Cesar Millan has always wanted to play Las Vegas.
Of course, TV’s “Dog Whisperer” has been here before, taping segments with locals and their troubled canines, whether they’re Cirque du Soleil performers or Women’s Correctional Center parolees.
Friday night, however, Millan tries a different Vegas venue: the Palms’ Pearl concert theater, where he’ll present a live version of “Leader of the Pack Live,” sharing his techniques on dealing with common dog misbehaviors.
More than 1,200 local dog owners responded to a call for canines to be featured in Friday’s show. Based on the response, “I can be permanent in Vegas,” Millan jokes in a telephone interview.
Only four or five of those dogs will be chosen for Friday’s live show, however. (They’ll be the only dogs allowed in The Pearl, so audience members should leave their pets at home.)
“Of course I have dogs,” Millan says. “It brings the warm.”
Millan has appeared in casinos from Canada to Singapore, but “this is Vegas,” he says. “It’s not just a casino.”
It’s not just a live show, either.
This “Leader of the Pack” will be recorded as a TV special, to be shown on NatGeo Wild, where the former “Dog Whisperer’s” new series, “Cesar 911,” was recently renewed for a second season.
In addition to live canines, Friday’s Palms show will have live music, Millan says. “Everything that moves your emotions.”
It also boasts an 18-member production team (including “awesome writers,” Millan promises) that has worked on shows such as “The Voice” and Oscar and Emmy telecasts.
“It’s a tight show,” Millan says. “Very smart.”
During Friday’s “Leader of the Pack,” Millan will share his insights into dog behavior, addressing “relevant” problems from “barkers” and “pullers” to “dogs who get fixated on, for example, vacuums. Or pools.”
For such dogs, “it’s not the object, it’s the state of mind” that Millan will explore. “How do you help the dog snap out of it?”
And make no mistake, in Millan’s view, humans are almost always at the root of a dog’s problems.
“The audience will learn two things,” he says. “Energy — and why leadership is so important.”
After all, “we know political leadership, religious leadership,” Millan says. “But dogs lead America. If you don’t lead a dog, the dog is going to train you.”
Part of the human problem, he suggests, is that dogs — and their owners — are living in “a very confused era,” with humans “thinking as the parent of the dog.”
Take Oprah Winfrey, whom Millan cites “because everybody knows her.”
For Winfrey, her dog Sophie “became a person,” he notes, quoting Winfrey as saying, “ ‘she’s like my daughter.’ ” And the sight of “this powerful woman” being “controlled by fear” illustrates, for Millan that “what we’re living right now is abnormal.”
“If you don’t lead a dog, the dog is going to train you.”
Millan has been communing with canines since his boyhood in Mexico, where he earned the nickname “El Perrero” (which translates as “the dog boy”) while working on his grandfather’s farm.
After coming to the U.S., he established himself as a “dog whisperer,” eventually founding a Dog Psychology Center in Southern California. A Los Angeles Times profile led to a “Dog Whisperer” TV series, which was shown in more than 80 countries around the world during its 2004-12 run.
Asked about his self-taught expertise and subsequent success, “of course I’m surprised,” Millan answers. “Number one, I’m Hispanic.”
Secondly, his “Dog Whisperer” series had “never been done,” he adds, describing his TV show as one that “talks about dogs and entertains people at the same time.”
For all his success, however, Millan also has his critics, some of whom object to training methods that the detractors describe as unscientific, inhumane and characterized by punitive techniques.
“The so-called ‘Dog Whisperer’ makes training look like magic,” dog trainer Anna Jane Grossman has blogged on the Huffington Post website.
“But it’s not. It is science: the science of punishment.”
For Millan, however, his approach “has to do with being an authority figure.”
And he’s nothing if not an authority figure.
“When you go to the doctor, you want the doctor to tell you what’s wrong with you,” Millan says. “When I see a dog, I know exactly what’s wrong — it is the human.”
During Friday’s “Leader of the Pack” show, Millan will explore topics from canine body language to the role that instincts play in shaping behavior — dog and human.
“The TV show makes you a fan,” Millan says.
“But the live show makes you a believer.”
Contact reporter Carol Cling at ccling@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272.