- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Summer television used to mean reruns. This year it’s gone to the dogs.

Several new shows star dogs and their owners in need of help. CBS has the lone network show in “Dogs in the City,” starring comic, dog trainer and businessman Justin Silver. It’s joined by documentaries on PBS and HBO and a series in the works for the Disney Channel, among others.

Each Wednesday at 8 p.m., Mr. Silver will try to help hound and human tackle unsettling problems such as joint custody after divorce or dealing with significant others who just moved in.

Is man or mutt usually to blame for problems? It’s 50-50, he said, but “a dog’s behavior is shaped by the people in its life.”

Mr. Silver said he won’t be the one solving problems, even though he jokes that he speaks dog. Instead he will provide techniques and experiences so owners can fix their own problems.

“It’s that old adage: Give a man a fish and you’ll fill his belly. Teach him how to fish and he’ll never starve. I am teaching you how to fish. But no one learns how to fish perfectly in one hour. It takes constant practice.”

“Dogs in the City” seems to have a lot in common with “The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan” on the National Geographic Channel and “It’s Me or the Dog” with Victoria Stilwell on Animal Planet. “Bad Dog!” is another Animal Planet show, although it uses videotape to capture misbehavior in a test of sorts to see how far an owner’s love will stretch.

Two documentaries explore the rewards and redemption of shelter dogs. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says between 5 million and 7 million companion animals enter shelters every year and 3 million to 4 million of them are euthanized.

“Shelter Me,” a PBS documentary showing Wednesdays, is narrated by actress Katherine Heigl and is sponsored by the pet food company co-owned by Ellen DeGeneres. It follows an animal-control officer, adoption workers, female inmates who train rescue dogs and vets who acquire former shelter dogs.

” ‘Shelter Me’ is about the lives that are changed when shelter pets are given a second chance,” Ms. Heigl said.

Andrew J. Trotto, an Army veteran from Mission Viejo, Calif., was teamed up with Teka, a black Lab rescued from a Wyoming shelter by Freedom Service Dogs in Englewood, Colo.

“If it wasn’t for her, I’d be dead right now,” Mr. Trotto says in the film.

“I was an evil person. I hated you or wanted to kill you,” he said, describing the post-traumatic stress disorder demons that haunted him. “People say suicide is selfish. But when you are in the zone, you’re not thinking about that. The terror in your head drives you insane. [Teka] will wake me up out of my night terrors.”

“Shelter Me” will air across the country in June (check local listings).

HBO will premiere a documentary called “One Nation Under Dog: Stories of Fear, Loss & Betrayal” at 9 p.m. June 18.

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