As the "Dog Whisperer," renowned dog behavior expert Cesar Millan worked his magic to help dogs with unruly, irrational and obsessed behavior, and their owners, live together in harmony. After nine seasons of his Emmy-nominated series, Millan says it was time to move onto a new show, "Leader of the Pack," with a different mission, one that's more dear to his heart: rescuing and rehabilitating unwanted canines. "I felt I needed to do a show focused on saving lives,'" Millan said recently during a telephone interview. "More than 600 million dogs are put to death each year, 4 to 5 million die in the United States. I'm in a position to make a difference and to help eliminate the amount of dogs that are killed." Dog lovers and fans of the show will get the opportunity to witness Millan's talents first-hand when he brings his stage show, "Cesar Millan Live," Saturday to The Straz Center.
The performance will give audience members a crash course on the basics of doggy discipline, how the Mexico native "trains humans and rehabilitate dogs," and will offer tips and tools to help dog owners become calm and assertive pack leaders. (FYI, this is a human-only show, do not bring your dogs to the Straz Center.) "When people watch my show, they see the magic of editing," said Millan, 43. "Here, they can watch the magic live. I break things down, bring dogs on stage and demonstrate so people can see it and believe it. The live experience allows me to help people understand everyone has this capability." Millan follows a "Power of the Pack" mentality, advising dog owners to be calm, assertive pack leaders. But in a country where many pet owners treat their animals like spoiled children, teaching calmness can be difficult. "The hardest thing for me to teach in America is calmness," said Millan, who has helped celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, Kathy Griffin, Jillian Michaels and others. "America is a very confident country, where everything is possible. People here don't like to wait for anything. When I make them aware they are not calm, before they surrender, they are going to fight you." Growing up in his native Culiacan, Mexico, Millan spent a lot of time with the dogs that roamed his grandfather's ranch. He makes no secret about crossing the border illegally 23 years ago, with a dream of becoming "the best dog trainer in the world," and helping dog owners and their pooches live together in harmony. Now, he's eager to help abandoned dogs find good homes. Like most dog lovers, Millan opposes euthanasia for shelter dogs, and says all dogs can be good pets as long as owners offer "exercise, discipline and affection." On his new series, "Leader of the Pack" on National Geographic Wild, three families compete in a series of canine challenges for a chance to adopt a shelter dog that has been rehabilitated by Millan. At the end of the show, he chooses the dog's forever family. "Most people love dogs, but they lack knowledge dealing with the dog, and the dog senses that," he said. "You have to read the dog properly and give it direction to be stable pack leader. One thing we all agree on is we love dogs and we shouldn't be killing them for no reason." FIND THE RIGHT DOG Before you head to the shelter in search of a new furry companion, Cesar Millan offers a few tips on finding the right pooch. “It's not about the cutest (dog) or the one we feel the most sorry for,” Millan said. “We want a dog to show us respect. Everybody likes the one that jumps on them because they think (the dog) is saying, 'choose me.' When a dog jumps on you he's just excited and you are source of excitement, you are not a source of leadership.” - Adopting a dog is a family decision. Make sure everyone is on board. - Do some research on the kind of dog you want. Remember, a dogs breed doesn't necessarily dictate its personality, but some dog breeds are known for having a certain energy or disposition. - You want to choose a pet that is compatible with your family's energy level and the kind of life you lead. - Leave your emotions at the animal shelter door. It's going to be tough with all the barking and jumping and sad eyes, but you don't want to pick a dog based on emotion. - Don't be afraid to ask the staff about the dog. How he gets along with the staff and other dogs. -If you can, take the dog for a “test drive” where the two of you can spend some time together. It will help you get an ideal of its underlying temperament away from the shelter. For more tips on how to find the right dog, visit www.Ceasarsway.com WHERE TO LOOK
Here are some local animal shelters that offer adoptions: - Hillsborough County Animal Services, 440 N. Faulkenburg Road., Tampa; (813) 744-5660;www.hillsboroughcounty.org -Humane Society of Tampa Bay, 3607 N. Armenia Ave., Tampa; (813) 870-3304; www.humanesocietytampa.org -Pinellas County Animal Services, 12450 Ulmerton Road, Largo; (727) 582-2600; www.pinellascounty.org/animalservices -SPCA of Tampa Bay, 9099-130th Ave., Largo; (727) 586-3591; www.spcatampabay.org -Humane Society of Pinellas, 3040 State Road 590, Clearwater; (727) 797-7722; www.humanesocietyofpinellas.org -Pet Pal Animal Shelter, 405 22nd Street S., St. Petersburg; (727) 328-7738; www.petpalanimalshelter.com -Friends of Strays, 2911 47th Ave N., St. Petersburg; (727) 522-6566; www.friendsofstrays.com
CESAR MILLAN LIVE!
When: 8 p.m. Saturday Where: Straz Center, 1010 MacInnes Place, Tampa Tickets: $39.25 to $49.25; (813) 229-7827 and www.strazcenter.org