‘America’s Top Dog’ – Canines go at it in Season 2

A&E competition series has a few tweaks in new round

Fans of A&E Network’s “America’s Top Dog” will notice a more lighthearted tone to the competition series in Season 2, and that is mainly due to the presence of one man.

Kicking off Tuesday, June 29, the new season brings in veteran comedian and actor David Koechner (“Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”) as host alongside Curt Menefee and sideline reporter Rachel Bonnetta as working dogs, police K-9s and “underdogs” and their human handlers vie on an obstacle course designed to test their speed, agility, teamwork and trust. The winner in each class each week gets to compete in the final for a $10,000 prize plus a $5,000 donation to the animal charity of their choice. They also get a chance to vie for a $25,000 prize in the final week of competition.

Curt Menefee hosts “America’s Top Dog,” premiering its second season Tuesday on A&E Network.

For Menefee, who knows Koechner from charity events they’ve done together in the past, the acclimation period with his new partner was virtually nil.

“He’s a guy who’s used to shooting movies, he’s used to doing comedy,” Menefee, a commentator for Fox Sports, explains, “so he can think on his feet, and that’s what you want in that situation. You’ve got animals that anything can happen at any moment. You know, if they run the course, it’s great but you still can’t predict it. If they decide, ‘Eh, I don’t want to run this part of it,’ then you’ve got to be able to kind of have some fun with it and not make fun of the dogs but make it entertaining television. I think that’s one thing that David brought right away that made it easier for me, even. Because then it’s just kind of set it up and let him hit a home run.”

But of course, the dogs are the stars of the show. This season introduces a new format with head-to-head match-ups pitting dog against dog within the working, K-9 and “underdog” classes. Though German shepherds and Labrador retrievers have been and continue to be prevalent in this competition, Menefee says there is no one breed that excels here.

“I think a lot of it really … is about the bond between the handler and the dog,” he says, “because the handler has to be able to lead the dog and … the dog has to know what the handler wants and get it done in a timely fashion. And I think that’s what makes the difference, is really that relationship between the handler and the dog.”

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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