If you’ve seen Cesar live or have watched his recent TV shows, then you’ve met Junior, the gray and white pit bull who is always by his side. Junior celebrates his birthday every year in August, on the same day as Cesar’s but, as many of Cesar’s fans know, Junior is the second pit bull to hold the position of “right-hand dog,” having taken on that mantle when Cesar’s previous pit bull, Daddy, passed away on February 19, 2010. This is Junior’s story.
Junior’s story really begins almost twenty years ago, when Cesar first met four-month-old Daddy in a studio where Daddy’s then owner, the rapper Redman, was shooting a video. Given his schedule and environment, Redman didn’t feel he could care for the puppy properly, so he was seeking a trainer.
He found Cesar through a referral, and Daddy soon found his new pack, moving in with the Millans. Although Daddy never had any major issues, he was a little insecure when he was young, since he had been moved around so much between Los Angeles and New Jersey. However, that insecurity soon went away, and Daddy grew up to be Cesar’s right-hand dog.
According to Cesar, Daddy never made a mistake, and never displayed aggression or any other negative behavior. He also assisted in raising Cesar’s two sons, and Cesar explains that he had never had a dog quite like Daddy. “When my boys, Andre and Calvin, were little, I knew I could leave him to entertain them while I was busy; he helped teach Andre to walk. And when one of the boys fell down, Daddy would be right there, licking him and making sure he was okay.”
Time for a Legacy
By the time Daddy was fifteen, though, it was clear that he was slowing down and would soon need a successor to take over his role in the pack. He was becoming less energetic and having health issues. When Cesar heard that a friend’s female pit bull had given birth to a litter about two months earlier, Cesar took Daddy along to check out the puppies. Maybe he could find one to be Daddy’s apprentice.
Cesar had been planning to chose the new puppy, but Daddy had other ideas. After he ignored Cesar’s first few choices from the litter, one all-gray puppy with a dash of white on his chest caught Cesar’s eye, even reminding him of Daddy as a puppy. But would this pup pass the Daddy test?
“Older dogs sometimes just don’t want to deal with an energetic puppy,” Cesar explains, “So I hesitated to stress him out with a young dog… (but) you can’t believe how well it went! The puppy immediately lowered his head, surrendering to the older dog, and allowed Daddy to smell him all over.”
Suddenly, the puppy started following Daddy around, instantly transferring his loyalty from his litter and mother to the calm, submissive pit bull — and Daddy accepted him immediately as well. Cesar’s pack had a new member, and Daddy would have a successor.
From the beginning, Junior slept at night cuddled up next to Daddy, and Daddy had a new purpose: Teaching Junior how to be like him. This even included Daddy teaching the puppy the all-important skill of burying a bone.
The puppy readily absorbed most of Daddy’s lessons, especially taking on Daddy’s calm mellowness, which has was always helpful in dealing with aggressive dogs. Today when Junior has been attacked by other dogs, he never retaliates. He doesn’t run away, but just stands his ground calmly, defusing the situation.
For Cesar’s part, he seldom used words to communicate with the new puppy at first, and then only when he knew that they were on the same non-verbal wavelength. It was only when “I saw he was making eye contact and looking to me for direction,” Cesar explains, that he would start talking to him.
In this non-verbal training mode, Cesar had not yet named the new puppy, although the blue pit had learned Cesar’s trademark “Tsch!” command — which means “I don’t agree with what you’re doing right now.,” He also learned the common lip-smacking “kiss” sound, which means “come here!”
Since dogs are first animal, then species and breed, then finally name, actually naming a puppy is not as important as humans sometimes think, and Cesar didn’t need a name for the puppy in order to be his Pack Leader. However, the crew of “Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan” had taken to calling the pup “Daddy, Jr.”, which was soon shortened to the name we all know now: Junior.
Teaching a New Dog Old Tricks
Of course, in the beginning, Junior was not naturally well-behaved, and in the 2007 Cesar’s Way Christmas card photos, you see the young dog delight in tormenting Daddy by climbing all over him. Daddy showed infinite patience, and this eventually rubbed off on his young protégé.
Junior was a rambunctious puppy who loved to horse around, playing water and dirt games with youthful abandon. However, since pit bulls are more sight and sound oriented, Cesar put a special focus on activities using Junior’s nose, such as “Find the Ball” and other tracking games.
Junior also felt a special affinity for Cesar’s horse, Conquistador, and would follow him around the Dog Psychology Center (DPC). This, too, was an educational experience for the young dog. As Cesar put it, “He learned the hard way not to sniff the horse’s back legs.”
Unlike Daddy, Junior was never trained for protection. When Cesar first adopted Daddy, the DPC was located on the mean streets of south Los Angeles, an area known for gang activity and drug dealers, and he and his family didn’t live in one of the better neighborhoods.
