Sit. Stay. Watch. This show is for dog lovers

Jess the Springer Spaniel feeds a lamb a bottle of milk in Nat Geo Wild’s “The Secret Life of Dogs.”

Photo by Simon Reay, © Oxford Scientific Films Ltd 2012

Jess the Springer Spaniel feeds a lamb a bottle of milk in Nat Geo Wild’s “The Secret Life of Dogs.”

My dog is right-footed. She’s also got an especially kind disposition, which I gleaned from the direction her fur swirls.

These are just two of the fascinating nuggets revealed in Nat Geo Wild’s “The Secret Life of Dogs,” premiering at 9 p.m. Sunday.

Like humans, dogs have a dominant “hand” (which you can determine by watching which front foot your dog uses first), and scientists have determined, in studies of guide dogs, that the way their fur swirls ... clockwise or counterclockwise ... shows the temperament of a dog.

The one-hour program, which details the science behind the makeup of man’s best friend, explains how everyday activities like lapping water or shaking out wet fur are actually complex movements that help dogs survive.

Some of the facts from the program are well-known, like that petting a dog can lower your blood pressure. But others are nearly astounding. Did you know that dogs’ sense of smell is so keen that they can detect cancerous cells in the human body? Also, that dogs are the only known animal species that can read (and react to) human emotions.

One of the best parts of the program is the camera work. From the super-slow motion shots showing dogs shaking off water, jumping and drinking to the puppy-cam point of view showing newborn pups feeding, sleeping and playing, no dog lover will be able to get through the show without an audible “Aw!”

Also touching are the stories of the humans who are helped by these critters every day. A woman who became lost in the woods recounts how, after all other efforts failed, a rescue dog was able to locate her in dense underbrush. A sheep herder laughingly tells of how her dog just up and began helping bottle-feed orphan lambs.

Most moving is the story of Allen Parton, a wheelchair-bound wounded veteran who had given up on life. He encountered a guide-dog “dropout” who not only brought the spark back to his life, but helped him reconnect with his wife and family and gave him many years of friendship and companionship. As Parton recounts holding his faithful companion one last time before the vet must put his dog to sleep, you’ll need a moment. And a tissue.

Rating: HHHH (out of five)

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