Have you ever wished the "Dog Whisperer" Cesar Millan would come to your house and help you with your unruly canine? You're not alone.
"We get thousands of applications from people wanting to be on the show," one of the show's producers, Sheila Emery, tells us. "But we're only able to pick a small percentage." So how do the producers decide which dogs (and their owners) merit a visit from Millan? We attended a "Dog Whisperer" casting call to find out.
On a sunny December afternoon in Santa Monica, Calif., Leah Pacheco and her husband Meftali Villasenor wait nervously to talk to one of the show's producers, who is holding auditions at a local grooming salon. The couple has driven two hours for the chance to be featured in an upcoming episode of "Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan." They have four dogs and are desperate for help.
"We have a year-and-a-half-old Doberman pinscher named Jordan and she's crazy," Pacheco tells us. "She dominates our other three little dogs and bats our Chihuahua around like a soccer ball." Does the Chihuahua like playing with the Doberman? "No!" Pacheco says, "Buttercup, our Chihuahua, is terrified!" Jordan also has a scary habit of jumping on the car whenever Pacheco's husband gets inside the vehicle.
They've tried everything that Millan suggests on his shows—exercising Jordan on a treadmill, making her run alongside as they bike—but nothing works. "It's our fault," laments Pacheco. "When Jordan was a puppy, we spoiled her. We're hoping to get on the show so Cesar can help us."
Dogs are allowed to attend the casting calls, but Pacheco and her husband have opted to leave the overbearing Jordan at home. They are, however, clutching the requisite application materials: a release form, questionnaire and a video showing Jordan misbehaving.
Inside the grooming salon, three-year-old rescue dog Berkeley and his owners, Kelly Berry and Peter Pappas, meet with producer, Emery.
"He's a good, sweet loving dog," Berry says, "but he's territorial and doesn't like smaller dogs. He goes nuts whenever he sees a UPS truck and spins in circles and does intense barking." Berkeley has gotten kicked out of daycare after just one day, Pappas says, because he was aggressive towards another dog. "We put a muzzle on him and shot video of him jumping up and trying to bite us," Pappas says. "Oh, good," Emery murmurs.
"The better the video, the better your chances of getting on the show," Emery explains to us afterwards. "The video doesn't need to be professionally shot, but it does need to show the behavior." (Click here to read the show's submission guidelines.) Bonus if you're dog is quirky. "We love phobias," says Emery.
Currently in its sixth season on the National Geographic Channel, each episode of "Dog Whisperer" features three problem dogs. "We look for stories that are unique that we haven't done before," says Emery. "Maybe there's something unusual about the dog or the owner. Maybe it's a breed we haven't done before or a location. The same problems tend to come up, so we try to mix it up by combining the personality of the owner with the problem with the dog."
The show's producers like to feature people who they think will most likely follow through with Millan's advice. It's one reason Emery likes the young couple with the problem Doberman. "They've tried things without success and it shows they're motivated," she says. "When I hear about the problems with certain dogs, I wonder, 'How is Cesar going to fix this?'"
After six years working with Millan, Emery says she remains "completely mystified" when it comes to guessing how the dog behavior expert will solve a problem. "Cesar is so creative," she says. "We just give him the material for him to do his magic."