'Dog Whisperer' Cesar Millan stays fit as leader of pack
Cesar Millan runs outdoors with his dogs and works out with weights at the gym to stay in alpha mode for his work as the 'Dog Whisperer.'
Cesar Millan with his English bulldog George at Millan's Dog Psychology Center in Santa Clarita. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
He'll continue the legwork of chasing after quadrupeds with his new show, "Leader of the Pack," coming from Nat Geo Wild in the new year, and will sustain his exercise regimen to maintain the alpha role. (His biopic runs Sunday on Nat Geo Wild.)
I know what it's like to live with hyperactive canines, so I was not surprised to learn that Millan, 43, takes fitness seriously. The dogs don't give him much choice.
Did you get much exercise growing up?
I was blessed to grow up on a farm, and when you're a farm boy, exercise is part of your lifestyle. Like it or not, that environment makes you work out. On the farm, nature is your gym. You walk and run and swim and have to do a lot of work with animals too.
We moved to the city when I was 7, and the lack of exercise made me frustrated. I started fighting with my sisters, and my parents put me in judo as an outlet. I became very competitive and won a lot of medals. For conditioning, we used to go up and down the Mazatlán [Mexico] lighthouse hill twice — it's the highest lighthouse in the world.
Did you keep up with the judo?
No, I did it until I was 14 and then discovered girls. That was my sport for a while. Actually, being in Mazatlán means being in the water. I surfed a lot because that helped attract girls. Going to the beach kept me in shape and kept me out of trouble. We would also dive for oysters and play soccer on the beach.
And how about now? I would imagine all the chasing after dogs keeps you busy.
My business life takes a big chunk of time, but I still put exercise in my schedule. I'm up at 5 a.m. and get up and stretch and go for a run in Runyon Canyon with all five of my dogs. Then later I do about 45 minutes of weights at LA Fitness. It's very convenient because it's right across the street from me. I also like taking the dogs to the beach sometimes to play in the water.
Is exercise important for your work to give you the energy to keep up with all those dogs?
Yes, because when you're fit, the dog feels it. They know they can take advantage of a person who isn't in good shape because the body projects a different energy. When you have a certain fitness projection, it's going to give you an advantage. Having strength, stamina and speed is important because I'm working with dogs who can kill me.
Does having dogs motivate you to exercise?
The dogs absolutely played an important role in developing my exercise habit. If I sleep in, at 5:15 I start to hear the howling. It's like, "AARRROOOOHHH! Cesar! It's time to go!" They let me know this because dogs feel that they are unemployed. They have nothing to do, and for them exercise becomes like a job; it's a fulfillment and a way of bonding. A lot of people see dogs just as companionship, but they can also see them as a personal coach and a friend you work out with. Dogs in America are becoming overweight, and it gives them psychological problems. Challenging him every day makes him feel like he depends on you; it creates harmony and a sense of teamwork.