The Dog Whisperer is really the People Whisperer

Cesar Millan
"Dog Whisperer" Cesar Millan.

Lesley Stahl of "60 Minutes" paid a visit to "Dog Whisperer" Cesar Millan for our Sunday Profile:

I brought my new puppy to meet Cesar Millan in the rolling hills just north of Los Angeles.

Millan owns 43 acres in the area. ("I'm buying America a piece at a time," he said.)

Millan is able to buy up big chunks of real estate because his TV show, "Dog Whisperer," is such a big hit.

One analyst projects that his empire, built on best-selling books, DVDs, a magazine, a line of doggy products, and of course his TV show, with its sixth season premiering this week, is worth nearly $100 million.

His trademark is soothing the savage beasts that no one else can. He even makes house calls, where he sits distraught owners down and explains that they have to calm down and show their dog who's boss.

Cesar calls his ranch the Dog Psychology Center.

"Actually what worries me is when you brought [your dog Parker] in, because you told her to walk in front of you, so she's walking in front of Lesley Stahl," Millan said.

Americans who allow their dogs to walk in front of them is one of his biggest pet peeves. Evidently we're supposed to be the leader. Who knew?


If your dog doesn't learn to follow, Millan says, you'll never have a disciplined pet.

"President Obama and his new dog, you've seen them walk together?" I asked Millan.

"I've seen them day one, and definitely day one was not a good scene," Millan said. "The dog, Bo, was in front of the President of the United States."

"What about George W. Bush?"

"He walk the dog in front."

"His dog was in front as well?"

"Yeah. Barney. Sometimes he didn't want to go inside the helicopter."

Whether it's presidents or peons, Millan claims that man's best friend isn't the one most in need of therapy.

"The problem in the relationship - human dog and modern society - is not the dog," he said.

"Whatever my dogs' problem is, I gave it to her?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied. "So if we live our lives with nervousness, tension, frustration, anger, jealousy, insecurity, all those issues, they learn."

Millan says dog owners don't give their pooches enough to do.

"If dogs can smoke, it will be a lot of dogs smoking in America, because they really don't have much to do, you know what I mean? They spend a lot of time behind walls, and so all that buildup gets them really anxious. So that's why I suggest exercise. Exercise allows them to drain the energy," he said.

By exercise, he doesn't mean a long walk. He means treadmills, roller blades and water sports.

At his pool, as in all activities at the ranch, the dogs do everything together, in a pack.

Millan says he relies on peer pressure. "Many times they learn by just watching another dog," he said.

Turns out dogs are just big copycats!

Thanks to Millan and pack power, Parker swam for the very first time.

But even at the Dog Psychology Center, an innocent game of fetch can still lead to a dog fight. Millan went in between a rottweiler and a pit bull to stop a fight. "I am the dog whisperer," he said, laughing.

Would you get between two fighting dogs anywhere?" I asked.

"I know which dog to touch first, you know, so I see energy, I feel energy."

Millan learned how to "feel energy" when he was a young boy, on his grandfather's ranch back in Mexico. It was there he first talked "dog."

"There was three tones we used. There was the [makes noise], then [whistles] and then [smacks his lips]. This one means come."

"Which one means come?"

"[Smacks] You know? And then the [makes noise] means stop whatever you're doing, and the whistle is because they were far away from us," he said.

Getting along with mean dogs was simple for young Millan, but getting along with mean boys was not so easy.

"When the other kids called you el parerro, what is el parerro?" I asked.

"The 'dog kid,'" he said.

"The 'dog kid' - was not said in a kind way," I said.

"Yeah, it's like saying the dirty dog kid. Don't talk to him. He smells like dog."

At the age of 21, the Dog Whisperer came to the United States, on a "different kind of visa."

"It's a jumping visa. You run really fast, you hide, and you go in the water and you wait for a long time," he said.

"You crossed illegally?"

"Yes, ma'am."

After he got across - the 41-year-old Millan is a U.S. citizen now - he found work in California as a dog groomer, walker and trainer. That's how he met the future Mrs. Will Smith, Jada Pinkett.

"You became such good friends, am I correct about this, that she insisted that you take English lessons?"

"Yes, she did. And she actually, you know, sent a teacher to me for a year. She paid for it."

Now, the man with the rough English is speaking at Yale University, where he's helped develop and fund a program that brings dogs into nearly 100 elementary schools around the country.

It's called "Mutt-i-grees," because the children work with mutts from local dog shelters.

"The program is to teach empathy and compassion. Empathy and compassion is something that is very important for the future of America, for the future of the world. And so to have that empathy, compassion, to animals, we can then practice that with humans," he said.

"Let me tell you what I was concerned about coming to you with my dog. You're going to tell me I have to be - I can't always be 'gooey wooey' with her. I can't talk baby talk to her, all those things I like."

"Love is not just what you want for you. That's just a selfish relationship in my opinion," Millan explained. "My clients will say, 'I want a soul mate, so I'll go get a dog'; 'I want a baby, so I'll go get a dog.' Well, that's good psychology or good therapy for you. But what is the needs of a dog?."

I realized that Millan's real business is people whispering, and his message to us is that we're spoiling our dogs way too much.

"Did you want another cookie? Do you want me to make you some breakfast or a filet mignon? I mean, some dogs get some amazing lasagna!" he said.

Dogs need and crave discipline, he said, and he gave me a lesson in how to make Parker walk behind me, with a tight leash.

"When I die, I want to come [back] as a dog in America," Millan said. "You get to have your bed with your name on, your house with your name on. If the person die, you get to have money, you know - it's just amazing to be a dog in America."

For more info: