Cesar Millan has built an empire of highly rated television shows, best-selling books and products as a dog behaviorist. “[He] has done for dog psychology what Oprah did for talking about your feelings,” wrote TV Guide’s Malcolm Venable in a 2016 profile. But Millan’s work doesn’t focus on dogs alone.
“To me, training dogs is as relevant as training people. How do I teach people to have empathy? How do I help people to care about what is happening all over the world?” Millan says. One way he’s attempting to do just that is by teaming up with the Zappos for Good Speaker Series. On August 5, Millan will join dog activist Lisa Vanderpump (best known from Bravo’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills) at The Smith Center’s Reynolds Hall to speak on dog-centric issues, from Vanderpump’s efforts to shut down China’s Yulin Dog Meat Festival to the importance of spay-and-neuter practices in preventing euthanasia of dogs in the U.S. We caught up with Millan to discuss the causes close to his heart and get a few tips for dealing with canines … and humans.
What attracted you to this event?
My heart is with dogs who are hurting all over the world. I think what Lisa Vanderpump is doing is something that needs attention. There are so many ways that dogs suffer around the world every day. By us becoming a pack, that will give the cause more attention. If we want to understand true dog-loving skills, we need to understand how we can all help.
What do you find most effective in teaching people empathy?
Comedy. Most people do not expect comedy. I make their lives simpler but I also use a lot of humor for people to learn that life is simple. We make it complicated. It’s having fun while you learn common sense. Some of my clients are Harvard graduates who can’t walk a Chihuahua. They can’t relate to a very little dog. How is it that this very smart person is not able to communicate? A lot of people want to communicate with dogs as if that dog has a bachelor’s degree. Everybody wants a smart dog but the dog always wants a human [with common sense].
Since it’s summertime, can you give us a few tips for traveling with dogs?
Dogs are travelers by nature. If your dog doesn’t have the experience, make sure that you get the dog exercising a little bit more. Don’t just take the same routes. Take it to different places. It’s almost like you’re training for a marathon, but it’s training for travel.
Most people don’t prepare; they just worry. You can eliminate all of that if you learn how to get ready for traveling. We do that with ourselves. If we’re going to get on a plane that doesn’t have a restroom or we don’t want to get in it, we drink less fluids and we don’t eat a lot. The dog can fast. The dog has a reserve inside.
When you arrive at your destination, take your dog for a walk. In Las Vegas, you have to be very careful because it’s so hot. Get boots to protect its feet. But do allow the dog to be outside so he can realize it’s better to be inside than outside. You need to let him acclimate. Once he pees, he gets to know the smells and he shakes. Those are signs that he feels comfortable in the new place.
You’ve accomplished a lot in your career. What are you most proud of?
Raising two kids. I’m an immigrant. I’m legal now, but I come from that background: foreign language, foreign culture. I feel very proud of being able to, one, jump the border; two, learn English; three, become an American citizen; four, have a TV show; and five, be on Oprah. But, the one [accomplishment] I’m most proud of, in my soul and my heart, is my children. I want them to do well. They’re 18 and 22 and they both have a TV show now. I want to make sure that they continue on this platform. As a Latino, we build things for family. I hope my boys continue the mission of educating people and helping dogs.
Zappos for Good Speaker Series With Cesar Millan and Lisa Vanderpump
Aug. 5, 6 p.m., $29–$99, The Smith Center’s Reynolds Hall, thesmithcenter.com. Proceeds benefit the Vanderpump Dogs Foundation and The Cesar Millan Pack Project.