TV Review: “The Secret Life of Dancing Dogs” is Pure Joy

The show may be called The Secret Life of Dancing Dogs, but it’s really about people. This six-part ABC News documentary series chronicles the journey of seven women and their dogs as they prepare to compete in the competitive dog dancing division of Crufts, an international dog show. It gets to the root of the extraordinary bond between humans and dogs, while also delivering some inspirational stories.

(ABC/ ABC News Studios)

(ABC/ ABC News Studios)

Controversy erupted out of the 2022 freestyle competition at Crufts. Two competitors – Jennifer & Daiquiri of Canada and Marianne & Vega of Norway – tied for first place. The judges took a closer look and judged the routines on a more technical level, awarding first place to Marianne & Vega. There have been hurt feelings in the aftermath, and 2023 could decide who among them is the true champion in this category. But there will be other competitors joining them, so it’s truly anybody’s game. These include past winners like Gina, who won with her dog Tapper in 2007 and is competing this year with her new dog, Swagger. Plus, there are new contestants competing for the first time, including Sachiko & Alena of Japan and Lorna & Nora of England. In a true underdog story, Isa & Lucky are trying to return for the first time since 2017, following Lucky the chihuahua’s experimental heart surgery for a dog of his size.

As a fan of Christopher Guest mockumentaries, it was hard to shake real-world comparisons to Best in Show. I went into The Secret Life of Dancing Dogs expecting something far more frivolous than what the series actually is. From an outsider's perspective, it’s easy to hear the concept of a dog dance competition and think it laughable, but the passion and dedication of the contestants and their obedient canine companions are infectious. By the time the first episode is done, you’ll find yourself just as hooked as you would by an ESPN 30-for-30 project.

ABC News approaches this story with journalistic integrity, particularly as it relates to the feud between Jennifer and Marianne. They present both sides of the story without commentary, showing the grey area within the black-and-white headlines. There’s even a moment where they take the time to dispel any possible collusion for contestant Gina, who volunteers as a Crufts competition manager. But for the most part, this is a human interest story, one that is overwhelmingly heartwarming and pure.

The Secret Life of Dancing Dogs is a joyous look at a niche competition, one that doesn’t limit dogs by breed. There’s a recurring theme of responsible dog ownership, with stories about rescue dogs and doing whatever you can for the well-being of your pet. And best of all, if you’re a pawrent, it makes for perfect viewing for the whole family, whether you have feet or paws.

All 6 episodes of The Secret Life of Dancing Dogs are now streaming on Hulu.

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Alex Reif
Alex joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and has been a lifelong Disney fan. His main beats for LP are Disney-branded movies, TV shows, books, music and toys. He recently became a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA).