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Friday, Oct. 5 at 3 p.m. ET

Ask the Dog Whisperer

Cesar Millan, host of National Geographic Channel's
Cesar Millan, host of National Geographic Channel's "Dog Whisperer," takes your questions about dogs, the show and his new book, "Be the Pack Leader: Use Cesar's Way to Transform Your Dog ...and Your Life."

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Cesar Millan
Dog Rehabilitation Specialist
Friday, October 5, 2007; 3:00 PM

Cesar Millan, host of National Geographic Channel's "Dog Whisperer," took your questions about dogs, the show and his new book, "Be the Pack Leader: Use Cesar's Way to Transform Your Dog ... and Your Life."

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Cesar was online Friday, Oct. 5 at 3 p.m. ET.

A transcript follows.

View a clip of "The Dog Whisperer" here. The show airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET. For more information, go to www.ngcdogwhisperer.com.

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Washington, D.C.: We're thinking of getting a dog this fall, but wanted to find a pet that would fit into our household (townhouse, two cats). Which breeds would you recommend? Also, how do you suggest we go puppy or dog-shopping? SPCA? Local breeders? Thanks!

Cesar Millan: That's a very simple answers, and it has to do with energy. My second book, "Be the Pack Leader," talks about breed-specific energy, but the most important thing to understand is what kind of energy you are as a family. There's low, medium, high and very high. Never get a dog that's more energy than your family. And in every breed, you can find a dog along each level. If you want a retriever, or a huskie, that's okay, but always bring in a dog with an energy that's less than yours.

And in my new DVD, "Your New Dog and Beyond," we talk about how to get a dog from a breeder, a rescue organization and a breeder. So if you can wait until around Xmas...

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Abused Dog: I think someone abused my dog before I adopted her b/c any time I pick up a shovel, fly-swatter, roll of wrapping paper, she freaks out, looks scared (ears back, tail down) and scampers under the nearest table.

How can I desensitize her to big, hand-held objects wielded by people?

Cesar Millan: First, don't focus on what happened in the past. Look for things that can make a positive association -- feeding her around something she would be afraid, exercise her to get her good and hungry first. And if you need to, consult a professional. But the most important thing is to not focus on the past.

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Alexandria, Va.: Cesar, love the show, but I don't know much about you other than what's on the show. How did you get into what you do with dogs, and what's your other background in working with dog behavior?

Cesar Millan: You can always get that in Cesar's Way, my first book. I'm Mexican, I learned from my grandfather and my father to never work against Mother Nature. The rest you'll have to find in the book.

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Virginia: Cesar,

I love your show. I would like to know if it's possible for your dog to respect you as a pack leader when it's time for discipline if you're also the sort of person who lets the dog climb onto your furniture.

Cesar Millan: Yes, as long as you allow the dog to climb on the furniture on your terms, you never lose leadership. If you tell them to come onto the bed or the furniture, the dog shouldn't become confused.

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Rosslyn, VA : Can dog fighting dogs (typically pit bulls)be rehabbed and rescued, or must they be euthanized? Are there risks involved long term in a rescued pit bull with an unknown background?

Cesar Millan: Well, 9 out of 10 pit bulls we have gotten from dog fighting, we have rehabilitated and gotten into great homes. Even if they can't go back into society, you can create sanctuaries for them instead. But someone who is going to adopt a dog like this has to be in tune with Mother Nature. And it's not the breed, it's the human behind the dog. Aggression is a state of mind, not a breed thing.

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Washington, dc: What's the best way to prepare your dog for a new baby? Any tips for the first introduction?

Cesar Millan: In season 2 or 3, we did a segment just about this, but the basics are to make sure the dog knows what position he plays -- that all humans in the house are pack leaders, and when the baby comes into the picture, make sure it is carried with no nervous energy, and make sure the dog is tired when you bring the baby into the house. Don't worry about hurting the dogs feelings -- they don't rationalize, they want the best for the family. If you want the same, he'll relax.

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Indianapolis, IN: I have watched "Dog Whisperer" because of my love for dogs. I think you have an unique, but positive, approach to handling dogs. However, I don't think everyone could do what you do. All good dog owners practice some form of being a "pack leader". Do you believe there are certain breeds that should not be paired with certain types of people?

Cesar Millan: Well, I don't think it's a breed thing -- I think everybody is able to control or connect the breed they like the most, but it's a matter of living in the moment, and being able to project calm assertive energy before they give affection. Thank you for thinking I have a special gift, but I think that gift is in everybody. But I believe there is a pack leader in ever person, and I think that certain people have certain energy, so to have a great match, you never pick a dog that has a higher level of energy than you, regardless of the breed.

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Santa Barbara, Ca,: Cesar: How long should my dog's walks last? A new job is preventing me from our daily walks; any suggestions?

Thank you for your work!

