Unleashing 'Dogs in the City'

by Jarett Wieselman 6:34 AM PDT, May 30, 2012
Photo: CBS

Starting May 30, CBS is unleashing New York City dog guru Justin Silver on the world with their new reality series, Dogs in the City.

He aims to resolve issues between canines and their owners – no matter whose behavior is at fault. Although to hear him tell it, ninety percent of the time, all puppy problems can be traced back to their owners!

ETOnline: How do you describe Dogs in the City?
Justin Silver: It's a weekly show that follows me on my obsession with NYC's crazy dog owners and their dogs – I go about solving a lot of the problems by looking at the behaviors of the owners, and working backwards. New York dog owners are a breed onto themselves and being a dog trainer in NYC is a hybrid between learning how to communicate with dogs and learning how to communicate with their owners, who tend to have very strong personalities.

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ETOnline: Do you find that the majority of the dog issues you're tasked to deal with stem from the owners?
Silver: I always say that dogs are the barometer for the people they live with. They will always adapt to the way they're being handled. So when I go into a new case, I always ask the owners what their expectations of the dogs are. A lot of times their expectations are just a long list of "I don’t want him to do [blank]" – for example, they don't want the dog to bark when the doorbell rings. So I ask, "What do you want him to do when the doorbell rings?" They have no answer. So it's about finding the behavior that works for everyone.

ETOnline: How does working with owners in New York City differ from owners everywhere else?
Silver: A lot of the problems are universal but a lot of the elements are unique to NYC – especially the amount of space we have. Dogs are on top of each other, so they have to be more socialized than they would be in suburban environments. Dogs are on leashes more in NYC, so there's etiquette to that.

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ETOnline: How much do you think the over-pampering of dogs plays into it?
Silver: I always say that spoiling isn't loving. Dogs don't care what color their jacket is, they don't care if they're wearing a Chanel collar. While I embrace that a bit because I think the whole dog culture is cool, at the same time, if we're talking about the needs of the dog, it's form over function.

ETOnline: Whether it's behavior-motivated or not, what's your #1 dog rule?
Silver: If there's one thing that I stand for more than anything, it's adoption. I don't think there's anything wrong with registered breeders, but I am not a pet store guy at all. I disagree with buying dogs that have come from puppy mills. Save a dog. You can find whatever dog you're looking for if you just search a bit. It may take a bit more work, but at the end of the day, knowing that you rescued a dog is worth so much more than the $1,2000 you'll spend buying from a store.

Dogs in the City premieres tonight at 8 p.m. on CBS.