A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that adorable dogs and mild-tempered monks share the spotlight in this canine-obedience series, so there's virtually no content to worry about. A monk schooled in dog training works patiently with the pooches to correct behavior like jumping on furniture and refusing to obey commands. The other brothers talk about the importance of socializing young dogs for human contact and explain how living and working with the animals enriches their lives. Dog lovers of all ages will enjoy watching the human/canine interaction, but young kids may be bored by the training sessions.
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What's the story?
In DIVINE CANINE, the Eastern Orthodox monks of the New Skete monastery in upstate New York enrich their own spiritualism and connect with nature by breeding and raising German shepherds, working daily with the dogs to affirm gentle human contact and teach basic commands that allow the dogs to function easily in human society. As the presiding canine expert, Brother Christopher also offers his services to pet owners whose troublesome dogs have led them to the end of their rope (er, leash). Even the most stubborn animals are no match for the monk's gentle guidance, pristine patience, and, well, divine determination. In one segment, for example, Brother Christopher sets out to un-spoil a pampered Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Stella, whose prima donna status (the dog rides in a stroller on walks) could prove tricky once her owners' baby arrives and upsets the household balance of power. But after four weeks at New Skete boot camp, Stella amazes her humans by obeying commands, heeling on a leash, and even (gulp) getting her dainty feet wet on walks.
Is it any good?
There's something endearing about watching people and dogs relate, and in touching asides, the monks often describe how their interactions with the animals have improved the quality of their lives. Viewers will also learn a few tricks of the trade, including socialization methods and how to create a comfortable atmosphere for often-stressful tasks like nail trimming and vet visits. And then there's Brother Christopher's mastery of obedience training, which might offer frustrated pet owners some helpful hints. Divine Canine is well suited for family viewing, but the training sessions probably won't hold youngsters' attention like the occasional shots of roly-poly puppies will.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the breadth of reality programming on TV. What defines reality TV? Is anything on TV truly real, or does the simple process of editing alter reality for viewers? Tweens: Which reality shows do you like? What role does controversy play in a show's success? Does this series seem real to you? Why or why not? Does your ability to relate to the participants affect your assessment of the reality? On a lighter note, families can talk about pet ownership and care. Kids: What pets do you have? How do you care for them? Do they require any training? If so, are they good students? What would you do if they showed behavior problems?