Born in Mexico, Cesar Millan came to the United States in 1990 with the driving ambition to become a great dog trainer. He opened his first training facility in 1998 and his business soon flourished. In 2004, he brought his talents with animals to television with the show Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan. The program made Millan an internationally known canine expert. After Dog Whisperer ended, Millan went on to star in such shows as Leader of the Pack and Cesar 911.
Born on August 27, 1969, in Mexico, popular dog trainer Cesar Millan spent his early years on a farm near the town of Culiacán in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. There he began his lifelong connection to dogs. Millan eventually earned the nickname, "El Perrero," or "dog man or boy." In his early teens, he found his life's ambition after watching such star canines as Lassie and Rin Tin Tin on his family's first TV set. According to Men's Journal, he told his mother that "I'm going to be the best dog trainer in the world."
When he was 21, Millan made his way to the United States to pursue his dream. He entered the country illegally and barely knew any English when he first arrived. To support himself, Millan took numerous odd jobs, including working as a car washer and dog groomer. As a dog walker in Los Angeles, he developed a reputation for successfully handling all kinds of dogs. Millan opened up his first training facility, the Dog Psychology Center of Los Angeles, in 1998. Known for getting results with difficult dogs, Millan soon attracted some of Hollywood's elite to his center. Director Ridley Scott and actress Jada Pinkett-Smith were among his clients.
'The Dog Whisperer'
In 2002, news of Millan's talents spread through articles in the Los Angeles Times and People magazine. He soon had producers visiting him at the center after expressing a desire to have his own TV show. Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan, which debuted in 2004, introduced the nation to Millan's philosophy on training dogs. As he explained to People magazine, he believes that the most successful training tools are "exercise, discipline, affection, in that order." Millan's program focused largely on hard-to-train animals. He explained that "This is not a 'Sit down, stay, come here, good boy' show."
Dog Whisperer became a big hit for Millan and the National Geographic cable channel. In 2007, the show was nominated for an Emmy Award for outstanding reality program. But not everyone loved his animal training tactics. In an op-ed for The New York Times, Mark Derr objected to Millan's "one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach to dog training." He went on to call Millan "a charming, one-man wrecking ball" aimed at destroying the progress made in "developing non-punitive, reward-based training programs."
In addition to the show, Millan toured extensively and co-wrote the 2006 best-selling book Cesar's Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding & Correcting Common Dog Problems. The successful TV personality, however, hit hard times in 2010. His beloved dog, Daddy, died that February. His wife Ilusion asked him for a divorce and his two sons stopped talking him. Millan also learned he had little money to show for his years of hard work. He told Men's Journal that "I found out I didn't own anything—just T-shirts and touring. It was the biggest shock in the world."
All of these issues contributed to his decision to try to end his own life. He attempted suicide by taking an overdose of pills. Fortunately, Millan was found and brought to the hospital. He later revealed this dark moment of his life to the public.
Wanting to end his relationship with his production company, Millan stopped working on Dog Whisperer in 2012. He went on to develop other TV series, including Leader of the Pack and Cesar 911. In 2015, he had his own special Cesar Millan: Viva La Vegas. Millan also teamed up with his youngest son, Calvin, for the Nickelodeon series Mutt & Stuff that same year.
In addition to his TV work, Millan maintains a heavy touring schedule both across the country and abroad. He has also written several books on dog training, including 2013's Cesar Millan's Short Guide to a Happy Dog, and markets numerous dog-related products, including specialty collars.
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