Jada Pinkett Smith takes the lead
By Larry Sutton
Among the unexpected benefits of adopting Cesar’s training principles: finding the love of your life. Or so says Jada Pinkett Smith, who credits Cesar with helping to build her self-confidence to the point that, when she met Will Smith more than a dozen years ago, she knew she was ready for a long-term partnership.
“I had a bunch of failed relationships before,” says Jada. She blames some of the breakups on a failure to focus, and others on not paying enough attention to the worlds of her suitors.
They were introduced through a mutual friend with two Rottweilers. “I don’t know how it came about after all these years,” she says. “Somehow, we met because I was helping to take care of those dogs.” At the time, Jada had gone from a star on television (A Different World) to a sizzling presence in such dramatic films as Menace II Society.
She was instantly attracted to Cesar’s methods. “It was really his energy, and how I would see him physically handle the dogs,” she says. “That made me trust him.” Jada still remembers the principles he first taught her: “It’s not about the dog. It’s always about us. It’s always about the owner. It’s up to us to create an environment and circumstances in which the dog can thrive and be itself.”
Good advice for dogs and their owners. Good advice for people and their mates, too. Cesar’s love of the outdoors also made a big impression on Jada. “We spent a lot of time together in the mountains,” she says. “He helped me balance. He had me out in nature all the time. We focused on the water, the trees. It taught me more about the feminine aspect of myself.”
As a result, Jada began thinking more about the two aspects of her personality, and the need for her feminine side to coexist with her “extroverted power, masculine energy” side. Balanced aggression, she calls it.
“I imagine that’s one of the reasons I have a successful relationship with Will,” she says, referring to her movie-star husband of 11 years. “Having met Cesar, he got me more balanced. Cesar helped me understand that in every aspect of life, you can’t be afraid. There are solutions. There’s cooperation. You have to figure out the components to make a relationship work.”
Cesar also made sure Jada, who came from a family of animal lovers and still fondly remembers her first pet, a tall black poodle named Péro, had a dog in her life. “I got a Rottweiler from him named Indo,” she says. “Then, I inherited another one from my friend. Will was given two Rottweilers from Jay Leno. Now all four were under my leadership—Indo, Gracie, Zhaki, and Tyson.”
At first, Jada wondered if she was ready for the challenge. “I never in my life thought I could lead a pack like that. One dog? Maybe. But four? By myself? And be in complete command?”
Then she recalled her conversations with Cesar. “He would keep reminding me that one of the most important principles was to keep the dogs in their natural state. The biggest mistake we make as pet owners is forgetting dogs were basically born to be in a pack. It’s how they survive. Don’t take away their purpose of living.”
And so a strict social order was formed—with Jada as the leader of the pack.
“I made sure to remember the rules. I had to be in front of the pack when we went out for a walk, and they always had to know who was boss.” The Rottweilers took quickly to the new order. “It’s pampering, in a different way,” Jada says.
The training continued in earnest. “We played a lot with a tennis ball,” she recalls. “The dogs were constantly active. But I took them everywhere. They were my bodyguards, and yet they were the most gentle creatures.” But even a well-motivated dog lover can wear down when the energy of the pet exceeds the energy of the owner. Especially when, in the case of Jada’s Rottweilers, they were not neutered.
“With Rottweilers, it’s either fighting or sex. You have got to keep them exercised, wear them down so that their minds settle down.” Her solution? Treadmills.
“They saved my life,” Jada says. “We had two treadmills installed, and put the dogs on them. They knew the routine almost instantly. Ran for a half hour or so.”
And when they were not running, they were at Jada’s side. “There is not a time during the day when you can let them alone. They constantly had to be with me.”
Jada was so impressed with the results of Cesar’s training methods that she encouraged him to get his own television series, to share his methods with others.
“I knew how he had changed my life,” she says. So she was not surprised to see the show’s success, and was delighted to attend a party celebrating Dog Whisperer’s 100th episode last year. “I always knew that Cesar’s message was unique. He helped me. It’s almost like tapping into your soul.”
And the admiration cuts both ways. As Cesar writes in his book, Cesar’s Way, “I know I can count on Jada. She’s not only one of the most generous people I’ve ever met, she’s also one of the smartest . . . She’s been my mentor, my sister, and another one of my precious guardian angels.” And the actress, Cesar also notes, was not shy about introducing him to her Hollywood friends, who included such heavy hitters as actor Vin Diesel, and directors Michael Bay and Ridley Scott.
They maintain their friendship to this day. When Jada’s dog Rocco was killed by a rattlesnake on her Malibu, California ranch last year, Cesar volunteered to show the Smith’s remaining pets how to avoid the reptiles, using real rattlesnakes to teach the dogs to beware of their sounds.
Despite an extremely busy life at home with son Jaden, 11, daughter Willow, 8, and stepson Trey, 16, and at work—she currently produces and stars in the TNT medical drama Hawthorne as she takes a break from singing with her nu-metal band Wicked Wisdom—Jada cares for a female Rottweiler, Mandy, and a female Shepherd mix, Chili. And she is even hoping to expand the pack. “We’ll probably add two more,” she says. “Got to get some dudes in there to balance it.”
She’s looking forward to it, she says, thanks to the lessons taught by Cesar. “With four Rottweilers, I learned so much about myself and my life.”