Kathy Antoniotti

Even the Dog Whisperer, who appears on television each week to effortlessly cure canines of bad behavior with a “shush” and a poke, takes the occasional bite for his efforts. But for the first time in Cesar Millan’s life, a retriever named Holly sent him to a hospital.


A National Geographic Wild star and dog-behavior specialist, Millan said he had been working “day and night” with Holly, an “extremely aggressive” dog whose bite led to four stitches.


“She bit me — the first dog that ever put me in the hospital,” he said from his Los Angeles home on Monday.


“She’s a Labrador,” he said with a chuckle.


Whether it’s his charisma or his uncanny ability to commune with canines, Millan, star of The Dog Whisperer With Cesar Millan, is seen by millions of television viewers each week who are looking for help in curbing bad behavior that they unwittingly allow. Because humans rarely recognize their contribution to the behavior, Millan regularly goes on speaking tours to share his philosophy and techniques with dog owners who want help to maintain a calm, submissive canine.


His tour will stop at 8 p.m. Friday at the Akron Civic Theatre, where Millan and his sidekick Junior will deliver a multimedia presentation to help people understand and put into practice his teaching concepts.


Although Millan’s methods appear effective on television, it isn’t always easy for people to understand him by watching the edited series, he said.


“The reason why I do these speaking engagements is because [on the TV series], I teach people before we go on [air]. The show does not allow for us to put it all on because it is more like action,” he said.


The “real time” shown in the corner of the screen does not include the time spent before the cameras roll, teaching clients that it is their behavior that allows the problems, whether it is unwanted barking, aggression or jumping on visitors. Each one of the segments is geared to the human’s needs, which is why there is a disclaimer at the beginning of each hourlong show advising people to seek help from a professional before they begin to rehabilitate an animal (though some trainers disagree with Millan’s methods).


Millan, co-creator of the series, said it isn’t unusual for each 10-minute segment to take 10 hours to film and produce.


“What I think what everyone wants to hear, what I have to share, is the fundamentals. What they are, what you practice and what they need. With multimedia, you get to see what I mean about calm, assertive energy,” he said.


At the beginning of each television episode, Millan makes a point of explaining the difference between his theories and his theories as perceived by humans: “I train people. I rehabilitate dogs.”


But what people often hear is that Millan is about to share some special secret known only to him that will “fix” their dog’s bad behavior. In reality, what Millan is telling the television audience is that the owner needs to correct his behavior before his dog can exhibit the calm energy everyone desires in a pet.


“You have anxiety and you give affection and that’s not what you want. You want [to take your dog] to the mountains and to the beach. That’s what you want,” he said.


The way to achieve the goal is a fairly simple concept, Millan said.


“We all know America is very smart. But we also know that America is not very calm. The only thing you have to do is be calm; then you can see it,” he said.


Milan will bring his pit bull apprentice, Junior, with him to the stage Friday. Junior was chosen by his predecessor, Daddy, who died last year at the age of 14. Daddy, arguably the calmest, most submissive pit bull in the universe, was considered by many to be an emissary for pit bulls, proving that the breed is not inherently dangerous.


It was Daddy who brought Junior into Millan’s pack and helped train the pup.


“That’s right, I needed to make sure that it was OK with Daddy that we adopted a dog to bring into our house,” Millan said.


When told he will be bringing Junior into a city and state with laws that single out pit bulls and other bully breeds as vicious, Millan said that he believes that attitude is nothing less than “racist.”


“I would say that we [as a society] don’t have a problem with aggression, we don’t have a problem with breed. We have a problem with education. I think the government, and I think the whole United States, needs to focus more on educating people because when you love dogs, you can’t say ‘I love dogs but I don’t like this one.’ That becomes racism,” he said.


As a matter of fact, Millan said, a person stands a much greater chance of being bitten by a Chihuahua than by a pit bull.


“Little dogs are going to be much easier to be spoiled, much easier to get away with things because how people try to control them is by carrying them. So, they don’t really address the problem. They carry the problem,” he said.


At a recent tour stop, Millan admitted he entered the country illegally in 1990 at the age of 21 after leaving his grandfather’s home in rural Culiacan, Mexico.


“I jumped, I ran, I hid. I did the obstacle course. I lived on the streets of San Diego for two months,” he told the crowd.


Millan, who spoke no English, got his first job as a dog walker.


“Here’s a Mexican guy walking 30 to 40 dogs off leash. Apparently, it is illegal to walk dogs off leash in America, the land of the free,” he said to a receptive crowd in Westbury, N.Y., this month.


But it was during this time, he said, he realized how troubled American dogs are, and people began to realize he had a calming effect on the most difficult dogs.


Millan, who became a legal resident in 2000 and a U.S. citizen in 2009, built a multimillion-dollar industry, working with notables and a celebrity client list that includes Oprah Winfrey, Michael Eisner, Charlize Theron and Scarlett Johansson.


“In a dog’s world, power is meaningless. Famous people and very powerful people are my clients. In the dog world, we are energy. And what energy are you? Where does the energy come from? It comes from your mind and it comes from your emotions. You need to be mindfully aware and emotionally in tune,” he said.


Millan is the co-author of six books, including the New York Times No. 1 bestseller Cesar’s Way; has produced instructional DVDs and CDs; launched an exclusive line of dog products in 2008; and is recognized around the world after several tours.


One of his “secret” tools he repeatedly offers his viewing audience is really no secret at all, he said. Exercise is essential for a dog’s well-being and can help cure some of the most onerous problems owners face.


Millan’s appearance Friday will help teach local dog owners his mantra to maintaining a well-balanced dog: exercise, discipline and affection — in that order. The only way to achieve that is for the owner to become the “pack leader” of the household by remaining calm and assertive.


“America does not have a problem being assertive, America has a problem being calm. And so with animals, you actually get to see and hear and feel when they are calm,” he said.


Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or kantoniotti@thebeaconjournal.com.