They are loyal, reliable, affectionate, guileless and many a man’s best friend. But there is one thing Cesar Millan wants dog owners to understand: their beloved four-legged pets aren’t human beings.

Seems a pretty obvious thing to point out but the Mexican-born self-taught dog trainer says that this is one of the most common mistakes people make about their canine best friends.

“There is no doubt that dogs are a man’s best friend. They don’t care if you are rich or poor, they will be your constant companion. But, dogs aren’t human beings. They have their own lifestyle just like birds, fish and all other animals. But we often forget. We want them to come and live with us and live like us,” he says in a phone interview from Los Angeles, California, recently.

Many dog owners, he says, make the mistake of giving their dogs unrestrained affection which can cause them to behave badly. According to Millan, when we give our beloved pets affection, we are reinforcing their behaviour preceding it. So, we should offer affection at the right times – for example, after exercise or a meal when the pet has changed any unwanted behaviour into a behaviour you asked for or responded to a rule or command.

“There is a formula for everything and the formula to keep a dog happy and fulfilled is to give them exercise, discipline and, of course, affection. What most people do is give affection, affection and affection which creates unstable dogs and bad behaviour,” he says.

To make his point clear, Millan gives this example.

“The first thing a dog needs when he gets up is exercise. You may start your day with breakfast before you head off to work but a dog wants to start his day with exercise. A walk. After that, you can give him food.

“If a dog has too much physical energy, he is going to jump, bark, dig, destroy furniture, chew on shoes and act out. That’s from a lack of exercise,” he explains.

Exercise alone, however, isn’t enough. Discipline is crucial in letting dogs know how far they can go.

“If a dog jumps on people, takes food from the counter or pulls on the leash and barks and tries to fight with other dogs while out walking that is because he lacks discipline. He does not understand the rules, boundaries and limitations. You have to show them what you expect from them and you have to be consistent. If you break the rules, so will they,” he says simply.

On the subject of rules, the dog-trainer – or as he is more famously known, dog whisperer – asserts that there are even rules for when we should show affection to a dog.

“Affection is energy. When you are giving them affection, you are transferring energy and you should show them affection when they are in a calm state when they have accomplished something. It’s like us too – we get paid when we do our job. If we don’t complete our job, we won’t get paid, right?” he states.

Millan is scheduled to hold a live show in Kuala Lumpur at the end of the month and is excited to share his tips of dog training with Malaysians.

“I’ve never been to Malaysia and I’m looking forward to coming to your country. You will see me on stage with some dogs that have (behavioural) problems. You will be able to see and learn what to do. When you see the show on TV, you may think what I do is magic or that I have an extraordinary talent. But when you see their transformation right in front of you, you will realise that you can do it too. When you know the right thing to do, you can achieve the same results,” he says, encouragingly.

Cesar Millan’s live show will be at the Plenary Hall, KL Convention Centre on May 30 at 7.30pm. The session is to train pet owners; no dogs will be allowed into the venue.