Home > Animal Rescue, Dog Training, Pet News, Pet Sitting > Dogs in the City – Do No Harm?

Dogs in the City – Do No Harm?


Like so many other dog lovers out there, tomorrow night I will be watching a TV show that features dogs, the big city (New York) and a “dog guru”. However, unlike many of my dog loving friends, I cannot say that I will be watching it with a completely uncritical eye.

That is not to say that I am looking for something to criticize. I’m really not. But two things I saw on the first episode left me wondering what else I would see and whether I could like a show that does some good while possibly doing some harm.

The TV show, called Dogs in the City,  is hosted by “dog guru” (def. Guru: a person with knowledge or expertise ), Justin Silver, and airs on CBS on Wednesday nights.

Justin is a comedian and a passionate animal advocate who has done a lot to help rescued animals, including:

In the first episode, Justin seemed to correctly diagnose some of his client’s issues – separation anxiety, dog aggression and a doggie weight issue.  He was honest and up front with each owner about the issue and what would be needed from them to fix it.

But there were subtle things that were said or done that worried me.

  • In the case of the owner who had an aggressive dog (in her office) – a model who had volunteered to help with the dog aggression issue by bringing in her own dog, was allowed to bring her dog within biting distance of the other, resulting in a bite.
  • In the case of 9-year-old Allie, and her Bernese Mountain dog, Rosie, Justin taught the girl to push against the chest of her dog in a forceful manner and say “leave it” so the dog would learn to not eat food unless given the okay. Later the girl is interviewed by herself and the thing she said she learned was to push the dog in the chest and say “leave it”.

When it comes to dog trainers and doctors I am of one school of mind “do no harm.” That includes both humans and their pets.

In both cases mentioned above, harm was done . One was in the form of physical harm – to the model’s dog, and the other was in the form of bad advice that could lead to potential harm to Allie, or someone else, down the road.

In the case of the model’s dog, the owner’s own self-denial about her dog’s aggression, and the fact that the dog had a history of biting other dogs and people in the office, should have been enough information to know that this situation needed to be managed much more effectively than it was. I could never see Victoria Stilwell letting an aggressive dog close enough to another dog to allow that dog to be bit. Could you?

In the case of Allie and Rosie, Justin’s advice for Allie to shove her dog Rosie in the chest was just bad advice. Coming on the heels of National Bite Prevention week, this seemed like the worst possible advice one could give a child (or adult). The possibility of Rosie biting Allie may have been low in her case, but what if she were to try this with another dog? Would that other dog be so accommodating? And, what if she were to teach her friends what she learned and one of them got bitten? Children are the most likely to get bitten by a dog and Justin just shared a training method that has the potential to harm a child – whether Allie herself, a friend or some child who was watching it that night. Not good.

Maybe it’s the fault of the producer who is looking to make an interesting show that has a bit of drama, or maybe it was the editing that things went wrong or maybe Justin just wasn’t thinking about the repercussions in that particular situation. Who knows? But, what I do know is that when it involves dogs and kids one must be cautious and one must always keep in mind to “do no harm”.

I will be watching Dogs in the City on Wednesday night, but it will be with a much more critical eye than before. My hope is that a guy like Justin, who does so much good for animals, will continue to help owners and their pets while doing no harm. That is my hope. I hope he, and the show, can deliver

Will you watch?

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  1. June 5, 2012 at 7:43 AM

    I watched it last week, but was sort of in and out. The model’s dog — the main impression I got was that she was in total denial about what her dog was really like. She downplayed the behavior so severely, I don’t know what would have gotten through to her. I missed the part with her dog biting another, though. I definitely plan to watch it again this week, though!

    • Mel
      June 5, 2012 at 10:39 PM

      Completely agree with you about the woman’s denial Carrie. No doubt about it. I will be watching as well. I hope to see something different this week.

  2. June 5, 2012 at 7:46 AM

    I caught a few minutes of this the other night and had similar concerns – I missed the incident with the dog bite, but I did see the shoving advice and was displeased. I thought some of the things Justin did were very useful, but that raised a red flag for me. I’m sure he has the best of intentions, but that’s not exactly something to be teaching viewers is an acceptable technique. Do you know if there there is any information about his credentials as a dog trainer as opposed to an animal advocate?

    Also, too bad they couldn’t have just given Victoria Stilwell a prime time show.

    • Mel
      June 5, 2012 at 10:42 PM

      Hi AJ. I completely agree with you. His heart seems to be in the right place, but the shoving bother me. I looked up his business website for his dog walking, pet sitting and dog training company. His blog was only just started in May 2012 and the only testimonial he had was from a rescue he had worked with. No clients. My suspicion is that the producers created that site to give him some legitimacy as a dog trainer and pet sitter. Having been a pet sitter and worked with many other pet sitters, it doesn’t have the look and feel of a real pet sitting website.

  3. June 5, 2012 at 8:38 AM

    I am not at all impressed with just the snippets of advertising I’ve seen for the show. I think it is more along the lines of a “reality” show at the expensive of dogs for $$. Dogs are a big market and I think they are looking for the dramatic piece of the pie without any real education, which I find really sad.

    Just my two cents and I haven’t even seen the show yet.

    • Mel
      June 5, 2012 at 10:38 PM

      I think you come closest to how I feel 24 Paws. I worry about what type of education one can get with 3 stories (or dog problems) resolved by the end of the show. I think Victoria Stilwell does more to educate in her one hour than most do. But even her show is edited down to minutes vs. hours.

