Brandon McMillan has trained as many as 10,000 dogs for television, movies, commercials, videos, and people. Then he started saving dogs from animal shelters, training them, and finding homes for them.
When Litton Entertainment needed a dog trainer who would rescue, train, and place 22 dogs in 22 weeks for a show called "Lucky Dog" for CBS, they didn't have to look far.
He will start each week spending several hours at a shelter, evaluating dogs. That may be the hardest part, especially given that at least 9,000 dogs and cats are euthanized each day because homes can't be found for them.
"I can only take one out. That means I have to walk by 99 I can't take. All 100 are very trainable, very place-able, and just as smart as the next dog. Often the one I choose just comes down to one I make a connection with," McMillan said.
McMillan, 36 and single, said the dogs will be proficient in the seven common commands – sit, stay, down, come, off, heel, and no.
"My theory of training is a lot like martial arts. You learn the technique one day and you perfect it for years to come. With the dogs, I teach them technique when I am training them. I teach the family to perfect the technique over the years to come."
His dogs are really good at seven commands instead of being just average at 20 commands, he said. "Less is more when it comes to dog training."
McMillan will choose the family by evaluating emails he receives at his Southern California ranch – aptly named the Lucky Dog Ranch – and checking out the house and yard where the new dog will live.
At the end of the show, the dog and family meet. McMillan spends a couple of hours training the family.
Most of the dogs chosen for the show will be under 5 because that's what the families have asked for.
Abuse will not be part of their past. McMillan can tell which dogs have been abused in the first 30 seconds he spends with them. "And I can tell you how they were abused in the first few minutes," he said.
Those dogs are a passion for McMillan off-camera, but they will not appear on "Lucky Dog." ''The viewers that watch this show are not going to want to see a dog that's been in a fight. This is a family show," he explained.
"Lucky Dog" is targeted to teens 13 to 16 years old, but McMillan is guessing a lot of moms will be watching.
"Lucky Dog" airs on Saturday morning (check local listings for time), followed by another Litton show called "Dr. Chris Pet Vet," which follows Australian veterinarian Chris Brown as he treats a wide variety of animals.
The two shows premiered on Sept. 28. Along with four other Litton shows, they replace Saturday morning cartoons, abandoned by CBS because of increased competition. The new shows also fulfill the network's requirement for educational television.
McMillan, who used to have a show on Animal Planet called "Night," in which he studied the nocturnal behavior of animals in the wild, won't choose dogs that can't get along with children, he said.
"But if you have a shadow of a doubt that your dog will bite a kid or if a dog has in the past bitten a kid, I would say that is a dog that should not be around kids. I think that's the responsible way to look at it," he said.