Cesar Millan: You have to have a commitment to the dog; to do what it takes to fulfill the needs of your partner. They don't understand you're going out to make money. The good thing is that once we start creating what's best for the whole pack, it becomes reality. If you think it's your job that's blocking you from walking your dog, you're focusing on the wrong source of creating the result -- what do I need to do to keep the balance going, and then you get the answer from that point of view. If you're going to only do 30 minutes, use a bike, or roller blades, or with a pack on the dog -- the options are endless. Thirty 100-percent minutes, where he's draining his energy for 25 minutes and using the bathroom for 5 can make him tired enough while you're gone. But there's always a way.

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Penn Ave., DC: I just wanted to say that I love your show, even though I'm really a dog-lover. It seems to me a lot of what you teach people in dealing with their dogs can be applied to dealing with other humans as well!

Cesar Millan: That's true -- we're a pack-oriented species. We need calm, assertive leaders in our lives. I believe strongly that if we apply some of the calm assertive energy of the animals in our life, we can accomplish balance. Animals can be balanced, it's the human who creates instability.

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Baltimore: I have a three year old pit bull/lab mix who has a huge jumping problem. When she jumps all four paws come off the ground and she will get you in the face. She is friendly and wants to lick and greet, but she has injured people before. She is so quick that I can't react. My question is how do I get her to stop jumping? Thanks

Cesar Millan: That's not friendliness, that's hyperactivity. And hyperactivity is from a lack of physical challenge. Pit Bulls can do three things -- jump, run and fight (and we don't want that). You need to redirect that into a more positive outcome -- agility training. Or take classes about how to create a calm, submissive dog. But it sounds to me like this dog doesn't have enough activity. Don't misunderstand excitement or hyperness with happiness. Happiness doesn't hurt.

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Baltimore: We have a 5-month old beagle. In your show, you haven't really dealt with puppies. Any advice on house training? And, what is the best way to teach him not to bite or chew on things he shouldn't -- like people's hands, the sofa, blankets...anything in his path?

And, we went to your seminar last weekend and thought you were terrific...we are big fans of you, the show and your methods!

Cesar Millan: I don't deal with puppies because they don't have issues. I'm a big believer that puppies aren't born with issues. Housebreaking has to do with structure, strategy and consistency. There are plenty of books that talk about it. The best advice I can give you -- you can go online and find out so many different plans for housebreaking, you have to find the one that's comfortable for you. Find the one that makes sense for you and stick to it. I can't give you a specific because I don't know how your house is set up and schedule.

Thank you for coming to the seminar!

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Philippines: Hi! I love your show. Like you, I have a pit bull. An incredibly wonderful, loving, active, sweet animal. What's a couple of pit bull-loving guys like us have to do to convince other people that these dogs are not dangerous but actually really awesome pets?? thank you!

Cesar Millan: Obviously people have become afraid, and they've never met a pit bull in their life, but they're influenced by negative media. But the best way to fight that is education. That's why I do my seminars, and hopefully will do them one day around the world. But you can start in the Philippines, just make sure people are willing to listen to you.

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Washington, DC: I've worked hard to be my dog's leader, but have failed in one area. I have been unable to get him to stop charging the front door when strangers come by. He scares the letter carrier to death! How can I convince him to stop?

Cesar Millan: I work hard at being a pack leader -- but are you having fun being a pack leader? When you have fun, it creates what you want. You have a territorial problem, and when you are in areas you can't personally accomplish something, consult a professional. When you get stuck, ask for help.

How do you know which trainer works for you, is that the dog becomes calm submissive in their presence. From there, you make them your role model for that exercise. People can teach you strategies, and if you're not consistent, that won't work. But you have to have fun -- when you say you're "working hard," you also need to have fun.

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Boston: My 9-year old Sheltie had a lymphoma removed from under his elbow in April. Now, I just noticed a small lump is back in the same spot. Of the treatment options available to us, I am leaning towards amputation of the front leg. How well does an older dog react to amputation? Will it lead to increased moodiness and stubbornness from him?

Also, while he used to be well-trained I've been slack since the first cancer and he's getting pretty bad on occasion. Do I maintain the same high levels of training and agility that we always used to have for him, even if he's on three legs?

Cesar Millan: You know, dogs don't feel sorry about what happened. I have worked with so many dogs that people say are disabled, but its amazing how fast they move on.

A week ago, I went to Walter Reed Hospital, and met with soldiers who came back with no leg, or no arm, and what they ask you to do is not to feel sorry for them so they can move on. And that's the same philosophy I practice with dogs -- don't feel sorry if you want them to move on. Once it's done, don't feel sorry, just live in the moment if you want them to feel better.

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Waterford, Va.: What's your opinion regarding puppies vs. shelter dogs for first time owners? We have one small child.

