Pick of the Litter

potl web

January 16, 2020

Written by: Jim Smith

I’ve always had a great love of dogs, for as long as I can remember. My love of dogs is only matched by a new respect I have for them, especially those who live a larger purpose as a service dog. We’ve seen security dogs, tracking dogs, and companion dogs. While they all perform a certain degree of training to fulfill their roles, nothing in my opinion comes close to the training, trust, and responsibility demanded of dogs who serve visually impaired members of society.

Pick of the Litter was produced as a documentary film, released in August 2018. The film inspired a documentary series by the same producers, which was released on Disney+ in December 2019. The series chronicles the journeys of six dogs, from their days as puppies, through service dog training, as they pursue the training required in order to begin their lives serving a higher purpose – that of a guide dog for visually impaired owners. The series brings viewers first into the homes of the puppy raisers, who are charged with nurturing the puppies for over a year, then to the Guide Dogs for the Blind campus in San Rafael California, where they undergo eight stages of intensive mental training. Not all dogs who enter the program are successful, and along the way, more than one dog will fail to move on in their training.

Aside from the aspiring guide dogs, we also meet several people who are instrumental to the dogs’ journeys through training. We meet their puppy host families, who provide care, nurturing, and initial basic command training during their puppyhood. We also meet various trainers, evaluators, and facilitators with Guide Dogs for the Blind, who provide their insights on the talents, challenges, and concerns for the dogs as they train. Aside from those involved in the dogs’ training, we also meet several visually impaired people, and follow their journeys as they prepare to meet their new companions.

This series gives an in-depth look at the process of training dogs for the most important task of guiding their humans safely through life.  It shares the goals and strategies of the organization, the training techniques, and a bit of the personal stories behind the people who support these dogs through their amazing journey.

As a dog lover, this show had immediate appeal for me, and it has helped me to develop a much greater appreciation for what dogs can do for us. This series is well worth your time, and episodes are reasonably sized, around 30 minutes each. Go check it out if you haven’t already!

For folks who have watched this series already, have you developed a fondness for any particular dog in the program? Reach out with a message on social to let me know what you think:  Instagram  Facebook  X

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