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JoAnna Lou
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Pack Mentality?
New reality show features a family on a search for the perfect dog.
Leader of the Pack follows the Reckseits as they choose their next family member.

I don’t usually watch reality television, but when I heard about HGTV’s Leader of the Pack, I felt compelled to check it out. The show features the Reckseit family on a quest to find the perfect dog. They start out with eight rescues and vote off one per episode until they’re left with their new family member. The eliminated dogs are shown getting adopted by other people at the end of each episode.

Leader of the Pack has all antics you’d expect -- a family new to dogs suddenly living with eight of them, a clueless first night with overfeeding and accidents, and silly games to win immunity for favorite dogs. HGTV’s show isn’t perfect, and I do worry about pets being seen as disposible, but overall the show isn’t as bad as I expected, given the track record of reality television. 

Positive training and general care tips are dispersed throughout each episode, although I do think that they miss many potential learning opportunities. For instance, I wish that they flashed up a tip about crate training or ignoring bad behavior when the dogs were running amok around the house. They do have advice posted on the show’s website, but I would’ve liked to see more information built into the show.

So far my favorite part was the challenge for the kids to puppy-proof their bedrooms in order to earn a “puppy sleepover.” It was great to see the family turn a chore into a fun activity they could do together.

Leader of the Pack shows the importance of making the puppy picking process a family activity, as the Reckseits decide on criteria, reflect on which dog would be best for their situation and activity level, and learn about dog care. Although it would’ve been much better if they had done this preparation before letting the puppies into their home, I think that this reality show brings attention to important issues, such as the responsibility of pet ownership and the benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

Leader of the Pack airs on HGTV on Sundays, 8/7c.

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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