Dog whisperer wants to open a dog psychology centre here

Dog trainer Cesar Millan and his son Andre learning to make roti prata at New Mahamoodiya Restaurant in Bedok last Saturday.
Dog trainer Cesar Millan and his son Andre learning to make roti prata at New Mahamoodiya Restaurant in Bedok last Saturday.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

'Dog whisperer' Cesar Millan, whose children have followed him into working with animals, wants to open a dog training centre here

Television's "dog whisperer", Cesar Millan, hopes to one day open a Dog Psychology Center (DPC) in Singapore, considering the city's infrastructural support systems and how it "is becoming a role model for the rest of Asia".

Millan, 47, tells The Straits Times that the centre here would be similar to his DPCs in California and Florida, where he offers courses from obedience training to socialising dogs to help them interact with other dogs and humans.

"How does the population of a country learn about dogs when there's no centre that is dedicated to teaching humans about dogs?" asks Millan.

"Every country should have one, just like every country has a golf course or football pitch."

The hands-on courses in his DPCs in the United States - led personally by him - typically take five to six days and cost between US$5,000 and US$6,000 (S$6,900 and S$8,280). They are located on expansive properties and have facilities such as walking trails, airconditioned kennels and even swimming facilities for dogs.

Mexican-American Millan, who gained fame for his ability to rehabilitate difficult dogs, was in Singapore to film Season 2 of Cesar's Recruit: Asia, a show to find Asia's best dog trainer through a series of challenges.

To promote the show here, the Emmy Awards nominee filmed a prata-making challenge at New Mahamoodiya Restaurant in Bedok last Saturday, going up against his 22-year-old son Andre and sampling local fare.

Millan particularly enjoyed the mushroom and cheese prata, which he likened to a quesadilla, a tortilla filled with cheese. "I would make it with guacamole and onion - that's the new Mexican prata," he quips.

Through his show Cesar's Recruit: Asia, he also hopes to find employees for what he calls his global mission.

"I'm recruiting people to help me with my mission, which is the education of people for the well-being of animals," he says, adding that he will be looking specifically for a director for the dog psychology centre here.

Already, he is keeping Cesar's Recruit: Asia Season 1 winner, Singaporean Ethan Loke, busy. "It's very important that I keep Ethan coaching," says Millan.

The 28-year-old is one of his proteges now.

Millan wants dog training to be viewed as a viable profession. "You have to be able to work with three kinds of people - people who love dogs, people who are afraid of dogs and people who don't like dogs," he says.

He points out that in Asia, the vast majority of jobs related to dogs are in the grooming industry, but other services are also needed. "You guys are miles ahead in technology, but in terms of dog education and services, it's a little bit behind," he says.

Millan's son Andre has taken after his father. They can be seen together on Cesar Millan's Dog Nation, in which they travel across America in an RV (recreational vehicle) and help problem dogs in different states.

The younger Millan, who was visiting Singapore for the first time, wants to help all animals, not just dogs. He is also interested in helping younger dog owners, he says. "I like to relate to the younger generation, who have shorter attention spans."

Even Cesar's younger son Calvin, 16, is in on the TV action, with the pre-schooler-centric show Mutt & Stuff on Nickelodeon.

"Calvin is the puppy whisper, Andre is the millennials whisperer and I'm the dog whisperer, so we have our own dog dynasty," Millan quips.

Dog owner Krystal Heng, 26, who has a shih tzu and a spitz, says she would consider sending her dogs to the DPC if one opened here. However, she adds that "price is a deciding factor".

"When my shih tzu was a puppy, I sent him for training to learn obedience, commands and potty training and it was very effective, but it cost a lot less," she says.

"But it would help to learn from Cesar himself how to be a pack leader."

•Cesar Millan's Dog Nation airs on National Geographic Channel (StarHub TV Channel 411 or Singtel TV Channel 201) every Wednesday at 9pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2017, with the headline 'Dog-whisperer dynasty'. Print Edition | Subscribe