America’s Top Dog Races Back to TV

A familiar face steps up as the new co-host for season two of this canine competition

A familiar face steps up as the new co-host for season two of this canine competition

Fans of A&E’s America’s Top Dog will notice a more lighthearted tone to the competition in season two, and that’s mainly due to the presence of one man. This new instalment welcomes veteran comedian and actor David Koechner (Anchorman) as co-host alongside sportscaster Curt Menefee and sideline reporter Rachel Bonnetta, who looks on as working dogs, police K-9s, “underdogs” and their human handlers vie on an obstacle course designed to test their speed, agility, teamwork and trust. Each week, the winner in each class gets to compete in the final round for a $10,000 prize, plus a $5,000 donation to the animal charity of their choice. They also earn a slot in the season finale, where they’ll battle it out for $25,000.

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 regular 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 real stars of the show. This season introduces a new format with head-to-head matchups 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.”

America’s Top Dog airs Tuesdays at 5 p.m. & 9 p.m. on A&E