I had imagined Cesar Millan’s Dog Psychology Center as a huge facility, with dozens of pens, dog kennels and dog runs. After all, Cesar is one of the most famous dog trainer/behaviorists in history. With his widespread fame and presumably, a fortune gleaned from Cesar Millan Industries, which markets his show, a bevy of books, training courses both online and in-person, speaking tours, dog food and proprietary tools such as leashes and backpacks, it’s easy to imagine Cesar having an upscale, oversized, dramatic, glitzy and possibly even glamorous location for his dog psychology center, located relatively near Los Angeles – often known as a city of overstated excesses.
Thankfully, nothing could be farther from the truth when visiting the DPC, as I discovered during a recent in-person visit at Cesar’s Dog Psychology Center (DPC). I’m not given to excesses of impressive displays of wealth through impressively elegant surroundings and from what I saw of the DPC, Cesar isn’t either. (Deep breath of relief).
Nestled in the breathtakingly beautiful mountains of the Santa Clarita Valley, there are no signs directing invited guests to the DPC. Not one. It seems that some of the residents aren’t even aware that they have a celebrity in their midst; a conversation with our hotel manager revealed that he hadn’t ever even heard of Cesar Millan. Seriously!
I and my companions had been invited to visit so that Cesar could help resolve a problem with my beloved dog, Lucky. Driving to the facility, we followed the directions – and yet, almost missed a narrow side road that we needed to take. Following the twisting and turning road, it changed from paved to unpaved as it wound upwards into the mountains.
Finally, we spotted a grouping of several small buildings, set off from the road and up an unmarked dirt driveway. Cautiously, I turned onto the driveway, passing what could have been a guard house (sans guards) and finally arriving at a parking area, with just a few cars already parked. Exiting the car, I looked further up the driveway and spotted a few people coming down to meet us – and I recognized one person – Cesar. I’d definitely found the right address!
After greeting Cesar and making the appropriate introductions, Cesar excused himself to put Junior and another pack member into their pack’s pen enclosure and then returned. We followed him up the pathway to his Dog Psychology Center. To be honest, I was very surprised. All of the buildings appeared to be single-story, simple buildings. The landscaping, while nice, was simple and fit in with the arid mountain area; in short, it was in balance with the natural environment that the DPC is in. No fancy super-lush green lawn here! Yet, in simplicity, there is often beauty and that’s what I saw.
Cesar directed us over to a deck, slightly raised off the ground, where there was ample seating (quite comfortable, in fact) and sun umbrellas to shield us from the hot California sun while remaining in view of the pack’s enclosure. There, we had a conversation about the history and issues facing my dog and I. Not far away, I could see Cesar’s pack in their pen enclosure, frolicking and occasionally checking up on us from their vantage point, just as I was checking up on them!
The design of the dog’s enclosure is simple – two buildings, placed nearly end-to-end but with a gap of about eight feet and a covering are used to create a breezeway of sorts. The pen’s gate entrance fills the gap between the buildings. Inside the pen, there is some landscaping to provide interest for the dogs, as well as covered kennels placed against one of the buildings. As the gates for the kennels face inward to the common enclosure, the kennels provide for easy access to individual areas for dogs without having to exit the common enclosure. The ground surface was a kind of stone gravel; easy to clean and non-disintegrating.
I was surprised at the size of the enclosure; it was much smaller than I thought it would be. Yet, the dogs all seemed to congregate near the gate and no one vied for space. The pack members, ranging from the smallest Chihuahua to good-sized dogs such as Apollo the Rottweiler, moved in to check out Lucky. Cesar carefully supervised the introductions, as Lucky was the newcomer to the group.
Glancing around, I spotted an oversized bucket of fresh water for the dogs – simple. No extravagant ever-watering water fountains here! In fact, I was surprised. I wouldn’t call the DPC “Spartan” – but simplistic and functional in design, lending the entire area a sense of calmness and balance. In retrospect, I think that had the DPC been full of glitz and elegance, I would have been disappointed; personally, I found relief in the simplicity inherent in the design of the DPC.
Perhaps because of the mountain backdrop, it seemed larger and more airy than I might have otherwise thought; the same size space, if it had been crammed into a city with buildings all around, would have seemed claustrophobic. With the mountains present, there was no sense of claustrophobia. During the course of the session, I had a chance to glance in to one of the buildings, which appeared to be utilized as a long, open office space. My impression was of a laid back and low key office design, functional and conducive to getting things done.
Entering a second building, the design was reminiscent of a stable, with kennels for dogs on one side and equipment, including a pair of treadmills, opposite the dog’s kennels. With doors on either end, there was good airflow through the building and the one dog that was present during our visit seemed happy and calm.
During the course of the conversation, Cesar mentioned that he is planning on putting in a water feature near the seating area. As he described his vision, I could easily imagine the calming effect of the sound of water and how it would transform the already-comfortable seating area into an oasis of its own.
I hope that someday, I am able to return to the DPC and see the changes that Cesar makes over time… with work and luck, I hope to have him see the changes he helped direct in the relationship between my dog and I. In the meantime, I’ll make do with the memories of an afternoon at the DPC.