Review: 'Pick of the Litter' makes the cut

Doggy documentary follows a group of pups training to be guide dogs for the blind

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
A scene from "Pick of the Litter."

Not just any old mutt can be a guide dog for the blind. 

"Pick of the Litter" is a cuddly documentary that looks at the rigorous process of becoming a guide dog, and follows a group of potential seeing-eye pups from birth to see if they've got what it takes to make the cut.

Writer and co-director Dana Nachman begins with a litter of "P" labs: Poppet, Patriot, Phil, Primrose and Potomac.

They're put through a 20-month training program that begins with being sent to live with puppy raisers, whose job it is to set the dogs on the right course. 

Some are immediately shuffled out of the system at that early stage. These flunk outs are considered "career changed," and are sent off to live happy lives chasing sticks and providing cuddles. 

For others, the program continues. And "Pick of the Litter" is there to document their development, as their confidence and wherewithal is tested, to see if they'd be a good companion for the blind or needy. 

For those that make it through the program, there are two options: guide dogs and breeders.

Filmmakers get lucky with the cast, as each group winds up represented among the litter. 

In addition to the dogs, filmmakers also meet with the trainers and the candidates who are waiting for their new guide dogs. And viewers come away with a solid understanding of what it takes to be a guide dog for the blind. 

There are times when the doc comes off a bit like a reality competition show — the occasional on-screen graphics could be cut and no one would miss them — but "Pick of the Litter" is made with heart and reverence for man's best friend, especially those special pooches who go on to answer a higher calling.

Good dog.


'Pick of the Litter'


Not rated

Running time: 81 minutes