dog Whisperer", featuring Tichina Arnold.[22] The $5,000,000 lawsuit was settled out of court.[22]

The program is broadcast in more than eighty countries worldwide where it is alternatively known as Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan, Dog Whisperer, or The Dog Whisperer.[2] At the debut of the sixth season of the Dog Whisperer, a New York Times article estimated an audience of 11 million American viewers each week.[3] In 2011 the program aired its seventh season, and all repeats and future new episodes were moved to Nat Geo WILD. Ten new episodes are in production which will be broadcast on Nat Geo WILD in early 2012. The new season will have more themed episodes, such as "home wrecker" dogs on Valentines Day.[23]

Cesar Millan

The Dog Whisperer chronicles the work of Cesar Millan, a Mexican American with an instinctive approach to rehabilitating dogs with problem behaviour.[4]

Born in 1969, Millan spent his childhood in the city of Culiacan in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico. However his favourite place was his grandfather’s ranch where he was captivated by the wild dogs on the property.[24][25] He spent so much time with the dogs that locals called him el Perrero, "the dog boy." His fascination with dogs extended to television, and his favourite programs featured highly-trained dogs such as Lassie.[24]

By his teens, Millan had decided that he wanted to be a Hollywood animal trainer, and he moved to Los Angeles where he worked for a dog grooming store and then for a limousine company.[24] He ran a dog training business from a van before opening the Dog Psychology Center in South Los Angeles where he focused on rehabilitating especially aggressive dogs.[26] His expertise with dogs was publicised primarily by word of mouth and Millan soon developed a clientele that included entertainment-industry professionals. Millan’s first mention in the national mainstream media came in People magazine in December of 2002 in an article describing his work with action-film director Ridley Scott’s Jack Russell Terriers.[24]

The Dog Whisperer program has featured occasional appearances by Millan’s (now ex) wife Illusion and two sons.


Daddy was an American Pit Bull Terrier integral to Millan's work and the show.[27] Daddy became known for his calm temperament, tolerance for smaller dogs and capacity for empathy.[28] Millan employed Daddy's temperament to rehabilitate dogs, train dog owners and serve as a role model for a breed often associated with aggressiveness. Daddy appeared frequently in episodes of the Dog Whisperer,[29] with Millan referring to him as his right-hand man.[30] According to Millan, Daddy "never made a mistake — never, never. He's never displayed aggression or any other negative behavior. He's just always helped me."[31] In 2009, Millan added "I have never had a dog like Daddy. I've been astounded by his intuition, consoled by his affection, and awed by his silent empathy."[32]

Celebrity appearances

Jada Pinkett Smith, who helped Millan achieve his goal of having a television show, participated in the program's 100th episode[33][34] [3] along with other celebrity guests including Patti LaBelle,[35] Virginia Madsen,[36] Ed McMahon[37] and Daisy Fuentes[38][39] — all having worked with Millan on earlier episodes with their dogs.

Production crew

The writers of Dog Whisperer, Jim Milio and Melissa Jo Peltier, write that they put on their "writer-producer hats to focus, restructure, and help create a theme for the segment." This is followed by the "shaping of the show itself,' writing the narrations, wraps, teasers, tags, and bumpers. They went on to say that "this is all for a show where absolutely nothing in the field (save Cesar’s arrivals to the dog owner’s front doors) is fabricated…what we like to call the last “real” Reality show on television."[40]

Executive producers for MPH Entertainment are Jim Milio, Melissa Jo Peltier, and Mark Hufnail. Sheila Possner-Emery and Kay Bachman-Sumner are producers. For National Geographic Channel, the executive producer is Char Serwa. Nicholas Bunker is associate producer, Christina Lublin coordinating producer and SueAnn Fincke series producer. The series is directed by SueAnn Fincke and Jim Milio. Cinematographers are Bryan Duggan and Christopher Komives. Thirty-six other crew members are involved in location management, sound recording, camera operation, music, editing, and production assistance.[41]


In February 2006, an article in the New York Times quoted Dr. Nicholas Dodman, director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, said that his college had "written to National Geographic Channel and told them they have put dog training back 20 years".[42] A New York Times August 2006 op-ed by Mark Derr, an author noted for his publications on dogs, criticized Dog Whisperer for its reliance on a "simplistic view of the dog's social structure". According to Derr, Millan's methodology "flies in the face of what professional animal behaviorists — either trained and certified veterinarians or ethologists — have learned about normal and abnormal behavior in dogs".[43]

