Claiming to be a 'crash course in all things dog,' Animal Planet's Dogs 101 has been entertaining and enlightening viewers for a solid four seasons now - and there's a good reason for that: a lot of people love dogs. It's more than just tapping into this that makes the show work, however. Yes, there is a certain segment of the dog loving populace that would probably watch this show if it were nothing more than a bunch of cute and cuddly canines prancing around the park or walking around city sidewalks but in order to attract a larger viewership and actually make a show worth watching the producers behind the show delve into what makes each breed of dog unique. As anyone who has had any interaction with more than one dog knows, breed specific traits and behaviors can and do play a huge role in how we interact with our four legged friends and, just as importantly, how they interact with us.
This DVD release from Animal Planet compiles five different episodes together and shines some light on French Bulldogs, Poodles, Airedales, Chihuahuas, Labradors, Rottweilers, Boston Terriers, Basset Hounds, Shar Peis, St. Bernards, Jack Russell Terriers, Golden Retrievers, Pembroke Corgis, Vizslas, German Shepherds, Boxers, Bichon Frises, Newfoundlands, Beagles, Dachshunds, Westies, Irish Setters, Dobermans, Miniature Pinschers and Whippets.
As to where the information for the show comes from, interviews with experts from different dog-related field chime in with their thoughts. We wind up hearing not just from veterinarians and animal studies experts but also from groomers and trainers, people who have hands on, real world experience with different types of dogs in different types of situations. As such, we get a fairly well rounded look at why, as a potential dog owner, you might be more interested in one breed than another depending on your needs, your living conditions and your particular home life. Obviously if you're in a small apartment you've got to consider size, so a Chihuahua might make more sense than a German Shepherd, but there's more to consider than just physical traits. How are these specific breeds around small kids? What are their temperaments like? How much attention do they need? If I work nine hours a day will the dog be okay? How hungry does the dog get, is it going to put me in the poorhouse to feed it? What about grooming - do I need to trim the dog, brush it often, pay attention to its teeth? Are there common health concerns for the particular breed that I'm considering?
Now a lot of the way each episode is presented probably caters more towards younger viewers, as things are spelled out rather simply and they don't always go into the most minute detail for each breed, but overall, as a general sort of 'edutainment' that parents can watch with their kids and enjoy not only as parents but as adults, Dogs 101 fits the bill. There are vocal criticisms that the show sometimes spreads mistruths about certain breeds and perpetuates certain stereotypes about certain breeds and that it doesn't always cater to best practices in regards to specific care required for specific breeds, but writing from a layman's perspective rather than that as an expert, it's hard to get into the nitty gritty of those complains. With that said, it's probably a good caveat to not take this show as the 'be all, end all' definitive statement on any particular breed. It's always best to do your own research and not take what you see on TV as gospel, that's just common sense - but there's certainly a value to this show for those looking for family friendly and somewhat educational content to watch with kids of all ages or for those who want a general look at what makes various breeds different from others. Yes, the show does sometimes cater to the whole 'designer dog' trend and it does tend to favor breeds that are trendier and more popular than others, but
Dogs 101 looks decent enough on DVD in 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen. Colors are reproduced nicely and detail isn't bad at all. There is some minor shimmering here and there but no problems with compression artifacts to complain about. As the series is shot on digital video it transfers well to DVD, there are no problems with dirt or debris of any kind and the black levels are fairly good.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track on this DVD sounds pretty much identical to how the show sounds when broadcast on cable TV, so you can expect a fairly standard mix here. Dialogue is always well balanced and clear and there are no problems to report with any hiss or distortion. There isn't a ton of channel separation to note but what's here sounds just fine. There are no alternate language options, closed captions or subtitles offered.
Aside from some simple menus and episode selection, there are no extra features at all on this release.
The show isn't perfect but it is a good way to introduce kids and adults alike to the world of dogs and to get people interested in breed specific traits and behaviors. Some extras would have been nice and the presentation isn't going to floor you, but if you enjoy the series, consider Dogs 101 recommended, otherwise, as it's not something you're probably going to go back to over and over again, it makes for a pretty decent rental.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.