The Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan Talks Canines, Kids, and Finding Balance

How does an internationally renowned dog trainer and author stay healthy?

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on February 15, 2010

Cesar Millan, the self-taught dog trainer whose television series The DogWhisperer has made him famous around the world, is now juggling his TV showwith writing best-selling books, creating DVDs, publishing a magazine, foundingnon-profit organizations, even appearing in movies. And he has a wife and twochildren. WebMD the Magazine caught up with the busy dog trainer andasked him about his health habits, his family, and what he's learned abouthumans by working with dogs.

I've played myself a few times now -- on Bones, GhostWhisperer, Beethoven, and now The Back-up Plan with JenniferLopez -- and it's always such a big compliment. The biggest challenge is tomake it sound real, even though you are doing the same scene over and overagain. But each time is an opportunity to make it better, and I think it cameout well in the end. Cesar's Way magazine has been a really excitingendeavor for my wife, Ilusion, and me. It's another way we can reach dog ownerswho are struggling with behavior issues and continue to inspire people tobecome pack leaders.

I've learned a lot about both species. Every case is an opportunity toexpand my knowledge. I really believe in keeping myself open to learningsomething new, and my goal is to teach something new to the people I am workingwith.

Dogs stretch as soon as they wake up. So do I. Stretching is a real pleasure. I stretch, then I take the pack for a walk.I get the benefit of that. It helps me to be in shape.

The biggest mistake I encounter is humans who don't fulfill the dog's needsas an animal. Instead, they treat the dog like a human. They shower him withaffection, but don't provide physical or mental stimulation. These dogs arebored, so they find other outlets for their pent-up energy: barking, chewing,and other unwanted behaviors. Affection is wonderful -- everyone loves sharingaffection with their pet -- but it should be saved until after exercise and discipline has been accomplished.

My wife.

With both dogs and children, you often teach by the patterns you set. Ifevery morning you sit right down to breakfast without having exercised, you are teaching that the reward comesbefore the work. In this country, people often forget to be grateful. They feelentitled. I want my sons to respect our humble beginnings, to be balanced boys,not unstable men. We have enough of those.

My best health habit is probably meditation. I take time to focus myself several times a day. It helps me tostay balanced for what my day throws at me -- an aggressive dog, meetings, afrustrated owner, whatever. My worst habit is probably eating a big meal after6 p.m.

My personal health philosophy is the same philosophy that I use with dogs:Never work against Mother Nature. I really believe in organic food and naturaltreatments. Of course, traditional medicine is important as well, but sometimesthe root of the problem is your diet or your exercise routine. Paying attention to your mental, emotional,and spiritual health can help your physical health. They are all connected.

I love what I do, so it is not really a job.

I don't think about it. My stamina today is exactly the same as it was whenI jumped the border in 1990. And you have to have a lot of stamina to getacross.

Like dogs, I'm a pack animal. If I'm not with my canine pack, I'm with myhuman pack -- or even better, with both species! To me, that's ideal, beingwith my dogs and my family. When it's just me and the dogs, I like to takewalks around my ranch in Santa Clarita. I really enjoy being out with the dogsin nature. And when it's just me? I love to plant trees. We have 43 acres, andfor me to get on a John Deere and to get down and dirty -- it reminds me ofhome. I can be out there forever, completely relaxed.

I love food. I have not said no to any food. But if I had to pick afavorite? Ceviche: You never get fat, you never go wrong. It makes me happyjust to think about it.

It would be having a facial and a massage all in one day. It feels good, but I feel guilty because I could beusing that time to help a dog or be with my family.

You hear so many politicians telling you that, "I'm doing this for mycountry." Until they get elected. Then it's clear they are only doing it forthemselves. A real pack leader does everything for the pack. Everybody needshim, and he needs everybody. It is a basic way of being connected.