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I admit that these days I spend more time than I used to, parked in front of the TV. But it’s not all fun and games, I swear! Well, it is a little fun, but there’s an educational motivation too. You see, I am addicted to documentaries. It’s an easy way to learn something new while tricking your brain into thinking you’re just vegging out. Janice and Leroy like to watch with me (Do Dogs Watch TV?), so we all get a little extra smarts out of the deal.
What better thing to both relax with and get more knowledge about than my beloved dogs? Thanks to things like Netflix and Amazon Prime, I’ve been able to discover a whole slew of documentaries all about dogs. These 13 are some of my favorites. Take a peek but don’t warn me if your whole weekend is soon gone while you binge all of them!
Pet Fooled is a brand new documentary that looks at the pet food industry. This is a topic I am very passionate about, and have covered many times here on the blog. The pet food industry is wildly unregulated, and you really don’t know what’s going into your dog unless you do a ton of research. This documentary is from the perspective of two veterinarians who discuss how this industry is impacting our pets’ health.
Dog by Dog documentary was made in 2015, and it’s honestly one of the most interesting things I’ve ever watched. It starts off by telling you some secrets behind the unregulated puppy mill industry in America; but then it reveals how this industry is connected by a money trail to big agriculture and even some big names in Washington, D.C. It’s a fascinating look at just why these puppy mills have been allowed to go on for so long.
The Champions is Another 2015 documentary, this one is a little more upbeat – sort of. It follows the lives of all the pit bulls that were rescued from the fighting ring owned by Michael Vick before he was caught. These dogs are given a second chance to become someone’s beloved pet, but it’s not always easy for a dog that was trained to fight and nothing else. I admit I may have hugged Janice and Leroy a little tighter after watching this one.
Speaking of which, I have to say that watching a dog documentary with your dogs is an interesting experience. Mine always seem to perk up from their spots on the couch when they see another dog on the TV. If you don’t allow your dogs on the couch, but want to start this tradition with your dog, consider getting them a special dog bed that stays by the couch so the two of you can veg out together. You could also grab a couch cover that allows them to sit next to you while protecting your furniture, like this Sunlightam cover.
Dogs on the Inside is another documentary that I really never knew I wanted to see, till I heard about it. It quickly became one of my favorites. In it, dogs belong to a program in Massachusetts where they are sent into prisons to interact with prisoners. These are stray dogs from a local shelter, and the inmates learn how to take care of these dogs and train them so that the dogs have a better chance at finding a forever home. In return, the prisoners get to learn new skills and help a creature in need – that’s a powerful feeling for someone who feels as though they’ve messed up big time.
Big Dogs, Little Dogs is a more lighthearted show, but it’s still worth your time. This show offers up a ton of facts about dogs, facts about the culture surrounding dog lovers, and facts about the history of dogs as pets. It’s done in a very entertaining way so you don’t get bored by all the facts, and you also get to learn about the whopping $18 billion dog supply industry. They also touch on the origins of many popular breeds.
I admit, this one fascinated me. I had to watch it again when I finished it. And Man Created Dog documentary takes you through the 14,000 some odd years of man and dog evolution, together. We see how we as humans have truly shaped the way that dogs are today – in fact without us, dogs would be wildly different creatures. This documentary attempts to imagine what that would be like, and explain how the choices that humans have made over history have inadvertently created a species that may have never existed otherwise.
Unleashed: A Dog Dancing Story one seems cheesy at first, but like all good TV, it got addicting fast. Basically it was about dogs who are in a dancing show. That sounds silly, but the people and dogs involved have such a genuine love for what they are doing that it’s hard to not be impressed. The dogs dance, fly kites in an intricate indoor performance, and more. It’s a lot like seeing an old variety show, but with amazingly trained dogs, and I was rooting for them by the end. Janice and Leroy definitely approve.
Through a Dog’s Eyes is an oldie but a goodie. Released in 2010, this documentary shows us what it is like to be a puppy who is being trained as a service dog for a disabled person. It was a PBS documentary, and was filmed totally from the dog’s point of view. We get to see the puppy learning how to turn on light switches, how to fetch things gently, and how to be a service dog for specific ailments.
