LOS ANGELES — Brandon McMillan has trained as many as 10,000 dogs for television, movies, commercials, videos and people. Then he started saving dogs from animal shelters, training them and finding homes for them.
When Litton Entertainment needed a dog trainer who would rescue, train and place 22 dogs in 22 weeks for a show called “Lucky Dog” for CBS, they didn’t have to look far.
He starts each week spending several hours at a shelter, evaluating dogs. That may be the hardest part, especially given that at least 9,000 dogs and cats are euthanized each day because homes can’t be found for them.
“I can only take one out. That means I have to walk by 99 I can’t take. All 100 are very trainable, very place-able and just as smart as the next dog. Often the one I choose just comes down to one I make a connection with,” McMillan said.
McMillan, 36, used to have a show on Animal Planet called “Night,” in which he studied the nocturnal behavior of animals in the wild. He said he won’t choose dogs for the new show that can’t get along with children.
McMillan will train each dog to become proficient in seven common commands – sit, stay, down, come, off, heel and no.
“My theory of training is a lot like martial arts. You learn the technique one day and you perfect it for years to come. With the dogs, I teach them technique when I am training them. I teach the family to perfect the technique over the years to come.”
His dogs are really good at seven commands instead of being just average at 20 commands, he said. “Less is more when it comes to dog training.”
McMillan will choose the family by evaluating emails he receives at his Southern California ranch – aptly named the Lucky Dog Ranch – and checking out the house and yard where the new dog will live.
At the end of the show, the dog and family meet. McMillan spends a couple of hours training the family.
Most of the dogs chosen for the show will be under 5 years old because that’s what the families have asked for.
“Lucky Dog” is targeted to teens 13 to 16 years old, but McMillan is guessing a lot of moms will be watching.
“Lucky Dog” airs at 9:30 on Saturday mornings, followed by another Litton show called “Dr. Chris Pet Vet,” which gives viewers a chance to watch Australian veterinarian Chris Brown as he treats a wide variety of animals.
These and other Litton shows are replacing Saturday morning cartoons on CBS, a switch made in the face of increased competition, network officials said. The new shows also fulfill the network’s requirement for educational television.