The teams are tested on their speed, agility, ability to recognize scents and human-dog teamwork in a variety of extremely difficult courses.
The relationship between the trainer and his canine companion is unique, says trainer Amanda Caldron, who entered the race with her Shorty Bulldog, Minion. "There's no doubt about it that dogs have this intuition with us," she nods.
"You see it in every field that they work in, especially service dogs. But when we have all this adrenaline going, they know and they eat it up, and they work that much harder when they feel those stakes at hand, I believe."
Dog trainer Mark White says canine coaching is a perpetual endeavor.
"There's a lot of correlations between dogs and people," he says. "Like, Mark didn't go through a six-month (police) training academy 15 years ago, and he's just never done any training since then because he had that foundation. It's an ongoing process. There's in-service training. There's firearms qualifications. So it's an ongoing process to get better and fine-tuned, and it's the same exact thing for the dogs as well ... And so there's a lot of correlation between the dogs and the people in that sense."
Tappan found Mattis, a German shepherd, in a kennel in Alabama. "And it was kind of funny, too, because I'm a small guy. And so I wanted a small dog ... But, unfortunately, I started testing all the dogs and this beautiful guy gets out of the car, and I'm like, 'Nope, nope. No way. He's huge. He's too big for me.'
"And then he blew the test out of the water. And then the final thing (test) we do is just to see how they are in an engagement in the bite-suit ... And so, I put on a (suit) and I caught out all these different dogs and then I caught him and 'caught' means just get bit by him. And he absolutely crushed me. I was like, 'Oh, my gosh, I have to have this dog.' And then I just saw his control ... control is like obedience and how he wants to please you.
Tappan thinks "America's Top Dog" reveals more than the athletic abilities of the team; it also reveals the heart. "What I love about this show is it does highlight the relationship that everyone is talking about: This dog is with me all the time, 24/7. He's my best friend on the planet."
'SUPERNANNY' IS BACK ON DUTY
Everybody's favorite nanny returns for another season of politely offering parenting examples and advice in "Supernanny," arriving Wednesday on Lifetime. Jo Frost will draw on her years of experience helping parents solve the many challenges kids bring into the home.