Close-up of Cesar and pit bull
Cesar Millan's Leader of the Pack
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Cesar Millan's Leader of the Pack

Learn How One Dog Launched Cesar Millan’s Entire Career

Cesar Millan credits his success as an international dog trainer to one extraordinary Pit Bull named Daddy.

By: Catie Kovelman, Updated 02/19/2022 

With Cesar Millan’s widespread popularity, it’s hard to imagine a time before he was a household name. But every success story has to start somewhere, and Cesar Millan’s started with a special pit bull named Daddy. The pair was introduced in 1994 when Cesar was working as a dog walker in South Central Los Angeles and Daddy was only a 4-month-old puppy. Over the next 16 years, Daddy taught Cesar invaluable insights about animal behavior and working with other dogs that Cesar says defined his international success as a world-renowned dog trainer he experiences today. 

Daddy even helped choose his successor, another extraordinary pit bull named Junior. Cesar Millan’s second pit bull was his right-hand dog during the training and rehabilitations he completed at his Dog Psychology Center until his passing in July of 2021. Junior Millan was 15 years old at the time of his death, and it wouldn’t be shocking in the slightest for Cesar to choose another pit bull to be Junior’s successor.

Because of the impact that Daddy had on Cesar so early in his career as a dog trainer, Cesar Millan has also become an advocate to break stereotypes surrounding the so-called vicious pit bull breed. Because of their large size and natural strength, a pit bull attack can result in severe injuries. Due to this, pit bulls and other large and powerful breeds have earned a bad reputation. By welcoming viewers into his training center on his popular television shows, Cesar Millan shows the world that even the most aggressive dog behavior can be fixed with an understanding of animal behavior, discovering the root cause for the issues, and proper rehabilitation. Many episodes feature Cesar Millan turning a vicious pit bull or violent german shepherd into the perfect dog by teaching pet owners how to set boundaries and exert dominance. As Cesar often likes to say, “better human better dog.” While much of his work is about dog training, sometimes the owners need to be trained, too. And everything Cesar does for all dogs was inspired by Daddy. 

Of course, we could tell you all about how Cesar Millan got his start. But wouldn’t you rather hear it in his own words? Watch as Cesar tells the extraordinary story of his success and his relationship with Daddy in the below clip.

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Not only does Cesar Millan’s success story perfectly encapsulate the American Dream, but it also speaks to the powerful bonds we share with our canine companions. Dogs serve multiple invaluable roles in our life, both big and small. Some are life changing service and rescue dogs, while others come into our lives to improve our mental health or be a necessary companion. Although their lives are too short, every dog lives to teach us an important message or help us in ways we never knew we needed. While Daddy passed away at the age of 16, his legacy lives on through the memorial Cesar created for him, Junior’s work as his successor, and his influence is still present in Cesar’s training methods. 

If you’ve been a pet parent at any point in your life, you likely already know the price we pay for loving them is that one day we have to say goodbye. But we encourage you to reflect on the wonderful love you’ve shared with your past fur babies and think about the ways they’ve changed your life for the better, even if they are not physically with you today. It’s often therapeutic to find a way to memorialize your beloved pet and make a conscious effort to help their legacy live on. Some pet owners find comfort in creating a physical memorial as Cesar did for Daddy. Others choose to invest in personalized jewelry that allows them to keep a piece of their pet on their person at all times, such as a customized ring, bracelet, or necklace. Some even use their pet’s fur or ashes to make one-of-a-kind sculptures or pieces of jewelry. 

In addition to creating a physical memorial, other pet parents feel the best gift they can give to their former companion is to bequeath his home to another dog in need. In the pet community, there is a well-known poem that suggests a dog’s last will and testament is to leave his loving home to a rescue dog that has never known affection or happiness. With this in mind, many pet parents will rescue a stray in need in honor of their old pet, or make a donation to an animal shelter in their pet’s name. While you might not be training animals or working in a career in honor of a dog you once knew, you can still take actions that allow your dog to have a lasting positive impact on your life and the world. 

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