Also in 2006, the American Humane Association (AHA) requested that the National Geographic Channel stop airing the program,[44] saying that training tactics shown on Dog Whisperer were inhumane, outdated and improper.[45] By November 2009, Millan had invited the American Humane Association to the set of Dog Whisperer, at which time, according to Millan, "they changed their state of mind about what is cruel".[46] The association announced in February 2010 that despite "sharp differences of view in the past" and some lingering areas of disagreement, they shared many areas of interest with Millan.[47]

Debra Horwitz, president of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, said that the major benefits of The Dog Whisperer are that it makes owners aware that they are not alone in the problems they have with their pets, and that it provides good advice on the need for dogs to exercise and have rules. But, Horwitz adds, the show also has the major drawback of attributing behavior problems to dominance when the dog may be misbehaving because it is fearful or anxious.[48] Pet columnist Steve Dale said in a July 2010 newspaper column that while he believed Millan was "blessed with an amazingly intuitive understanding of dog behavior," some of the methods shown on the program, particularly those related to dominance, were inappropriate and not substantiated by science.[49]


The Dog Whisperer premiered in 2004 as a half hour program, but subsequently became first in the National Geographic channel ratings and was expanded to a prime-time, one hour format.[7] In 2007, the network renewed its most popular series to that date with an unprecendented 35 episodes in which Milan travelled the show to US cities like New York and Miami. [9] In 2008, the show in its 100th episode had grown from an estimated 100,000 households per episodes per household estimated 1,000,000 people per episode. [50] By 2010 Dog Whisperer had been the National Geographic’s top rated series for six years.[51]


In 2005 and again in 2007, Millan was awarded the Michael Landon Award for Inspiration to Youth Through Television.[52] The show received Emmy nominations for Outstanding Reality Program in both 2006 and 2007, though it did not take the award on either occasion.[53][54]

In 2008, Dog Whisperer won TV Best Variety or Reality Show at the 23rd Annual Imagen Foundation Awards, and also won the People's Choice Award for Favorite Animal Show that same year.[55] Dog Whisperer again won the People's Choice Awards in the category of Favourite Animal Show in 2010.[56][57]

The Humane Society of the United States Genesis Award Committee presented Millan with a 2008 Special Commendation for his work in rehabilitating animals. In 2010, the show was nominated for the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Reality Programs but did not take the award.


  1. ^ a b Patterson, John (16 May 2009). "All heel for Cesar". The Age (Australia). Retrieved 8 September 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Oldenburg, Ann (27 July 2006). "Pack is back: A week of 'Whisperer'". USA Today. Retrieved 8 September 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Wallace, Amy (10 October 2009). "Whispering to Rottweilers, and to C.E.O.’s". The New York Times (USA).;dog%20whisperer&%2334&%2359&sq&st=cse&%2359;&scp=20. Retrieved 8 September 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c Asthana, Anushka (19 March 2006). "This week we want to know all about Cesar Millan". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 8 September 2011. 
  5. ^ "Dog Whisperer: show overview". Retrieved 11 September 2011. 
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  11. ^ "Show Submissions". Cesar's Way. Retrieved 10 April 2010. 
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  13. ^ "October 20, 2008 Immigrant of the Day: Cesar Millan (Mexico)". The Law Professors Blog.. "Millan gained a reputation as someone who could work easily with the most difficult and aggressive dogs. Millan's next job was washing limousines, work that had been offered to him by one of the San Diego clients. Millan changed his career goal from that of being a Hollywood dog trainer to rehabilitating troubled dogs and he started his own business, the Pacific Point Canine Academy" 
  14. ^ "From the 'Dog Whisperer,' a Howl of Triumph". The New York Times, Edward Wyatt, May 23, 2006. "Mr. Millan, 36, started by working in the early 1990's in a San Diego dog-grooming studio, where he gained a reputation for working well with the hard-to-handle cases. He asked neighbors to let him walk their dogs. People noticed how he could calm even the fiercest creatures, and word of mouth, the most effective form of advertising and promotion, followed him north to Los Angeles." 
  15. ^ "Cesar Millan Announces The Dog Whisperer Tour for UK". "Prior to The Dog Whisperer series, Cesar Millan had focused on rehabilitating especially aggressive dogs and had operated the Dog Psychology Center in South Los Angeles (2002–2008)." 
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  20. ^ Whipple, Tom (1 March 2010). "Enter the Dog Whisperer, with Stern Words for our Dogs". The Times (London). 
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  47. ^ American Humane Association (12 February 2010). "American Humane Association Convenes Humane Dog Training Symposium". Retrieved 2010-03-24. 
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  52. ^ Young Artists
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  57. ^ Full List of People's Choice Awards 2010 Winners - The Hollywood Gossip

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