Does your dog drive you crazy? Is he or she aggressive, nervous, fearful or just plain high strung? Perhaps your dog is obsessive, jumps on anyone who walks through the door, or is constantly bugging you to play a game of fetch. Well, fear not. There is help. Cesar Millan, host of the National Geographic Channel show “Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan,” has written a new book titled, “Cesar’s Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems.” He was invited to appear on “Today” to discuss the book and help a few desperate dog owners understand and correct their dog problems. Here’s an excerpt:
If We Could Talk to Animals
What is the communication style you use with your dog? Do you implore him to come to you, while he refuses, continuing to run down the street after a neighborhood squirrel? When your dog steals your favorite slipper, do you talk baby talk to him to try to get it back? Do you scream at the top of your lungs for your dog to get off the furniture, while he just sits there, staring at you as if you’re crazy? If any of these sound like you, I know you’re aware that the techniques you’re using aren’t working. You understand that you can’t “reason” with a dog, but you simply don’t know any other way to communicate with him. I’m here to tell you that there’s a much better way.
Remember the story of Dr. Dolittle, the man who was able to speak and understand the language of any animal he happened to meet? From the Hugh Lofting books to the 1928 silent film, to the '30s radio series, to the 1967 movie musical and seventies cartoons, to the blockbuster Eddie Murphy comedies, this wonderful tale and its main character have appealed to children and adults generation after generation. Just think of the countless worlds that would be unlocked if we saw things as animals see them. Imagine looking down at the earth through the eyes of a soaring bird, moving through life in three dimensions like a whale, or “seeing” the world through sound waves, the way bats do. Who hasn’t dreamed of such thrilling possibilities? The attraction of the Dr. Dolittle story is that it brings animals to life, in big-screen living color.
What would you say if I told you that Doctor Dolittle’s secret was more than just creative fiction?
Video: Dog Whisperer reveals his secrets Perhaps you’re imagining this secret from a human perspective. You’re wondering if I’m telling you that there’s a verbal way to talk to your dog, perhaps with the use of a phrase book that translates your language into his. What would his language look like, sound like, you wonder? Would it include the words sit, stay, come, and heel? Would you have to shout the translations, or could you whisper them? Would you have to learn how to whimper and bark? Sniff your pet’s behind? And how would your dog answer you back? How would you translate what he was saying? As you can see, creating a dog-to-human phrase book — the way, say, an English-to-Spanish phrase book is created — would be a very complicated effort indeed.
Wouldn’t it be simpler if there was a universal language that every species could understand? “Impossible,” you say. “Even human beings don’t all speak the same language!” True, but that hasn’t kept people from trying to find a common language for centuries. In the ancient world, all the higher-class, educated people learned Greek. That way, they could all read and understand the most important documents. In the Christian era, anybody who was anybody knew how to read and write Latin.
Today, English is at the top of the language food chain. I learned this the hard way when I first arrived in America fourteen years ago. Believe me, if you’re not born speaking it, English is a monster of a language to learn from scratch — yet everyone from the Chinese to the Russians now accept it as the international language of business. Humans have sought other ways to breach the language barrier. No matter what language you speak, if you’re blind, you can use Braille. If you’re deaf, you can understand any other deaf person using International Sign Language. Mathematics and computer languages cross many linguistic borders and allow humans of different tongues to converse easily with one another, thanks to the power of technology.
If humans can succeed in designing these collective languages, can’t we create a way to converse with the other species on the planet? Isn’t there a language we can learn that means the same thing to every creature?
Good news! I’m happy to report that the universal language of Doctor Dolittle already exists. And humans didn’t invent it. It’s a language all animals speak without even knowing it, including the human animal. What’s more, all animals are actually born knowing this language instinctually. Even human beings are born fluent in this universal tongue, but we tend to forget it because we are trained from childhood to believe that words are the only way to communicate. The irony is, even though we don’t think we know the language anymore, we are actually speaking it all the time. Unknowingly, we are broadcasting in this tongue 24-7! Other species of animals can still understand us, even though we may not have a clue how to understand them. They read us loud and clear, even when we’re unaware that we’re communicating!
