There is no place like home, especially for a furry would-be friend stuck in a pound desperate for a loving family. The mission of Lucky Dog and its host, Brandon McMillan, is to rescue difficult-to-love, untrained dogs and transform them into model pets. Each episode showcases the success story of a rehabilitated dog and the family that will provide it with a forever home.
On our recent visit with the production team of Lucky Dog, we learned many fun facts about our four-legged friends including the sobering statistic that an estimated 1.5 million dogs are euthanized each year. Who are the dogs that end up at the shelters? They are abandoned by their families for being too old, sick, or because they were judged untrainable. Some were abused by former owners, strays who made a run for it and can’t find home anymore or born on the streets and fending for themselves. Each dog waiting for adoption has a story and life of woe, and many, no matter how hard they try, are passed over through no fault of their own.
That’s when Lucky Dog and animal behaviorist McMillan come in. With years of experience as an animal trainer, McMillan has the ability to identify the unique qualities each adoptee can bring to his/her potential new family. Those abilities might be companionship, love, adventure or even the innate talent to be trained as a special needs companion. Training service dogs is a passion of McMillan, who is always on the lookout for that “unique” dog that stands above the rest.
Over the past five seasons, Lucky Dog, part of CBS’ Saturday morning educational and informational line-up, has rescued, trained and placed over 120 dogs in loving homes.
After leaving the shelter, the dogs receive a veterinary check-up and are introduced to their new rescued companions. Once training begins, McMillan assesses each dog for its understanding of commands and unique personality to make sure the new potential family is the right fit. A vast majority of the adoptee families stay in touch with the production team and McMillan to let them know how the graduates are progressing in their new environments.
Each dog is trained to understand the seven common commands: “Sit, Stay, Down, Come, Off, Heel and No”, which for just about every rescue these directions seem unfamiliar. With vast amounts of love, treats, patience, praise, practice and more treats, McMillan is able to bring out the best quality and personality of each dog.
From a production standpoint, Lucky Dog’s work is no less impressive. The show takes nearly seven months to produce, as each new season begins with a couple of months of casting & pre-production. During production, the show’s dedicated crew films four to five episodes at a time over a five-day shooting schedule, resulting in a twenty-five day shoot. Post-production begins after the first month of taping along with narration of the show.
With so many dogs passing through his life, we asked McMillan if he ever had a hard time parting with any of the rescues. Two came to mind immediately: Olive, whom he trained as a therapy dog and now provides emotional support to children going through the Missouri Court System, and Sandy, a Golden Retriever, whom McMillian trained as a service dog for Purple Heart recipient Tim Donley, who was severely wounded by an IED while serving in Afghanistan. Another special case that definitely bears mention is Queen Bee Lulu, a Chihuahua adopted by McMillan for the show, but who instead decided to adopt him and now rules the roost.
The amazing work and positive message of Lucky Dog has been recognized by The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences with three Daytime Emmy Awards, two for McMillan as “Outstanding Host in a Lifestyle / Travel / Children’s or Family Viewing Program” and one for “Outstanding Special Class Series”.
Catch season 6 of Lucky Dog airing on Saturday mornings at 7 a.m. on CBS 2, CBS All Access, CBS.com or stream it on Amazon Prime Video.
Additional photos courtesy of CBS
Story by: Corina Sandru