While the sight of Daddy alone should have been enough to scare off any threats — and the sight of Cesar walking thirty power breeds off leash was enough to chase the gangs and dealers out of the old DPC neighborhood — he did indulge Daddy in tug-of-war and other aggressive games, something he never did with Junior.
When Junior came into the pack, however, Cesar lived in the suburbs and didn’t need a dog for protection. “Junior has not been trained in how to bite or how to hold on,” Cesar explained in his 2010 book “Cesar’s Rules.” “I have not tapped in to his prey instinct side or the side that wants to defend the pack… (he) uses his instincts and energy and intensity for exercise — for lots of play, of course, but also for helping other animals become balanced…”
Of course, given Daddy’s age when Junior came into the pack, it did instantly give the pit bull pup something in common with Cesar — both of them learned instinctively from their grandfathers, even if Junior was only related by adoption.
Adolescence and Young Adulthood
When he was not quite two years old, Junior started to take on Daddy’s public duties. He played a major role in the first Great Dog Adventure as Cesar’s sidekick for all of the weekend’s events, including a fifty dog Pack Walk and a “Cesar Live!” benefit performance. Later that year, Junior joined the “Cesar Live!” tour. He also was the star of a CesarsWay.com photo shoot in which he had to pose with cats.
By the time that Daddy died and Junior had completely assumed his duties, he had made quite a bit of progress. When it came to dealing with human kids, cats, horses, adolescent and adult dogs, he was doing very well. Cesar described his behavior with children as “perfect.” He was also showing great progress in helping to evaluate unstable dogs, although he still needed to learn to be patient around unruly puppies.
He excelled working with senior dogs, though, showing them a great level of respect. Cesar credited this entirely to Junior’s early experiences with Daddy, who was already fourteen when Junior joined the pack. Still, Junior and Daddy did have their differences. The biggest one, Cesar tells us, is that “Junior’s actually more athletic than Daddy was… He doesn’t just swim, he dives under water. I call him ‘aqua-dog’ sometimes!”
If Junior did have a flaw, it was the very rare tendency to give in to that side of him that wanted to get into fights with other dogs. According to Cesar, Junior “tried to listen to that side of him(self),” even though he knew it was not acceptable in Cesar’s pack. Occasionally, he had to re-learn the lesson. “Just like teenage children,” added Cesar.
Like most teenagers, Junior grew up and, today, he’s a calm, confident, and very well-traveled adult dog. He regularly joins Cesar at personal appearances and as part of “Cesar Live!” shows and other events. In fact, Junior loves being in front of an audience so much that Cesar has to hold him back until the announcer is done with their introduction.
When he’s not traveling or on stage, Junior can usually be found by Cesar’s side, or hanging out with the family pack, which includes three much smaller dogs: Coco, Taco, and Alfie. At the DPC, he is instrumental in working with dog rehabilitation cases, and when he visits the Cesar’s Way offices, he is calm, submissive and sociable with everyone, human and animal, friend and stranger, alike.
Of course, he has startled a few unsuspecting delivery people who have probably had less than positive experiences with large dogs on their routes, but it only takes a second to look at Junior and realize that he does not have an aggressive or malicious bone in his body.
Ambassador for a Breed
It’s this fact, more than any other, that has made Junior the ideal successor to Daddy not only as Cesar’s right hand dog, but as an ambassador for his breed, and for powerful breeds everywhere. Junior is living proof that pit bulls are not naturally aggressive, but have to be taught to be that way by humans.
Last March, in advance of his sold-out “Cesar Live!” appearance in Santa Rosa, California, Cesar and Junior visited the nearby Bergin University of Canine Studies to accept dual honors. Cesar received an Honorary Master of Science Degree in Canine Life Sciences, while Junior was presented with their Canine Mentorship Award.
In giving the award university founder Dr. Bonita Bergin spoke powerfully of Daddy’s training of Junior. “I have a strong belief in and appreciation of the knowledge one dog passes on to another. Junior is living proof of that and serves as a spokesperson for this canine capability. It is an award well-earned and deserved.”
Whether he’s greeting fans at a personal appearance, performing onstage with Cesar, or helping to rehabilitate dogs, Junior is a constant reminder of the human-canine relationship, and the calm and confident reflection of his famous human Pack Leader. Cesar, in turn, continues to bring his wisdom and experience to dog lovers everywhere. While reminiscing about Daddy on the third anniversary of his passing this year, Cesar had this to say about Junior’s current development. “On a Daddy scale of 1 to 10, I’d say that he’s still about a 6. Junior certainly has Daddy’s sweetness and respectfulness, but he doesn’t quite have Daddy’s instinct yet for what I want him to do. I’m sure he’ll get there, though. He’s still young.”
Having come so far from the mischievous pup that used to love to torment Daddy, there’s no doubt at all that, before long, Junior will hit that 10 on the Daddy scale. We’ll be eagerly watching his progress, and sharing updates with you. Stay tuned!