There’s other parts of this documentary that focus on the people who adopt the dogs. Those include children with disorders such as epilepsy and cerebral palsy. That part of the documentary details how it can be a very difficult process to match disabled people up with service dogs, and then how the bonding process takes place. I found this really fascinating because I’ve never needed a service animal before, and that’s a side of dogs I’m not as familiar with. Getting to see dogs from a whole new angle just made me appreciate these brilliant creatures even more.
Want to really see things from your dog’s eyes entirely? A Dog’s Life documentary can help. It was created to show us how dogs experience every day life, how they solve problems, how they interact, and how they perceive you and other things about their lives. I’ve always wondered what Janice and Leroy really thought the world was like, and this documentary helped clarify some things about behavior that I hadn’t had a chance to read up on yet. As if that weren’t enough, I swear they chose the cutest dogs they could possibly find for this documentary. It was a great way to spend an evening avoiding things like chores or other people.
Like something that pulls on your heartstrings? Here you go. Second Chance Dogs is a documentary that was released last year, and at first glance you may shy away. It sounds like it’s going to be one of those awful Sarah McLaughlin commercials, only extended. But actually, Second Chance Dogs focuses in a more positive way on neglected dogs, as they get health care and find new homes. This documentary showcases a dog rehabilitation center in New Jersey, the very first facility ever created to help dogs get treatment and a little bit of behavioral help before being put up for adoption. Rather than just sticking a bunch of dogs into a shelter and hoping for the best, this facility actually takes in dogs with a lot of fear, anxiety, or other undesired characteristics, and patiently works with the dogs to weed those out. When the dogs finally leave the center to go to their forever homes, they are generally the happy-go-lucky pets they were always meant to be.
Released in 2015, Dog Man is a documentary more about a man than a dog – but it’s still a great watch. Dick Russell was a renown dog trainer that spent 50 years of his life surrounded by dogs. It’s said in the documentary that he’s trained more than 30,000 dogs in his life, and a huge majority of those were “problem dogs” that likely would have led very frustrating lives if not for Dick. He used his large estate in Louisiana to give the dogs a sort of “rehab ranch” experience, and even went out of his way to help dog owners who really needed his help but couldn’t afford it. What I like most about his is that he was so very gentle and kind with the dogs. He believed in positive reinforcement and building up a dog’s good behavior, rather than tearing them down for less desirable behaviors. His method of training has inspired hundreds of other dog trainers around the world, so I think it’s fitting to have this documentary listed (even if it’s not totally about dogs).
Dogs and Their Secret Lives documentary was actually the documentation of an experiment performed to help us understand separation anxiety in dogs a little better. This documentary is from the U.K. so it can only be found on YouTube I believe. But the experiment involved hidden cameras in the homes of dogs with separation anxiety. We get to see what the dogs actually did during their anxious spells, and then we get to see how the owners and trainers handled the situation. By watching the video, the trainers were able to best decide how to help each dog individually. It’s a great watch for anyone who deals with an anxious dog, because it may give you some ideas! I particularly liked this one because it had a very scientific angle. The experiment was performed very rigorously and all the guests were clearly experts in their fields. It’s nice to learn from those who know and love dogs as much as I do!
I can’t resist adding one more about puppy mills, because it’s a topic I’m passionate about. Madonna of the Mills 2011 HBO documentary is about a woman, referred to as Madonna, who travels around Pennsylvania, rescuing dogs that are confined in puppy mills as “breeders”. Just as a warning, this documentary is not easy to watch. They didn’t censor out some of the harder scenes, but if you can stomach it, I think it’s a very powerful portrayal of what many animals are still going through. Madonna focuses on freeing the dogs that are stuck, the ones that exist only to deliver more pups year after year. This is because the pups, while not given the best introduction to life, are usually adopted out to families as part of the puppy mill process. But the breeding dogs never get the chance to be pets, and that’s what Madonna is attempting to give them.
Getting ready for a TV night means getting comfortable! You’ve grabbed your spot on the couch, maybe you set your dog up with a fancy dog bed like we talked about above. What’s next? You’ll probably want some popcorn, right? Offer your dog some homemade doggie treats, or a few special treats to make them feel like part of the party. When Janice and Leroy were younger, I would often use something similar to these Wellness Puppy Bites training treats. But even some raw carrots will do the trick and make your dog’s teeth shiny to boot.
Now you’ve got your comfortable spot, your snacks, your dog, and your documentary all ready to go. All you need now is a willingness to learn and plenty of time – because I can promise you wont’ want to stop watching.