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Originally published Friday, September 19, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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100 episodes later, "Dog Whisperer" still leading the pack

"Dog Whisperer" Cesar Millan talks to some Portland pooches and celebrates the 100th episode of his National Geographic Channel show.

Newhouse News Service

On TV

"Dog Whisperer"

A special 100th episode airs at 9 tonight, National Geographic Channel.

PORTLAND — For Cesar Millan, television's "Dog Whisperer," it's all about dominance.

"I am the master," he says.

Millan was in Oregon recently to film dogs behaving badly. Dog owners sent Millan videos documenting their pets' problems, and his staff chose a handful to be included in season five of the popular show, which airs Fridays on the National Geographic Channel.

For one, there's Calder, a 6-year-old Australian cattle dog, who doesn't like it when owners Margretta Hansen and Joe Janiga want to sleep. He bares his teeth and snaps at Hansen when bedtime is near. Obedience classes and a private trainer did nothing to help.

"We've been trying to solve the problems for six years," Janiga says.

Millan shows up at 9 the night of the taping. He never reviews the cases ahead of time. He just asks a few questions and observes the dog. Quickly Millan decides that Calder doesn't respect Hansen.

"This dog strums you like a guitar," he says. "He feels entitled to tell you what to do."

The problem: Hansen is acting like a woman.

"Women are emotional," Millan says. "In the animal world, emotions are weakness. If you show emotions to a dominant animal, it will hurt you. If a woman shows her woman-ness, a dominant dog will take over."

Admittedly, this initially seems like strange advice to give to Janiga and Hansen. But the couple listened.

A week later, they were stunned by Calder's progress. The dog allows people to pet him for the first time, ever, without growling.

They say Millan gave them practical advice that they're following. They now control Calder's food, making him establish eye contact before he gets fed. They give him a specific walk every morning, controlling his movements for the first part of the walk, then allowing him to "be a dog" and sniff in the middle, then controlling the last part of the walk.

"I read the criticism of Cesar Millan, but with our dog, he worked. We saw him bring a pretty realistic balance," Hansen says.

Love him or hate him, Millan, 39, is top dog when it comes to popularity among dog owners.

He arrived in the United States from Mexico in 1990, not speaking English. His "Dog Whisperer" television show has grown from an audience of about 100,000 households per episode in 2004 to about a million people per episode today. The series will have a special 100th episode tonight.

The success of the TV show has translated into best-selling books. His book "Cesar's Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems" (written with Melissa Jo Peltier) was on The New York Times best-seller list for 52 weeks.

His second book, "Be the Pack Leader: Use Cesar's Way to Transform Your Dog ... and Your Life" (also written with Peltier) has been a best-seller, too. There's a third book on the way and five DVDs available. And Petco recently began carrying an extensive line of "Dog Whisperer by Cesar Millan" products.

While Calder's issues were relatively simple to rectify, the problems with Cricket were not.

The 10-month-old golden retriever has a sweet face and likes to carry his toys around the house. Cindy and Lyndon Murray of Milwaukie bought him as a puppy.

Says Cindy Murray: "He's a well-behaved dog ... "

"... until he tries to kill you," Lyndon Murray says. And Lyndon has a wound on his arm that underscores the problem.

Cricket first "exploded" when he was 3 months old. He quickly became possessive of his food, and now he growls when Cindy Murray tries to bathe or brush him.

Millan says Cricket is too dangerous to live with first-time dog owners like the Murrays until he is rehabbed.

Cricket will go to Millan's "Dog Psychology Center" in Los Angeles to learn to be submissive. Then Millan will work on the dog's food possessiveness. After that, the Murrays will be flown down to reunite with their dog.

Time will tell whether this works for Cricket.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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