To get your dog to listen to you, abandon the idea of training him. That’s the radical, yet internationally popular approach preached by 20-year dog trainer and “Dog Whisperer” star Cesar Millan.

“Most people want to train the dog, but they don’t have the knowledge,” says Millan, whose techniques have been spotlighted in “Leader of the Pack” and “Cesar 911.” “The student is only as good as the teacher.”  

The secret

It comes down to energy, psychology and conditioning. That means first picking a dog whose energy matches yours, then being as positive as possible, similar to how you might approach a new friendship. 

“It’s understanding how dogs learn, and it’s understanding what motivates the dog — and that’s food, toys and you.”

Next, you must understand how dogs learn — through their nose, their eyes and their ears. “Most people go into conditioning and don’t know how the dogs learn,” says Millan, who explains that humans usually learn with their ears, followed by their eyes and their nose. “Look how we’re communicating! You can’t do this with a dog. His nose has to be involved.”

There's another misconception that you merely need to love your dog for him to listen to you — something many pet owners in the United States believe. 

Love, trust and respect

“My clients love their dogs, but their dogs don’t respect my clients,” Millan says. “Trust and respect is an activity you do separate from love, and eventually they merge.” 

In particular, stimulation is a way to earn that trust and respect, along with establishing your own role as a leader in the relationship. Millan likens stimulating a dog through exercise with a human feeling a sense of reward after acing a test or receiving a paycheck at work. Exercise gives dogs a sense of purpose, and in order to forge a bond with the dog, you must do that exercise with him, rather than simply opening the door for him to play alone.

“At the end of the day, it’s understanding energy,” Millan says. “It’s understanding how dogs learn, and it’s understanding what motivates the dog — and that’s food, toys and you.”