On the most recent episode of my new show “Cesar Millan’s Dog Nation,” my son Andre and I went down to San Diego and, while we were there, dropped in to help a rescue organization and shelter in Tijuana, Mexico. The two cities are so close that they pretty much touch each other.
But they are also very far apart because they’re in two different countries, which did make it a little bit more complicated to film a TV show. Personally, I would love a world without borders of any kind between us — physical, intellectual, or spiritual. But, as a human being, I also have to respect the way that other humans have decided to create borders and divide things up.
This is very different from the way dogs do things, though.
In fact, when you try to impose this human notion on dogs, it doesn’t end well. I know, you’re probably thinking, “But Cesar — you always say that dogs need rules, boundaries, and limitations. Now you’re saying dogs shouldn’t have boundaries?”
Actually, no. A boundary is different because a dog can cross it any time that you give permission. But I’m thinking about the kinds of cases I’ve heard about far too often when a family’s dogs get into a fight. The family’s reaction is to keep the dogs apart at all times after that, creating two separate homes for them out of one. Two dog nations, divided, if you will.
But just because the houses are divided it doesn’t mean that the dogs’ sounds and scents don’t fill both. Suddenly, you’ve created for the dogs two rival territories that share a border neither of them can cross. If they weren’t hostile to each other before (hint: they probably weren’t) then they are going to come to despise each other now.
In these cases, humans have gone from a negotiable peace between their dogs to a state of war. If they had worked with the dogs, or possibly even just let them back together again, chances are the fight and aggression would be over as long as the humans didn’t hold on to the negative energy and escalate the situation.
Working with the dogs to solve the problem is the much simpler solution in this situation. Permanently splitting your house in half complicates your life for years, just like bringing a film crew back and forth across a national border complicates all of their lives.
I am glad that we made that crossing though, because one of my goals in doing a “Dog Nation” down there was to show Andre the power of the unconditional love that dogs have for us. When we return that love to them, it inspires us to work together across our borders. The power of that love can remove the walls that we have created.
It can also be eye-opening. As Andre told me later, “Going to Tijuana was one of my favorite places, because I saw the harsh realities of what it’s like in a different country and the different epidemics that they have compared to those here in California. I got to study and understand why the rate of stray dogs is 300,000 plus, just in Tijuana alone.”
It’s amazing the difference in attitudes that can arise on opposite sides of those walls, and I often wonder which came first — those differences, or the borders. In Nature, the only boundaries are, well, natural — mountains, rivers, oceans. But with determination, anyone can cross them at any time because Nature does not create borders, only obstacles.
Obstacles are meant to be overcome, and that was personally my favorite lesson my son learned while doing this episode. As Andre put it, “Getting to see what it was like after you crossed the border and how you had to live and what you did just to survive was to me one of the best learning experiences I could ever have.”
I learned how to survive from the best teachers Nature has to offer us: our dogs. And I’m grateful that they gave me the opportunity to go back, be able to cross that border again, and share those lessons with a new generation.
Stay calm, and overcome those obstacles!
“Cesar Millan’s Dog Nation” airs Friday nights at 9/8 p.m. Central on Nat Geo WILD.