As with our babies, most dog owners are convinced they have the best dog. But while we’re still waiting on the definitive baby competition, A&E has devised a reality skills challenge to finally answer the question of who has the best dog.
America’s Top Dog puts man’s best friend through a rigorous obstacle course that tests the animal’s skill in a variety of challenges. Specifically, the dogs are tested in police dog training techniques, like scent detection, obstacle work, and various physical trials (imagine American Ninja Warrior, but for canines). One of the five teams is eliminated after the first round and two more are sent to the pound after the second. This leaves two teams to battle it out in the final round and determine a winner, who then moves onto the final at the end of the season.
But like a puppy thrashing a chew toy, there’s a twist: One of the five teams is led by a civilian trainer and a dog without actual field experience. Although one might think this team would be at an extreme disadvantage, the pilot episode of America’s Top Dog finds a Border Collie named Maker doing just fine against the K9 cops.
That’s a big part of what makes this show compelling: Our four-legged friends are often stubborn or disobedient even when they’re well-trained. These dogs don’t know they’re on a TV show with the chance to earn their master $10,000; it’s hard to project a winner when the contestant isn’t aware they’re even in a competition.
So it’s exceedingly difficult to forecast which of these good boys and girls will earn the title of America’s Top Dog. Regardless, the show offers viewers the chance to sit and receive a treat from a dog. What a cool trick.