This truly universal, interspecies language is called energy.
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Energy in the Wild
How can energy be a language? Let me give you some examples. In the wild, different animal species intermingle effortlessly. Take the African savannah or a jungle, for instance. At a watering hole in a jungle, you might see monkeys and birds in the trees, or on a savannah, different plant eaters, such as zebras or gazelles, wandering around, happily drinking out of the same crystal-clear pond. All is peaceful, despite the many different species sharing the same space. How do they all get along so smoothly?
How about a less exotic example? In your own backyard you may have squirrels, birds, rabbits, even foxes, all happily coexisting. There’s no trouble until you rev up your lawnmower.
Why? Because all these animals are communicating with the same relaxed, balanced, non-confrontational energy. Every animal knows that all the other animals are just hanging out, doing their own thing — drinking water, foraging for food, relaxing, grooming one another. Everybody’s feeling mellow and no one’s attacking anyone else. Unlike us, they don’t have to ask one another how they’re feeling. The energy they are projecting tells them everything they need to know. In that sense, they are speaking to one another, all the time.
Now that you’ve got this peaceful vision in your mind, imagine this: Suddenly, a new animal enters your backyard, or approaches our imaginary jungle waterhole, projecting a completely different energy. This new energy could be something as minor as one squirrel trying to plunder another’s stash, or a gazelle jockeying another gazelle for a better drinking position at the oasis. It could also be as serious as a hungry predator seeking to subdue its next prey. Ever notice how a whole group of peaceful animals can turn scared or defensive in an instant, sometimes even before a predator has shown itself on the scene? They probably got a whiff of its scent — but it’s also probable that they sensed the energy the predator was projecting.
What’s always amazing to me about the animal kingdom is that even if a predator is near, all the other animals can usually tell if it’s safe to stay around it or not. Imagine being introduced to a man you knew to be a serial killer. Would you be able to relax in his presence? Of course not! But if you were another kind of animal on this planet, you would probably be able to sense whether the serial killer was on the prowl or simply kicking back. Animals immediately recognize when a predator is projecting a hunting energy, sometimes even before they spot the predator itself. As humans, we are so often blind to these nuances in animal energy — we think a tiger is dangerous at all times, when, really, if he’s just eaten a three hundred-pound deer, he’s probably more tired than treacherous. The moment his tummy gets empty, however, he’s a different animal — all instinct, all survival energy. Even your backyard squirrel will pick up on this subtle difference. Yet we humans tend to be blind to what, in the animal kingdom, is pretty much a flashing red light.
Here’s an example of animal energy that folks who live in the American South can probably relate to. On a sunny day in Florida, Louisiana, or the Carolinas, you’ll see giant alligators sunning their leathery bodies on the banks of swamps — all over expensive, exclusive golf courses! Meanwhile, golfers are teeing off a few feet away. Herons and cranes and turtles are happily sunning themselves right next to these terrifying reptiles. Eightypound old ladies are walking their teacup-size dogs on footpaths just inches from the alligators’ swamp. What’s going on here? It’s simple. The other animals — from the turtles to the teacup Chihuahuas — are aware, on an instinctual level, that these fearsome predators aren’t in a hunting mode at the moment. One thing you can be sure of — when the same big creature’s tummy starts to rumble and his energy shifts into hunting mode, the rest of the animals will be gone in the blink of an eye. Except maybe the golfers. But they are one of the strangest species in nature, and even modern science hasn’t figured them out yet.
Excerpted from "Cesar's Way," by Cesar Millan with Melissa Jo Peltier. Copyright © 2006 by Cesar Millan. Excerpted by permission of Harmony, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. For more on this book, visit www.randomhouse.com