  4. June 5, 2012 at 10:19 AM

    You’ve convinced me not to watch it. It just shows that the networks only want ratings and don’t care enough to check and see if the show’s advice is really correct. Of course a lot of people are still using the old school approach to training dogs. 😦

    • Mel
      June 5, 2012 at 10:36 PM

      I hope I didn’t convince you Jodi. I would love to get your opinion on the show. I don’t know that Justin uses old school in most circumstances, but in the case of the girl I would say he did. It appears that he also uses positive reinforcement.

  5. Petunia and Fletch's Mom
    June 5, 2012 at 11:29 AM

    I have not been impressed with the trailers and the shots of Justin with way too many large dogs on leashes quite frankly makes me cringe. I don’t happen to agree with having large dogs in The City. My sister lived in NYC for 9 years and had a Shi Tzu and even for HIM (Zach) she felt bad about walking only on pavement and not having a yard to romp in. Now to hear that this guy gives less than appropriate advice at times? No thank you, I’ll stay away and hope low ratings pull the show. But Mel, have you figured out how to share your points with the producers? I mean, if they aired it, and this child Allie or some other child is bitten because of it – (as you describe the potential for and I agree!) then wont the show be liable? I wonder what Victoria and Cesar have to say about this guy.

    • Mel
      June 5, 2012 at 10:34 PM

      I know this may sound strange, but I would encourage you to watch it Petunia and Fletch’s mom. I would hate that you would be influenced by my opinion to judge one way or the other. I just have some concerns at this point.

  6. June 5, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    When the woman with the aggressive dog said, “I hope Justin can give my dog a personality that matches her adorable face,” I knew she was going to be trouble. Everyone was lucky that the model’s dog wasn’t injured. I guess I watch with the assumption that most of the advice won’t be useful and hope for a tidbit or two that gets me thinking in a different way. That being said, I can take the show or leave it. I think it would lose out to a good Law and Order re-run.

    • Mel
      June 5, 2012 at 10:32 PM

      Agreed Amy. But do we really know of the model’s dog was not injured? From what I saw the dog grabbed her dog and the woman with the aggressive dog had to pull the little one away, after the dog had latched on. I think your viewpoint of watching it and looking for a tidbit is a good one.

  7. June 5, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    I was able to find his training business’ website and I was not surprised it contained very little information about his techniques. Positive reinforcement trainers usually are very upfront about their methods. The fact that he included no details at all makes me instantly suspicious. It seems to me they chose him more for his appearance and comedic ability than for any dog training skills. Sure he’s done a lot for rescue and that’s great, but that doesn’t make him a good trainer. He is not an animal behavourist, that’s for sure.

    I think I am going to try to watch a full episode but from what I have found through Google, I don’t think I’m going to be a fan.

    • Mel
      June 5, 2012 at 10:30 PM

      I actually did too Kristine and noticed he was lacking info on his pet sitting and dog walking business too. My suspicion is that the show or CBS created the website for him to create a little legitimacy as a dog guru and less because he is hiding something about his training methods. I don’t want to assume he doesn’t use positive reinforcement. He probably does to some degree. I just question some of what I saw and wonder if it was lack of real experience or if the producers encouraged some of what I saw to make the show more interesting. I always think that’s a dangerous way to go when animals and kids are involved.

      • June 7, 2012 at 7:40 AM

        That’s a good point, I didn’t think of that. I watched last night’s show and have kind of modified my opinion slightly. I think he does mean well but it does seem to me that he doesn’t have a lot of actual knowledge to go on. Like Cesar in a way he kind of just uses his instincts and makes stuff up. Most of the time it works but there are going to be sometimes – perhaps when dealing with tougher issues – that his “on the fly” approach won’t work. I am intrigued however and may continue to watch if I see it on. If only to have a good laugh. Where do television producers find these people?

  8. June 5, 2012 at 10:50 PM

    I too was surprised by the model-dog scenario. I would have been pretty upset if I’d volunteered to help in that training incident, and then upon the urging of the “expert” my dog got into an altercation like that, bite or no bite. Even a scuffle can be upsetting and dangerous. I can’t believe the model stayed so calm. Anyway, I’m on the fence about the show, and will continue watching to see how it goes. I actually pose this question on my pet roundup tomorrow, what people thought of the show. Please drop by and weigh in!

    • Mel
      June 5, 2012 at 11:01 PM

      Thanks Peggy! I will! Of course, I think that the show might be on here at the time, but maybe I can provide live updates as I watch it. 🙂

  9. June 6, 2012 at 1:56 AM

    Hm, of course, again, I can’t check it out as I’m in a wrong geographic region. I feel so discriminated against. It’s not like I live on the North Pole or something …

  10. Lauren @ Life With Desmond
    June 7, 2012 at 7:19 AM

    I so agree with you and was complaining to my husband during the show. However, I did go into it expecting to be horrified and wasn’t, so for me it was better than I expected. What can I say? I’m jaded. :-/

    • Mel
      June 7, 2012 at 7:20 AM

      I had the same reaction Lauren. I wasn’t shocked beyond belief, just disappointed. I had expected worse I guess.

  11. Judi
    June 7, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    Love this show. Last night was the first time I watched it and it is awesome.

    • Mel
      June 7, 2012 at 8:50 PM

      You know Judi. I actually liked the second show better than the first one. I wouldn’t say that I liked everything, his style is a bit different than mine, but I was less concerned than last week. Of course, if this is just entertainment and not educating people then it’s a great show, but solving 3 issues in one show does make training a dog seem a lot easier than it really is in reality. That said, I will watch again next week.

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