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A Dog’s Life reveals how our best friends perceive the world - from the moment they take their first morning walk to the time they curl up at our feet to go to sleep. We accompany Daisy, a Jack Russell Terrier, through an average day and on the way discover that, while dogs are not miniature humans, they are amazingly well adapted to life with us.

But how well do we know them? A Dog’s Life explores the widely assumed facts that may actually be based on faulty and out-dated research. Is your dog really like a wolf? Does she need you to be the “alpha” dog, so she knows where to fit into your pack? Do they really see in black and white? Is it true that dogs have an amazing sense of direction?

A Dog's Life is an exploration of the senses, mind and behaviour of our four-legged friends. It’s a journey that takes us from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Budapest, Hungary. On the way we discover how scientists are exploring that, sometimes, very alien world, often overturning long held beliefs and perceptions.

Everyone knows that dogs have a great sense of direction, or so we thought. But that’s not what Krista Macpherson at the University of Western Ontario, found.  Drawing on tests done previously on rats and pigeons, Macpherson constructed a dog-size maze consisting of 8 arms radiating from a central hub. At the end of each arm is a bowl containing a treat. A dog is placed in the centre of the maze and observed as it tries to find the treats in all the bowls. The ideal strategy is to start at one arm and continue to each of the other arms – not returning to a previously explored arm – until all of the treats have been eaten.

Rats are great at speeding through this kind of maze, so do pigeons. Dogs? Surprisingly not so well, in fact they are really bad at it. Even given lots of repetitions they don’t seem to improve.

While dogs might come up short on some of our expectations, Macpherson’s experiments are revealing that dogs also have remarkable abilities we never anticipated. Who would have thought that they can count? In A Dog’s Life we’ll watch as a simple homemade apparatus constructed from cardboard boxes and plastic bowls provides the proof of that astounding claim.

Ingenious experiments and meticulous observation reveal that the problems dogs solve best are those that involve interacting with humans. They are social creatures highly adapted to understanding even our subtlest gestures. For those of us who struggle to teach our pet the basic commands like sit or stay it is astounding to watch as Prof. Adam Miklosi of the Family Dog Project in Budapest trains a dog to carry out a variety of complex activities using only the command “do as I do”.

Dogs fit so well into human society that we have bred them into the most varied species in the world. But every one of them, from the giant Newfoundland to the tiniest Chihuahua, is descended from that most widely feared predator – the wolf. But unlike the wolf, dogs and humans developed a deep mutual sympathy, which after thousands of years resulted in dogs not only preferring human company to that of other dogs, but also provided them with an uncanny ability to understand us.

Filmmakers Daniel & Donna Zuckerbrot of Reel Time Images, wrote, directed, and produced this fresh and playful look inside the mind of man’s best friend.
 

Credits (Click to expand)

CBC.ca

producer
Annette Bradford

associate producer
Robert Ballantyne
Olena Sullivan

CBC-TV

produced, directed and written by
Daniel Zuckerbrot
Donna Zuckerbrot
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director of photography
Michael Grippo

editor
Carole Larsen

original music
Marvin Dolgay
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associate producer
Joshua Zuckerbrot

graphic design
Christian Castel

additional camera
Joshua Zuckerbrot
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location sound
Ian Challis
Jim Goodwin
Michael Josselyn

gaffer
Bryan Hoffman
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production assistants
Adam Cohen
Daniel Dutka
Zach Gayne


dramatizations

actors
Rachel Zuckerbrot
Dekka
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dog wrangler
Carolyn Harper

jib operator
Robert Armstrong

jib assistant
Thanalee Pelle
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studio elements

art director
Diana Abbatangelo

set dressers
Rachel Ford
Drew Lint

art department assistant
Marcus Groebner

gaffer
Josh Pelham

grips
Jack O'Brian
Mike Preuss
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still photographer
Gary Beechey

colourist
Lorraine Grant

sound editor
Alan Geldart
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sound mixer
Rudy Michael

narration recording
Chris McLaren

online editor
Colin Campbell

project manager
Christian Carruthers
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legal affairs
Richard Hanet, Lewis Birnberg Hanet, LLP

accountant
Richard Warburton, Kay & Warburton

insurance
Front Row Insurance Brokers Inc.
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with special thanks to
Joe Blankier
Gale Rubenstein
Ashley O'Brien
Bill Roberts
Andre Yeu

Dalhousie University
Duke University
Eötvös Loránd University
Family Dog Project
Huron University College
Memorial University of Newfoundland
Western University
Forest City Kennel Club
Stills & Films

Filmed partially on location and with the permission of the Parks Canada Agency, at Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site of Canada, Nova Scotia
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produced with the participation of

 

¬


The Canadian Film or
Video Production Tax Credit


with the assistance of the Government of Ontario –
The Ontario Film & Television Tax Credit

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a Reel Time Images production

executive producers
Daniel Zuckerbrot
Donna Zuckerbrot

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in association with

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
(CBC LOGO)

for the nature of things

senior producers
Caroline Underwood

executive producer
Sue Dando
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(REEL TIME IMAGES LOGO)

 

 2013  ANOTHER REEL IMAGE INC./REEL TIME IMAGES INC.
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for the nature of things

online editing
Jessica Nardi

associate director
Renée Moreau

unit production manager
June Hall
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for the nature of things

senior manager
Documentary Unit
Wilma Alexander

senior producers
Caroline Underwood
FM Morrison
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for the nature of things

executive producer
Sue Dando

executive director
Documentary Programming
Mark Starowicz

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produced by
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