Choose the Right Puppy for You (Mondays, 8pm, BBC2) has the wrong approach to its subject. It should be called Choose the Right Owner for You. “What kind of human are you looking for?” the narrator should be asking a pug from High Wycombe called Mike. The dog would say: “Plenty of energy, obedient, low maintenance. But most of all someone with a brand new sofa I can chew up. I enjoy doing that.”
This is cynical, cheap TV: literally an excuse to show footage of cute dogs. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that.
Behaviourist Louise Glazebrook is an engaging screen presence; the families chosen to test-run the different dogs are good fun. One woman who struggles to find a Labrador for sale broke down in tears in her car – a very first-world problem. In some parts of the planet, folks can’t even find a dog to eat. Another lady talked about her desire to exercise her maternal instincts on a slobbering Newfoundland. Did this mean she’d be consigning it to its room for chasing cats and emotionally blackmailing it for forgetting to send flowers on Mother’s Day?
A lot of the time the advice was so simple that I despaired that there are people so dumb that they need to hear it. Don’t buy a dog larger than your house. Be aware that dogs shed hair. Provide plenty of company. Do not, I infer, go away for a week leaving your dog behind to look after itself with 60 tins of Pedigree Chum and a can opener. There was distressing footage of owners letting their dogs off the lead in public places – something that is verboten. And lots of rough-and-tumble with children that will, inevitably, lead either to the dog committing violence or sexual assault. The sordid reality is that dogs are not human but animal – simultaneously dangerous and vulnerable. We invite them into our homes on the condition that we are their master.
Paul Schrader, the American director, once said that it was easy to get an emotional reaction from an audience: just shoot a dog with a gun. Choose the Right Puppy shows that the BBC has been watching a lot of YouTube and picked up the message that people like watching cute pups acting cute. I’m among them. Hence, I’m hooked.