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Karen B. London
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Dogs in the City
New show is worth a look
Justin Silver stars in "Dogs in the City"

“Dogs in the City” is a new CBS show based in New York and starring dog trainer Justin Silver. Each episode shows several people or families whose dogs have issues. Silver works with the people to improve the dog’s behavior and quality of life.

Silver really understands people, connects with them, and sees the human social dynamic clearly and fairly. He is direct, like a proper New Yorker, calling it as he sees it, but always in a kind and respectful way. The people chosen to be on the show are quirky enough to be interesting, but not too far out there. They are well within the range of clients that most trainers and behaviorists work with over the years.

The show focuses on how the people featured impact the behavior of their dogs. The show does not emphasize training specifics. There is little actual training in the show, and few specific cues given to the dogs, presumably because this show is not a how-to show on training. That said, Silver sets a good example as a trainer by using healthy treats and by emphasizing the importance of what people DO want their dog to do rather than on what they DON’T want their dog to do.

Some of what Silver says and does may not feel quite right to trainers. He pulls on the leash quite a bit with dogs, including his own, Chiquita and Pacino (who by the way are both adorable and beautifully behaved.) He uses the term “socialization” to mean being social with other dogs rather than using it more technically to refer to early, influential experiences during specific periods of development that in dogs end at around 4 months of age. He talks about being “master” which is not a term so commonly used anymore. He often kisses dogs on the nose, which is not a great example for viewers.

That said, it’s only fair to state the well-known adage that the only thing two dog trainers can ever agree on is that a third trainer is doing something wrong. I’m never going to agree completely with any other trainer, but there are things to praise about each one, too.

Silver’s deep connection to and love for both dogs and people is obvious, and he clearly cares to about members of both species. I love his emphasis on letting dogs be dogs rather than treating them as four-legged people. In summary, I like Silver, enjoyed the show and plan to watch it again. If you’ve watched it, what do you think of it?

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Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

photo from Dogs in the City website

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