Pick of the Litter Parent Guide
This is a pooch picture that will restore your faith in human nature.
Parent Movie Review
Any movie that stars puppies is guaranteed to make you feel good. And when those puppies are training to become guide dogs for the blind, the power of those big, doggy eyes is magnified tenfold. I’m not an animal person but even my cynical critic’s heart softened at the sight of those soulful eyes.
In my opinion, guide dogs are the Olympians of the dog world, demonstrating incredible intelligence, focus, and dedication. What this documentary shows us is that each guide dog also represents the sacrifice of scores of humans who have invested time, emotion, and expertise in training the animal.
Early on, Pick of the Litter shows staff at Guide Dogs for the Blind assessing five newborn puppies. The three males – Patriot, Potomac, and Phil – and the two females – Poppet and Primrose – will start their training immediately. Training for these animals is rigorous and at a few months old they are sent to the homes of “puppy trainers” who are responsible for exposing them to the world and helping the dogs learn to form a relationship bond. After 14 months, the dogs will return to the GDB office for ten weeks for intensive training and testing. Throughout the process, GDB staff will monitor the dogs and determine which of three streams the dogs are suited for: guide dog, breeder, or a career change out of the system.
The movie follows each of the dogs on their training program, but its focus also expands to the people who care for them. There are puppy trainers who have fostered ten dogs and the teenage novice trainer who brings Patriot to high school. There’s the trainer who volunteers because her father is blind and she feels passionate about the program. And there’s the vet who can’t work due to PTSD but who trains dogs because they keep him grounded. We also meet the blind people waiting for dogs: Janet who lost her sight in middle age due to retinitis pigmentosa and Ron whose eyes were removed as a toddler when he developed retinoblastoma, an inherited form of ocular cancer. All these lives and stories intersect with the five dogs and viewers will find themselves caring about both the human and animal characters and hoping desperately that the dogs will succeed in their training.
Parents need not worry about watching this documentary with their kids. There is no negative content and an abundance of positive messages. This film overflows with stories of people helping others, sacrificing their time and effort on behalf of people they don’t even know. And, of course, the dogs are adorable, with big eyes, frantically waving tails, and obvious intelligence. This film shows us the best of both the canine and human worlds and for that reason it’s worth watching. It’s hard to lose faith in humanity after finishing Pick of the Litter.Directed by Don Hardy, Dana Nachman. Starring Diane Meer, Terry Blosser, Janet Gearheart. Running time: 80 minutes. Theatrical release August 2, 2020. Updated August 4, 2020
Watch the trailer for Pick of the Litter
Pick of the Litter
Rating & Content Info
Violence: A puppy nips a man on the nose, drawing blood (not seen).
Sexual Content: None noted.
Profanity: None noted.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None noted.
Page last updated August 4, 2020
Pick of the Litter Parents' Guide
You can learn more about the Guide Dogs for the Blind, the organization featured in this documentary, on their website here.
Why do the puppy raisers volunteer for such a demanding job, knowing that they will have to say goodbye to the dogs? Is there a cause or charity that really matters to you? How can you get involved?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
For an astounding story of a guide dog’s courage, read Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero. Written by Michael Hingson ad Susy Flory, this book tells the gripping story of Michael Hingson and his dog Roselle, who led him down the stairwells of the World Trade Centre and across Ground Zero on 9/11.
Max Edelman wasn’t just blind – he was also emotionally damaged from the abuse he suffered in a Nazi work camp. In Trusting Calvin: How a Dog Helped Heal a Holocaust Survivor’s Heart, Sharon Peters shares the true story of how Max’s guide dog Calvin helped him overcome the psychological burdens he carried for decades.
Children can learn about guide dogs from the dog’s perspective in Lola and I. Written by Chiara Valentina Segre and Paolo Domeniconi, this book is the story of Star the dog and her adjustment to working with her new owner, Lola.
Related home video titles:
If you enjoyed watching this movie, you will be excited to know that a six episode series entitled Pick of the Litter will begin streaming on Disney+ in December 2020. The trailer is here.
There are no shortage of movies featuring dogs who help or save humans. In 1925, a diphtheria epidemic sickened children in Nome and only sled dogs could make the 600 mile journey across the Alaskan winter landscape to retrieve the life-saving serum. This feat has been immortalized in three films: Togo, The Great Alaskan Race, and Balto.
There are plenty of fictional tales of dogs helping their humans. Dog Days features an ensemble cast of charming canines who are catalysts in solving their owners’ problems. In A Dog’s Purpose and A Dog’s Journey a dog is reborn over and over in the bodies of different breeds but with one over-riding purpose: protecting his beloved owner.