Cesar Talks Candidly with Indulge Magazine
What was going through your head when you were first offered your own TV show?
There’s that saying that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. And I think I’ve been very lucky in my life. I had spent my whole life working with and learning from dogs and when I met Jada and she helped me learn English and advised me in my career, I was ready to make the most of this chance that I’d been given. I’ve always dreamed big, ever since I was a small child, but I never imagined I would have had this amazing experience.
Daddy was a big part of your show and had been with you for 16 years, his death was one that touched many people, including your viewers...how did you cope?
I think the most difficult thing about having a dog is you know going in, they’re not going to be with you forever. I think you have to focus on the quality of life not the number of years. I’ve met people who don’t want to get a dog because they don’t think they can handle having to lose him. But you know, think about all the grandparents and older people in our lives and how they’ve enriched our lives, even if they were only present for a short time. I was very fortunate that Daddy had such a long and healthy life and I got to share it with him. And before he left us, he brought Junior into the pack, and his spirit lives on. Of course, I miss Daddy every day, but to have had the gift of so much time with him, I really can’t be bitter.
What advice do you have for someone grieving the loss of a dog?
I think everyone grieves differently and I can’t say there’s a right way or a wrong way. My advice would be to focus on the gift of the time you had and not focus on the pain of the loss. From my personal experience, I would also recommend getting another dog. I knew when Daddy’s time was coming, and I wanted to bring Junior into the pack while he was still alive to ease the transition. Being with Junior helped both of us deal with the grief after Daddy passed. Sometimes people think it’s disloyal to the dog that passed to replace him, but you’re not really replacing him, you’re just expanding your pack. I think we all have unlimited love to give, and there are so many dogs out there that need love and will love you back, so I can’t think of a better way to honor your lost friend. I know Daddy is happy Junior and I have each other.
Junior was Daddy's protégé, and your new partner in rehabilitating dogs, how do you think his presence helps?
Junior helps me enormously in a number of ways. With dogs, he can be very important, because even though I’m the “dog whisperer,” no human can communicate with a dog like another dog can. Junior models behavior for other dogs and brings his calm-submissive energy to the room. It’s harder for other dogs to go nuts when Junior’s in the room being calm and not escalating their energy. With humans, I think he’s a wonderful ambassador for pit bulls. When people meet Junior, they can see that pit bulls aren’t the aggressive, angry dogs you see in the media.
What are some key tips you would give to someone who is trying to train their dog?
Besides going to CesarsWay.com? I think it is important to remember a dog is a dog and not a human. You need to be calm and assertive and show the dog that you’re the pack leader. It’s not a power thing. It gives the dog the relief that you’re in charge and he can rely on you. If the dog thinks he’s in charge, you’ve got trouble.
What are some common mistakes you find people making?
Probably the biggest one is treating the dog like it’s a human. I think people often project their own feelings onto the dog or treat them like children. So many times people come up to me and say their dog is just like one of their children. I don’t know whether it’s the dog or the child, but in this scenario, someone’s needs aren’t getting met. I’ve raised children and dogs, and they’re not the same. You want a great dog, not to try to make a dog act like a human. Once you see things from a dog’s point of view, you’re on the way.
You have faced some criticism about your methods, why do you think that is? What do you have to say to your critics?
If you’re successful in any field, you’re going to have critics. I just ignore them. I think the reason I’ve been successful, is people have used my methods and they’ve worked and they’ve told other people. I don’t think people would keep buying my books and watching my show if there wasn’t something to it. I know some people have spread rumors that I physically abuse dogs, which I think is disgusting. I do believe that sometimes you have to physically correct a dog, but that’s because dogs respond with all their senses, including touch. But that’s much different than causing a dog pain or abusing a dog. Anyone who knows me knows that’s something I’m not capable of. That’s the price of being famous. People are going to say mean things about you. You have to have a thick skin. But I’m so grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given, I can live with a few critics.
You have used your celebrity to speak out against issues like puppy mills, breed specific legislation and specifically pit bull bans.
Dogs have done so much for me, I think it’s only right that I try and do what I can for them. It breaks my heart about pit bulls. The breed has been given such a bad rap. They are certainly powerful dogs, but the only reason they are aggressive or attack is because that’s how humans train them. Daddy and Junior are the two most peaceful dogs I’ve ever known, or humans for that matter. In a test that evaluated temperaments of different dogs, pit bulls scored better than golden retrievers, cocker spaniels, and collies. So it’s really about perception. It’s why I’ve always had a pit bull as my main dog—to help counteract the prejudices in the media. I think the media has made pit bulls into the monster of the day. When I was a kid, it was all about how vicious Dobermans were. The bottom line is the most dangerous breed is the human.
Why do you think breed-specific legislation doesn't work?
It’s really the dog equivalent of racial profiling. Dogs of every breed do good things and bad things. If a dog poops in your yard, do you care whether it was a pit bull or a poodle? You just don’t want poop in your yard. Dogs, and especially dog owners, should be held accountable for their actions, but for their actions not their breed. Breed-specific legislation doesn’t address the problem, it just penalizes innocent dogs. And I think the statistics show breed-specific laws don’t really work. Many places that have them have already repealed them.
Why do you think pit bulls have received such a bad reputation?
A lot of it comes from how they’re portrayed in culture. A couple of generations ago pit bulls were uses in advertising campaigns for Buster Brown and RCA and in movies like Little Rascals. Now they’re being portrayed as these tough guys in music videos and news stories about dog fighting. People have started to view them as these symbols of fierceness. Like when Sarah Palin said the only difference between pit bulls and hockey moms is lipstick. I don’t think she meant anything bad about pit bulls. She saw it as a positive, because they have a reputation for being so tough. But I would have said they’re like hockey moms because they love their families so much.
What needs to be done to change the perception of pit bulls and other animals that are facing BSL?
I think it’s the same as with people who have been discriminated against. Once you get to know someone, it changes your opinion. It’s why I go everywhere with Junior. It’s hard to fear or hate pit bulls after you’ve met Junior. What I’d like to see in the media is to stop using “pit bull” to describe something aggressive or vicious. And I’d like to see them treat pit bull attacks more fairly. I don’t deny that they happen, but so do other dog attacks, but they’re not nearly as widely covered because I don’t think news people think a Labrador biting someone is as juicy a story as a pit bull.
You've accomplished so much, what are your plans? Any new goals?
Thank you. They always say if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. There’ll be more Dog Whisperer and I’m starting a new show called Leader of the Pack where we rehabilitate rescue dogs and families can compete to see who can make the best home for them. I’m constantly working on improving CesarsWay.com to make it the #1 dog site. I’ve also gotten more involved in social media. We recently passed 2 million subscribers on Facebook and 400,000 followers on Twitter, and I’ve really been blown away by the reaction of the online community. My fans are really amazing. I’m also traveling all over the world for my live tours and meet people and help them with their dogs. So a lot of plans! My goal is still to rehabilitate dogs and to train people and hopefully make the world a better place, one dog at a time.