Britain's Top Dog



Liza Tarbuck


Commentator: Stuart Hall


RDF Television for Channel 4, 16 July to 27 August 2006 (7 episodes in 1 series)


Canine competition in which dogs are tested in three disciplines: agility, scent-tracking and "doggy dancing" (or heelwork to music, as it's known to the cognoscenti). And at the end of the series, the winning dog gets a really big bone, or something.

According to Liza Tarbuck, the rounds are designed to test dogs' "natural instincts and innate abilities", which is rather interesting since as far as we're aware, at no point, either in the wild or through thousands of years of selective breeding, has any member of the family Canidae ever, ever possessed a natural instinct and/or innate ability for dancing. Mauling babies, yes. Dancing, no. As it turns out, the dancing bit is really an excuse for the owners to dress up and do supposedly cute stuff with their dogs. This probably makes good business sense for RDF, since it ensures clips will turn up on compilations of cringeworthy telly moments for years to come, but the fact that this is presented completely straight-faced, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, makes it feel rather like stumbling into some bizarre religious cult with rituals that make sense only to its members.

The hour-long programme splits naturally into four parts: part one features footage of the regional auditions and short films introduing the contestants and their dogs (or if you prefer, the contestants and their owners), with each of the other three parts focusing on one of the three disciplines with footage of the training sessions followed by the actual event itself. (Well, near enough. Actually the spacing of the ad-breaks spoils the structure a little, but not to any great detriment.) It's reasonably neat, but what it boils down to is about eight minutes of competition padded out to an hour.

Like, say, The Sky At Night or Songs Of Praise, this is one of those shows which has a clearly-defined target audience - slightly odd and obsessive dog-lovers with nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon, not even taking the dog for a walk - and makes no concessions to a wider audience. Fair enough really, but it makes it difficult to judge its prospects, particularly as all it does for us is to put us in the mood for a Korean takeaway. It also makes us want to give Stuart Hall a good hard slap, but then that's nothing new.


Sally and Mike Clark with Jessie, a black labrador.


To correct something on this page or post an addition, please complete this form and press "Send":
If you are asking us a question, please read our contact us page and FAQ first.

Name: E-mail:   
A Labyrinth Games site.
Design by Thomas.
Printable version
Editors: Log in