How The Dog House brought the love of furry friends to Aussie screens

The Dog House Australia

• Mediaweek spoke to The Dog House Australia EP Sarah Thornton about what makes the show so genuine.

The saying goes that you should never work with children or animals, but in the case of Dog House Australia, some rules are best thrown out the window. Narrated by Dr. Chris Brown, the show follows the dedicated carers at the Animal Welfare League as they undertake a thorough match-making process between pooches and their potential new homes.

Mediaweek spoke to 10 ViacomCBS’ head of factual Sarah Thornton about how the show came together, and what makes the show so genuine.

the dog house australia

Dr. Chris Brown

Making It Aussie

10 has previously aired the original UK version of The Dog House. Thornton says that the team behind The Dog House Australia felt the format would translate very well to an Australian audience.

“We were very conscious of finding a location and animal welfare organisation to work with that would truly give it an Australian flavour. I also think we’ve seen documentary series like The Dog House, but in localising them it enables you to tell so many stories. While there are similarities between the lives of people in the UK and the lives of people here in Australia, there are also distinctly Australian stories and characters that we get to explore on it, which is really exciting.”

Selecting Participants

When selecting the people to feature on the show, Thornton says there were two main things they looked for.

“Number one, they had to genuinely be looking for a dog! But number two, we were looking to represent a really diverse cross-section of Australia. The amazing thing about getting a dog is it crosses all barriers. It’s every socio-economic group, all ethnicities, urban, suburban, rural, there are people from all walks of life in Australia who were looking to adopt a dog. 

“For us, it was incredibly important that we had genuine representation across the stories, and you’ll see that – the stories are incredibly diverse and unexpected. We also were looking for people with something going on in their life – it didn’t have to be a tragedy, it could also be something exciting or funny, or something surprising. But we were looking for people with a story to tell and a reason for looking for love from a four-legged friend. 

Animal Welfare League

At the centre of the show is the Animal Welfare League, a shelter located in Western Sydney.

“It was an utter delight working with the dogs, and made even more delightful by the incredible team at the Animal Welfare League,” says Thornton. “In all my 20 something years of working on these types of observational documentary series with partners like the Animal Welfare League, I’ve never had such a wonderful relationship as the relationship we have with them.”

For the team at The Animal Welfare League, Thornton says no requirement of the production was too big or too small.

“They really integrated us into the life of the shelter in a beautiful way – we rigged 36 cameras across their site out in Kemps Creek. We rebuilt their reception so that it would work better on camera. We were using their staff for the entire show, and the ratio of stories that we shot was quite high – there’s probably about another 30 stories that didn’t make it to air. We were there for a long period of time, we did 17 shoot days across seven weeks.

“It was an in house production, which is kind of a big deal for us,” says Thornton. “We haven’t done a lot of it. We’ve done The Living Room, but it’s a lifestyle show and this was our first proper foray into factual entertainment. The entire crew did it because they loved it. Everyone believed in the show, loved working on it, and that always shines through when it’s been a good experience. The love behind the camera comes across on screen.”

The team from The Animal Welfare League

Feeling Good

With the country coming in and out of various lockdowns over the last two years, Thornton says The Dog House Australia is the sort of show that will bring a smile to people’s faces.

“All this capturing of footage and filming in a very hands-off way leads us to a very unfiltered show. What you get is that genuine moment of falling in love with a dog and genuine insight into other people’s lives. If you want to feel something, then it’s the show for you. It’s nice to feel emotion that is warm and uplifting and inviting. 

“It’s not just a feel-good show, we tell some complicated and difficult stories from some of the people who came and adopted dogs. But I would say that overall, you know as a viewer, it’s really safe TV. You can come in, you know that you’re going to go on a journey, but at the end of it you will be left feeling wholesome.”

Overall, Thornton says she hopes viewers will connect with how genuine The Dog House Australia is.

“There is an overused word in TV, which is authentic, but this is a genuinely authentic show. We used this thing called a fixed rig, which is essentially dynamic fixed cameras that we place across the location that really mean the production crew had very little to do with the people involved in the filming. That leads to an incredibly genuine interaction and television that has a slightly different feel to the other observational documentaries that you see on TV, and that’s hopefully what will resonate with viewers.”

The Dog House Australia airs Tuesdays at 7.30pm on 10 and 10 Play On Demand

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