Details You Didn't Know About Cesar Millan

First of all: you're probably saying his name wrong. According to his official bio, TV's favorite dog trainer was born in Culiacán, Mexico. His full name is César Felipe Millán Favela. So, it's not Cesar like the salad. The emphasis is on the first syllable and it's a short e sound. And his last name isn't pronounced like the Italian city of haute couture fame, but with the y sound of the Spanish letter ll.

Now that we've gotten the pedantic details out of the way, let's get to the fun stuff: the dogs. Although he now knows the science behind training and communicating with our furry best friends, Cesar initially learned to be able to calm and control even the most aggressive and difficult dogs from his grandfather, Teodoro, who worked on a farm in a small town near Culiacán. "When I started reading all the scientific books, I realized that most of those things my grandfather knew from experience, from trial and error," he says in his bio. "For example, he didn't know a dog's nose was 10,000 times more powerful than a human's nose. He just knew this is the way dogs experience the world – nose first... He never had training, but he was very instinctual, a natural pack leader, and I think he saw that same gift in me."

Cesar was born to talk to dogs

Cesar also saw that trait in himself at an early age. His favorite TV shows growing up were Lassie and The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. After watching their canine escapades, he told his mom, "I'm going to be the best dog trainer in the world." He loved dogs so much that he was bullied by other kids, who called him "dog boy" (an insult that's much meaner in Spanish than it sounds to us English speakers, he said in a 2019 blog post). This experience led him to become an advocate against bullying in schools, using children's natural love for dogs to build healthy social skills. "The only acceptable type of bully is the dog breed," he tweeted in 2017. "No one should be afraid to be themselves."

When Cesar first came to the United States, there was one person who also saw his special way with man's best friend and helped him find success as a celebrity dog trainer. Actress Jada Pinkett Smith was one of his first celebrity clients. "He has a gift," she told People magazine in 2009. Pinkett was so impressed that she recommended him to other high-profile dog owners, like Oprah Winfrey, helping him fulfill his destiny as The Dog Whisperer. She also helped him gain his U.S. citizenship, which he received in March 2009. "She hired a teacher for me for a year," said Cesar. "Famous people don't do that a lot. Special people do that."

Cesar is one of many celebrities who first came to the U.S. as undocumented immigrants

Cesar first came to the United States when he was 21 years old. He entered the country via a coyote, or smuggler, with only $100 in his pocket and a head full of ambition. He went to California, where he began working as a dog walker and kennel cleaner. According to Global News, he knew what he did was wrong, but he was intent on fulfilling the aspiration he'd told his mom as a young boy, telling Pinkett Smith that he was aware that he "broke a boundary and a rule, [but] it was for a dream." (Other notable celebs who first came to the U.S. as undocumented immigrants include Salma Hayek, Michael J. Fox, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Melania Trump.)

According to Men's Journal, he had tried to find work in Mexico as a dog trainer, but was unable to, even in big cities like Guadalajara. He tried to cross the border for two weeks, but kept getting caught. Then he found the coyote who helped him cross. The crossing cost him the $100 that his father had given him for the trip, but the bet paid off, not only for Cesar, and not only for the celebs whose dogs he trained, but for the millions of fans he now has across the world whose relationships with their own man's best friends have been improved with his expert advice.