When the CBS show Lucky Dog kicked off its eighth season in January, it did so with two new hosts at the helm: husband and wife team Eric and Rashi Khanna Wiese.
The duo knew they had big shoes to fill, following in the footsteps of the show’s original host Brandon McMillan. Lucky Dog focuses on rescuing shelter dogs and finding them their forever homes. This wonderful couple will undoubtedly continue the mission of informing the public about animal care, rights, advocacy and kindness.
CBS’ Lucky Dog is a must in our house! My mantra is, “People and pets: when we’re kinder to animals we’re kinder to people.” Eric and Rashi believe in that, too, and share wonderful stories along with positive pet training and lifestyle tips.
“This has been a long-term dream of ours,” says Rashi. “We always knew we wanted to rescue dogs. We couldn’t wait to dive in and help as may animals as possible.”
When they were approached by the show’s executives, adds Eric, “we were already running a foundation and training facility. I had already been working with rescues, animals and shelters for over 10 years. This seemed like a perfect fit to pass the torch along and keep those Saturday mornings going.”
Eric is an American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Evaluator, as well as a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). Eric’s journey began as a teen volunteering at a boarding kennel in St. Louis, Missouri, and he instantly fell in love with dog training. He became even more intrigued by animal behavior. He believes in positive reinforcement as a training approach and has devoted himself to teaching and sharing more positive, humane, and scientific ways to train dogs.
A big part of what Eric does is rehabilitating dogs in need, specifically German Shepherds at the Westside German Shepherd Rescue in Los Angeles. After becoming a foster parent, he was drawn to helping dogs that displayed fearful and/or aggressive behavior, to improve their temperament. It’s not always an easy task, as sometimes larger breeds tend to get mislabeled, misrepresented and misunderstood.
This is how he met Archie, a German Shepherd who was rescued from an L.A. dog fighting ring.
“Eric was the only person Archie responded to,” says Rashi.
Eric and Archie’s bond grew and, through rehabilitation, Archie became the loving family dog that would go on to seal the deal when Eric met Rashi in 2014. As Rashi jokingly recalls her first meeting with Eric with a smile, she says, “I’m sorry Eric, but if Archie wasn’t there, I don’t know….” It was love at first dog! Archie, who was in jeopardy of being euthanized at a shelter after an unimaginable life, united this couple for an exciting journey even they could not anticipate.
Rashi, who has a degree in psychology and a master’s degree in social work, was impressed by the positive reinforcement training methods Eric used with dogs. At the time, she had actually never worked with dogs, and even had a slight fear of the unknown, but through Eric and Archie she became fascinated with dog psychology and how it could be applied to human psychology. She then decided to leave her work, and as she puts it, “I quit my job and joined Eric and here we are today.”
The couple has four pets, with Archie at the helm, along with Enzo, Rupert and Winston. They sadly announced in April the death of their beloved dog Estelle.
In each episode of Lucky Dog Eric and Rashi introduce the audience to a new rescue. It starts at the beginning of the journey of this would-be unwanted, seemingly untrainable dog that Eric then takes to their training facility. You’ll see a combination of efforts from Eric and Rashi with the prospective family, and then the end result: the dog is united with a forever family with all the right skills and tools for a successful life.
Eric has three tips for people who are new pet parents: patience, consistence and don’t train your dogs with a heavy hand.
I also had a chance to interview Eric and Rashi and ask questions submitted by my listeners via iHeartRadio and The River 105.9. Below are a few of them. It’s important to note, they answered as best they could without knowing the people or pets, and were sure to always remind fans to talk to your vets and consult with professionals. As with humans, every dog is different and there are many things to consider when training your pets.
Helena from Torrington asks: “I have 3 dachshunds that are wonderful family pets, except when people come over they get a little nasty and now that the pandemic has taken over I’m worried all the training we’ve done will be forgotten. Any tips?”
Eric answers: “Training is very similar to us learning a new language or musical instruments, it is something that we have to consistently do to retain. So this is something that we should be doing with our dogs, consistently training. It can be challenging at this time, because we’re not having guests or as many people over. With that being said, maybe you can go to more public areas where they can at least see other people, following safety protocols.
Something else to consider [is that] with three dogs, one can be the trigger. When people start coming over you may want to introduce each pet one at a time on leash on neutral grounds, outside in the driveway or house. This may help. I’m not sure if there are any other behavioral issues, but this may be a good place to start.”