Cesar Millan: Well, if the breeder has good ethics, you'll end up with good genes. If he doesn't, you might as well get a dog from a shelter. It's easier to mold a puppy, but it's also easier to make him unstable. It doesn't matter if dog is three years or three months old, it matters what you're like when you're ready to adopt them. What matters is how much knowledge and common sense you have when you adopt them, and to understand you need to play the pack leader role before you give affection, and that goes for the whole family, including the kids. They all have to play the leadership role and the loving role.

And don't forget that your energy means a lot, whether it's from a breeder or a shelter. Never get a dog with higher energy than your family.

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Washington, DC: You always say one must be calm-assertive to emphasize that she is the pack leader. Do suggest any exercises to increase calm-assertive attitudes in people who aren't necessarily so calm and assertive? Thank you!

Cesar Millan: Absolutely! That's a great question -- exercise can change your state of mind. By doing something physiological, you can change your state of mind, and be more proud of yourself. Assertiveness is about being more confident. Exercise is an amazing source of self-esteem and of getting away from negative energy.

I practice martial arts, I hike, roller blading -- pushing yourself from going from 10 to 20 minutes, everybody can do it if they're willing to get their. Things like yoga or meditation can make you more calm, more relaxed, but they won't make you more assertive. So it's depending on what you're trying to accomplish, to be more calm or more assertive.

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Florida: Any suggestions for how to break a 15-month old Newfoundland puppy from constantly chasing my cats?

Cesar Millan: Without seeing the case, I have to go back to basics. If he's chasing the cat, he's not being properly challenged. A tired dog doesn't have the stamina to be a predator or play with a cat. Newfoundlands are water dogs, so you have to find a place he can practice Newfoundland activities. So when he's around the cat, he's drained of that energy.

Backpacking works well. And they're not the greatest runners, but they can def. swim. I would pay attention to if I'm draining the energy of my dog, and if I'm fulfilling the breed of my dog. Every breed has its own genetic background, and Newfoundlands were breed to retrieve people from the water.

You have two choices with unwanted behavior. You block it or redirect it. And it sounds like to me you have to redirect it.

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Alexandria, Va.: Cesar, I love your show. First, I want to commend you for taking so many dogs into your life, and saving each one in your own way. It really is refreshing and special to watch your show. I can see the love you have for those animals.

My question is this. Do you find that some of your "rehabbed" dogs end up going back to their old habits due to the inability of the owners to manage the guidelines and manners you've established? Do you follow up with your clients to find out how they're doing and if you can help with the trouble spots?

Cesar Millan: I have great news, in my 2nd book, "Be the Pack Leader" there are updates on some of the dogs I've worked, and testimonials from the owners about how easy or hard it was to stick to the plan, and how it affected other areas of their life.

Dogs are a metaphor to me, and if you're having problems with you're dog, you probably are in other areas of your life. And what you use to resolve problems with your dog, you can also apply to other areas in your life. And when people come to me, I'm usually their last resort, so when I tell them something they generally listen and stick to the plan.

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DC: My hound mix is squirrel crazy. If there's a squirrel in sight, all obedience (and any interest in treats or me) goes out the window. Can you help?

Cesar Millan: Can I help? Yes. How -- I have to be there. But in Season 3, we did an episode about predator behavior. I also did an episode with the writer of "Marley and Me" about his lab going after a chicken. If you can go back and watch those episodes, they can help. But if you can't do it on your own, always make sure to get a professional. If you don't like the behavior of your dog, then the professional can come help you in that area. But there's no magic pill. There are so many great people out there that can help you if you give them a chance. And you can always say "if it doesn't work, I'm not going to pay you." And a professional will take the challenge. I used to do that all the time -- if you don't like my job or how I helped you, don't pay me.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Haven't we made recent strides in learning how about how dogs communicate with each other? Don't dogs really have a fairly large vocabulary of barks and expressions that lets other dogs know what they are communicating?

Cesar Millan: Yeah, but we still don't know it. The population of humans don't know it. Do dogs know it? Yes. Do dogs lose the ability to recognize what other dogs are saying? Yes, because they spend too long with humans. I want to teach everyone that dogs have their own language, their own culture, their own expressions. It's very important not to humanize dogs, because they do their own thing. But the reality is that most humans don't know what they mean. It's a very small percentage of humans who know what a dog is saying when he growls. And the best way to learn about dogs is when they are in a pack. That's how I learned, how I was raised. And you should never change the nature of a dog, if you want to say what it's saying. A dog isn't talking to you. If it can't talk to other dogs, it's obviously isn't talking to you.

I hope everybody enjoys Season 4; we're doing more follow ups than ever. We're doing 35 episodes and more than 100 dogs (and their humans). And I hope you enjoy the book -- the combination of the book and the show gives you the understanding of why it's so important to live in the now, and to be the pack leader. The beauty of dogs is that there's always a way, there's always hope. I'm very happy about the show and book, and very grateful for my fans.

(And Daddy my pit bull is right here with me, and he agrees with what I said.)

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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