A Cranbrook woman has returned from the experience of a lifetime, training in dog psychology under famed “dog whisperer” Cesar Millan.
Cheryl King, a semi-retired nail technician of 30 years, describes herself as “a real Cesar groupie”. She has a passion for dogs and has two rescue dogs, Yorkie mixes.
She began watching “Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan” when the show began in 2004, and has watched every episode of its eight seasons. The show wrapped last September.
Cheryl heard about Cesar’s education program, Training Cesar’s Way, and dreamed of attending the classes at Cesar’s dog psychology centre in Santa Clarita, California, just north of Los Angeles.
Earlier this year, she learnt that she had been accepted to the sought-after, expensive program at the last minute, one of 42 students from all over the world who were set to spend five days in April learning about dog psychology directly from the master himself.
“If I knew what I would have got out of it, I would have paid twice as much,” Cheryl says. “He’s more amazing than it shows on television.”
Each morning, Cesar would lead the students, their dogs and some of his own dogs on a pack walk. He taught them how to meditate, which is vital to rehabilitate dogs.
“If you’ve got an anxious dog, you cannot handle it unless you are calm,” Cheryl explains. “You have to learn how to instantly be calm.”
Cesar brought a small flock of sheep to the centre for a class, to show how certain breeds of dogs need the stimulation of this kind of exercise. It wasn’t just German shepherds that took part in the herding; Cheryl says a terrier mix was itching to give it a try and was a total natural, not needing any instruction from Cesar.
In another session, Cesar took dogs afraid of swimming into the pool, where they quickly relaxed under Cesar’s care.
People came to the program for different reasons, Cheryl says.
“The reasons we went there for were usually different from what we ended up with,” she adds.
One woman works for a parole office in the U.S., where the policy is to shoot aggressive dogs on a property when they need to get through to make an arrest. The woman attended Cesar’s program in hopes she could change that policy.
Another woman runs a volunteer-led non-profit animal shelter with 60 dogs. Cesar showed her how to teach dogs to use a treadmill, then offered to buy one for the shelter.
Cheryl has come away with so much knowledge of dog psychology and rehabilitation that she is overflowing with advice.
“People think their dogs just need love, but he teaches you about pack leadership and you realize that dogs are a lot simpler than we are and they don’t understand human psychology,” she explains.
“Your energy has everything to do with how they react.
“Humans are emotional, intellectual and spiritual; dogs are only instinctual.”
Now Cheryl is hoping to share what she has learnt with people in Cranbrook.
“I wish I had another 40 years to live to practise what I learned,” she says.
She is starting to conduct consultations with dogs that are experiencing behavioural problems.
Eventually Cheryl wants to help as many dogs as possible by coming up with a plan for their humans to better understand what their dog needs. She would like to work with shelters to evaluate dogs and match them with the right human.
Cheryl is also considering bringing Yale University’s “Muttigrees” program to Cranbrook schools, which is based on children’s affinity with animals.
But for now, Cheryl is still reliving her experience with Cesar Millan.
“He made it so fun — I was on a high for weeks after,” she says. “It was a dream I never thought would come true in my lifetime.”