The Dog Whisperer: Season One
Thousands of years ago a symbiotic relationship was forged between two species, man and dog. Those early centuries worked out well for both. The dog would protect the hearth and home of man in return for food and shelter. In more recent years this balance has been disrupted has dog are now often considered as surrogate children and even fashion accessories. When there is a behavior problem with our four legged friends one man is at the ready to step in and bring balance back to the ancient relationship between man and dog. That man is Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer. Although Millan has been training dogs and their humans for years his notoriety has soared after he appeared on the Oprah show to tame her beloved but strong willed doggie, Sophie. In front of some 10 million people Millan told this hugely powerful woman that the problem was not in little Sophie but with her. Oprah has made the same mistake so many humans do with their dogs; they failed to establish dominance with their pets. The central them to Millan’s series on the National Geographic Channel is owners want to love their dogs like a little furry child instead of letting be what they are, affection, loyal animals. Dogs are naturally pack animals and as such need to have a dominate force to guide and correct their behavior. If treated as a child that never grows up or something that when dressed in the correct colors goes well with you handbag, there are not able to express themselves proper and tend to act out. With Oprah’s stamp of approval Millan was able to turn a little series on a network many people may not even realize they have into a cult hit.
To many owners Millan’s ‘Power of the Pack’ approach may seem wrong but his results seem to prove that there is a valid point here. For his series he and his staff cull through the thousands of letters he receives to find a few that would make for good television. The training that Millan provides is as much for the people as it is for the animals. While the dogs have to learn that they are not in charge of the pack, I mean home, the humans are taught to be the dominate one in the relationship but as a human not a parent. He will explain to the confused human that the reason why little doggie bites at everyone is he is at a loss for a natural order of the pack. If you treat you dog like a child you will most certainly wind up with a brat instead of a playful puppy.
In the first episode we meet Tina, a young woman who works in a veterinarian’s office. She adopted a little stray Chihuahua that seems like the perfect pet for anyone in need of an Exorcist. He is constantly attacking Tina’s roommate Barclay and anyone else that tries to get physically close to Tina. When Millan sits on the couch next to Tina the little yappy dog turns into the Tasmanian devil. Millan is apparently unconcerned as he lets the dog wear himself out with his fit of jealous anger. Once the dog starts to get the idea that he is not the leader of the pack Millan can move on to training both Tina and her pet. First they master the task of having the dog get use to being walked. They can then move on to more advanced subjects as preventing excitement turning into a savage attack.
Millan also uses some tactics employed by human physiologist to help dogs over any strange phobias they may have. Marina Dahlen and her son, Emmett, have a Great Dane named Kane. You might not think that a large dog like this would have a phobia but poor Kane is afraid of walking on any shiny surface. As a puppy he slipped on a linoleum floor and crashed right into a glass door. Now Kane is unable to bring himself to walk on any shiny surface. This is a problem since Marina used to take Kane with her to the local school. Millan starts out by walking the dog picking up speed until Kane is at a trot. Millan uses the momentum of the animal to get it through the doorway where Kane immediately slips as if he was on a frozen pond. As the animal slides around the floor Millan waits until the dog finds his balance and becomes used to walking on the floor.
On several occasions Millan employs the help of some of his own dogs from the pack he masters at home. Amir and Stephanie Kaspian have a Rottweiler/Shepherd mix Churchill, who goes crazy around almost everyone. Wanting a well behaved dog threatens to become a legal matter when Churchill bites a neighbor how had the audacity to pat him. Millan arrives on the scene with a couple of his own dogs and take the mini-pack on a walk. When Churchill’s behavior becomes aggressive Millan is able to control his own dogs. It appears that Churchill notices that others in his new pack obey this human and soon he is going along with the commands. Millan notes that the key is to be in charge, to exert a strong, domineering presence that the will let the dog’s natural pack instincts kick in and follow.
Why this show works is it resonates with something with any of us that have had or currently have dogs. Most of us are brought up with the dog as a member of the family and while that is okay, within reasonable limits, most humans do not treat the family dog as a dog. Millan restores the dynamics between man and animal back to the original format from so long ago. He trains the people as much as he does the dogs, realizing that the problem is the dog usually has no means to express his canine natural instincts.
The entire first season is presented on DVD by MPH Entertainment Productions through Universal Studios Home Video. They do an excellent job with just how this series is mastered. The full screen video is bright and clear. The Dolby 2.0 audio is clean although the stereo separation is a bit flat. All twenty six episodes of the season are here along with about an hour of extra material. Those extras include auditions for the dogs that will make the cut to appear on the series and some unaired segments. If you have a dog this is a must have. Even if you don’t the series is intelligent and entertaining.