Lost and Found Dogs
Before Netflix even released Canine Intervention, this documentary series came under a lot of heavy scrutiny from dog owners. Between questionable training methods to concerns over animal wellbeing, Netflix seemingly had a mountain to climb before this even released. But release it they have.
For those unaware, Canine Intervention is a series all about training aggressive dogs and quelling their animalistic tendencies to make them more obedient pets. There’s been plenty of these shows over the years, including My Cat From Hell and Dog Whisperer, and the set-up here follows mostly the same formula. The attention here though falls to Oakland dog trainer, Jas Leverette.
Running one of the top dog training facilities in San Jose, California, each of the first five episodes hone in on a different canine and showcase a style or methodology to teaching these dogs how to be more obedient. While this is all well and good, there are huge gaps between the start and end of the process, leaving lots of question marks over exactly what goes on in the training center.
During the first episode, for example, we meet an aggressive three-legged dog named Lady Macbeth. Her fearful behaviour is cause for concern, prompting Jas to take Lady Macbeth away for a week’s intensive course.
We then fast forward one week to find the dog completely transformed, gaining trust around other people and learning very quickly how to control her urges. What happened during that time? How was the turn-around so quick?
By comparison, episode 3 is essentially a one-stop refresher course for a dog that’s already been trained. With a new family member in the house and the dog pretty chilled around the baby already, the bite training here is a pretty routine affair and doesn’t bring a whole lot to the table.
Another episode we see Jas reinforcing the idea of using a slip lead for a 5 month old pit bull, putting pressure on a dog’s neck. Now, I’m no expert when it comes to dogs but seeing this pit bull trying to take the lead away doesn’t make for particularly pleasant viewing. Now, while slip leads aren’t inherently bad, it’s highly advised not to use this long-term while other vets say it shouldn’t be used as a method for training new pups.
However, episode 6 is pretty good and definitely heart wrenching as it hones in on rescue dogs in general. Alongside a lot of the dog-centric material is a lot of Jas’ family life as we follow the birth of his child too. While tinged with some nice heartwarming segments, for a show about dogs and dog training, I’m not quite sure it adds very much to this at all.
Some of the problems with this show though could perhaps have been addressed by showing the whole process of training a dog – including any potential ugly or difficult moments, The carefully edited episodes, highlighting the pick-and-choose approach to filming, definitely feels like a deterrent here.
The result is a show that doesn’t really do a whole lot to shake off the controversy surrounding it. In fact, it’s likely just to make it that much stronger. There’s certainly some elements that are quite good here, especially when Jas calls out an owner for poor behaviour or mishandling their dogs, while the helpful hints that pop up on the screen throughout are definitely welcome.
Unfortunately, Canine Intervention is a little ruff around the edges, failing to show the whole process of training these animals and doing nothing to shake off the controversy surrounding it.