Eric in Tolland asks: “I have two dogs – a four-year-old German Shepherd named Barry and a two-year-old Border Collie mix named Shep – and a tuxedo cat named Boo Boo. Barry keeps licking Shep and Boo Boo nonstop. They are very good with him, but what can we do to stop this?”
Eric answers: “So he’s grooming the cat and dog, so to speak? That can be neurotic behavior, sometimes it’s an allergy too, where dogs will lick certain things, they’ll lick furniture, their tongue could be itchy. It could be a texture thing. It could be out of boredom, so take note of when he’s actually doing it. It’s important to break those habits, but also to get more insight.
Sometimes it’s like clockwork. You may want to put Barry on leash and redirect him to a toy and see if he starts licking the toy and it may give us more insight. It could be an allergy. Sometimes dogs will lick their paws; it could be nervousness or anxious behavior. I’d have to see it to give it a better diagnosis, but just taking a stab at it [I] suggest redirecting Barry to a toy. Also bring these behaviors to your vet.”
Eric notes that German Shepherds are particularly prone to food allergies, so always talk to a veterinarian about dietary needs.
Molly in West Hartford asks: “We have a two-year-old Pit Bull mix, how can we convince our neighbors he’s a good boy? We follow ALL the rules, always on a leash, we dress him up, he loves everyone. He is the kindest soul on the planet; he’s a rescue and looks like a tough guy, but he’s not.
Eric answers: “That’s a great question and unfortunately Pit Bulls do get that stigma. You can’t force anyone to change their minds. I like that they’re dressing him up maybe in cute outfits, as long as the dog is comfortable with it, to make the dog seem less threatening.
I don’t know if they’re friends with their neighbors or not. If they’re not, I don’t know if I’d maybe waste effort in trying to get them on board, unless there is some kind of a conflict. Especially with people and stigmatizing pit bulls. It’s hard to change people’s minds, but as long as you’re happy and your dog is happy [that’s enough]. I know judgment can be debilitating at times, especially if it’s from someone living next door.”
Rashi adds: “I’m hoping the behavior speaks for itself, and this will change [the neighbors’] opinion over time.”
Eric and Rashi note, however, that just because people may not react to your pet the way you want them to, it doesn’t mean they are assuming the worst about your pet. They may actually be respecting your space, or they may have a fear of pets and just be avoiding an uncomfortable situation. They may have had a previous encounter with a dog and an irresponsible owner, for instance, says Rashi, so try not to take it personally.
Nicole in Rocky Hill asks: “I have a Labradoodle who also has Addison’s disease, diagnosed at four months. He does well within his family unit, friends and family, however when walking he tends to lunge at cars, other people and dogs – but it is not consistent. He’s a very friendly dog, but for some reason on his walks he changes. When we had a trainer, he walked and behaved perfectly for her, but not for us, any tips?
Eric answers: “Addison’s may or may not affect training, but maybe not in this case. A lot of dogs will become reactive on leash because they’re tethered to their resource provider. In other words, the trainer did fine with him and is not necessarily the resource provider – meaning the trainer is not giving the dog their full meal daily. They may be only coming for an hour and a half and giving treats, but not their full meal. So when the dog lunges on leash with their resource provider at other people, the people will keep walking and not stop, so the dog thinks ‘OK, I did my job and protected my resource provider. I got that person away.’ The dog thinks, ‘I lunged, they kept going; I did my job.’ With the cars too, because it’s over-stimulating them, they may think the same thing: they lunge, it kept going and they did their job.”
Eric and Rashi offered solutions to this problem, and others, when I spoke with them. You can watch our full conversation at https://tinyurl.com/55tm6c2r.
Eric and Rashi are truly using their education, life experiences, and their love for each other and dogs to make a difference in the world. People and pets, when we’re kinder to animals we’re kinder to people: A statement worth repeating!
Renee DiNino is the director of community affairs for iHeartMedia in Connecticut, the midday host on The River 105.9 and host of an hour-long syndicated talk show on all Connecticut iHeartRadio stations. She also appears weekly on WFSB Channel 3’s “Better Connecticut.” An avid animal lover and advocate, she and her husband Sal have a German Shepherd, Luke, they rescued in Hartford. instagram @reneedinino.