Documentaries are all the rage these days, with good reason. Instead of just being entertained by the screen in front of you, documentaries give you the opportunity to learn new things. There are documentaries available on any given subject so you can find the thing you are most passionate about and do a bit of painless research.
If dogs are your passion, then you are in luck, there are many dog documentaries. You can learn about their origins, their secret lives, how they are bred, and some of the darker topics that surround dogs, like dogfighting and the dog meat trade. Not all of them are pleasant to watch. In fact, a few are downright horrendous.
Regardless of whether the dog documentaries in the following list make you smile, laugh, cry or shout, they all offer you some insight into the world of man’s best friend and the people who own them.
The Secret Life of Dogs
Available from Amazon, The Secret Life of Dogs is one of the dog documentaries fit for everyone. Part of the BBC Earth series, this film uses the same grand cinematography as well as CGI animation to answer some of the questions you may have had about your best friend, the dog. Ever wonder how a dog manages to get enough water by lapping, it explained. Want to know how it is that some dogs seem to be able to sense certain illnesses, like cancer, in humans, it’s in there. This film also takes a chronological tour of puppyhood, noting important milestones and when certain traits are likely to develop.
This dog documentary is family-friendly and interesting enough to appeal to all ages.
Madonna of the Mills
Madonna of the Mills is an HBO documentary that tells the story of a woman named Laura who discovered the truth behind the mass breeding of pure-bred dogs at farms called puppy mills. Appalled by the cruelty and suffering she discovered, she was moved to start a one-woman campaign to rescue dogs from puppy mills. The film covers her fight and the post puppy mills lives of some of the 2000 dogs she personally rescued.
Madonna of the Mills is a documentary gently told but the subject matter may still be upsetting to younger viewers.
The Champions is a great watch available on Netflix. The documentary follows the story of the pitbulls rescued from Michael Vick’s dogfighting ring. The subject matter is harsh, but the story itself is one of inspiration, redemption, and the importance of second chances.
When the truth about the awful actions surrounding Vick’s dogfighting ring became known, both PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and the Humane Society believed that the dogs involved were far too damaged, both emotionally and physically, to be redeemed. Both organizations strongly advised that all of the pitbull involved be euthanized. This documentary follows a group of devoted dog lovers who thought differently and found a way to bring these dogs back into society. This the story of those dog lovers and the dogs they fought to save.
Although ultimately an inspirational and heartwarming tale, the subject matter of this dog documentary may make it an adults-only film.
Produced by NOVA, and available to stream via Amazon Instant Video, Dogs Decoded is one of the dog documentaries that is both filled with strong scientific information and great fun to watch. This film covers the evolution of dogs and discusses the growth of human societies and how that was affected by the domestication of dogs. It even explores the ways that dogs have evolved to become better partners to their human companions. Examples of this include the fact that our four-legged friends are aware of, and have learned to read, human emotions and the possibility that domestic dogs vocalize more than wolves in an effort to communicate with us.
This dog documentary is definitely family-friendly and educational. It is so well received and produced that it has become part of some elementary schools’ curriculum.
Martin Clunes: A Man and His Dogs
In this two-part documentary series, Martin Clunes: A Man and His Dogs, available on Netflix, British actor Martin Clunes sets off on a globetrotting adventure to discover the history and origins of today’s domesticated dogs. Martin travels through America, Africa, and Australia to get a firsthand look at the surviving ancestors of our four-legged friends in their natural habitat. Along the way, he learns more about the unique relationships between people and their dogs in many different cultures.
This dog documentary is family-friendly in subject matter, but some of the humor and topics covered may be over the head of young viewers.
Death Row Dogs
Available on Netflix, Death Row Dogs is one of the dog documentaries that is definitely not for the faint of heart. This film discusses the horrors of dogfighting and the damage done not only to the dogs themselves but also to the reputation of the breeds associated. It reveals how some breeds of dogs, pitbulls, in particular, have been labeled and treated as vicious dogs as a result of their unwilling participation in the dogfighting ring. It also shows police efforts to break up these rings and the emotional toll it takes on them.
This dog documentary is not family-friendly. Although the subject matter is important, many adults may not be prepared for the images and information this film contains.
Dogs With Jobs
Available on Netflix, Dogs with Jobs is a lighthearted and upbeat documentary series. It discusses the many jobs that dogs are trained to do, many of which human beings simply cannot accomplish. Each episode follows the lives of two different working dogs. After a quick explanation of each dog’s job, the film gives the viewer a look at what the dogs do and how happy both they and their handlers/owners are with their work. Some of the jobs included are service dogs, show dogs, police dogs, sheepdogs, and racing dogs.
This series is definitely family-friendly and very bingeable for all ages.
Available on Netflix, Pet Fooled is one of the dog documentaries that is less about dogs and more about pet food and its manufacturers. It discusses the ways in which pet foods, dog and cat, in particular, are manufactured to be appealing to humans and have little to do with the nutritional needs or taste preferences of the animals they are being fed to. This film highlights the lack of regulation in the pet food industry and how their indifference to the needs of their pets may be affecting our four-legged friends’ quality of life and shortening their lifespan.
While the subject matter and discussions in the dog documentary are family-friendly, the information may be too dry to hold the interest of young viewers. It does contain information that everyone who loves their dog or cat should know so it is worth sticking it out to the end.
From stories of horrible crimes committed against dogs to heartwarming stories of love and redemption, all these can be found in dog documentaries. So, gather up your four-legged friends and keep them close while you learn a bit about the world of dogs.