1980s Television Nightmares: #3 That’s My Dog

Yet they say, never work with children or animals…

Television South West, one of Britain’s shortest lived ITV franchisees, didn’t quite have the same commercial clout nor profile as the Big Five ITV contractors [Granada, Yorkshire, Thames, Central and London Weekend]. Locally, TSW was best known for Gus Honeybun, a glove puppet rabbit who accompanied continuity announcers whilst announcing younger viewers’ birthdays.

Nationwide, Television South West was synonymous with this production…

A gameshow which, according to one viewer, single handedly lost TSW its ITV franchise. It even inspired an American version. Was it really as bad as they said it was, I mean… nothing can be worse than that UKIPophiles’ light entertainment show of choice known as I Love My Country? Or Don’t Scare The Hare which was superior to I Love My Country?

If you were bunking off school, or off school due to the half term holidays in the mid-1980s, you may have stumbled across That’s My Dog, a canine quiz show where the dog was the star.

The presenter of the UK series? Derek Hobson, as introduced to us viewers as the ‘host and general dogsbody’. Yes, after introducing Jim Davidson, Lenny Henry, Patti Boulaye and Victoria Wood onto our screens via New Faces, his star turns would be Benji, Rex, Goldie and Fang. He was accompanied by a kennel maid (Louise Burton) – his equivalent to Jim Davidson’s Melanie Stace.

Derek Hobson was the co-creator of That’s My Dog along with John Viner. The music, a rather jaunty number with sampled barks was composed by Ed Welch of Blockbusters theme fame. The first episode went out in 1984, with the programme aired till 1988: hardly the mark of a bad quiz show, I say, enjoying a run longer than the excellent Masterteam and Everybody’s Equal.

The format

Firstly, the opening titles will see the couples’ dogs introduced instead of themselves. Instead of our voiceover person saying ‘…The Kelly family from Maidenhead’, he would say ‘Ollie, the English Springer Spaniel and Jerry, the Yorkshire Terrier…’ prior to cutting to Derek Hobson. Each of the two podiums would seat two people with a lower podium for each couple’s dog.

The first round would see the dog’s owners answering questions about dog breeds, Gundog groups, hip dysplasia and celebrity canines. Each buzzer sound was a dog bark instead of the usual quiz show buzzer noises. The programme had its own vet (Eddie Straiton in the first three years; C.C. Guard in the 1988 series), who asked owners medical questions.

Given that the dogs were the real stars of this quiz, they would take part in an assault course (a Krypton Factor for dogs???) and a maze with points for successful completion. With a given number of clues, the hostess would bring on a celebrity canine onto the set, and allow the (human) contestants to guess whose dog it is.

The winning couple would go on to win £500, so long as their dog was able to find a given object that the owner handled beforehand. Our winning contestant would reply to Derek Hobson’s parting words with ‘That’s My Dog!’

The American version

Three years after its run ended on ITV, 1991 (ironically the same year when TSW lost its ITV franchise) saw the launch of the American version. The U.S. version had two hosts, Steve Skrovan (1991 – 1992) and Wil Shriner (1993 – 1994) and began on the 01 September, on The Family Channel. Original music was composed by Scott V. Smith.

The American version of That’s My Dog! was more boisterous than its UK original with a lively audience and an animated title sequence.

Surely they must have been a bit ruff…?

That’s My Dog! did a suitable enough job as a midweek daytime quiz show. I found it pretty watchable on the off chance I caught it on Wednesday afternoons at about 2.30pm during the school holidays. For me, the dogs were the stars, more so than the owners of Snowy or Sammy.

Being a daytime television show, I didn’t expect anything too glitzy. Nor bins as booby prizes. Not even a major cash prize (the jackpot was £500 – which in 1984 to 1988 standards was pretty decent for its afternoon slot) or a brand new Ford Escort.

Was It Really That Bad? Does It Deserve Its Place In Television Hell?

If you liked That’s My Dog, feel free to defend its reputation. If you think it deserves its place in TV Hell, state why it deserves to be down there.

S.V., 18 July 2014.


6 thoughts on “1980s Television Nightmares: #3 That’s My Dog

Add yours

  1. That’s My Dog was a great clean family fun show. Derek Hobson was fabulous and very entertaining. I used to watch it imbetween jobs. It should have been on in the evening.


  2. Hello, I’m the same person who previously mentioned watching That’s My Dog inbetween jobs but having watched The Best of Bad TV in the 80’s on channel 5 last night I have to say something. That’s My Dog should not have been included in the line-up. It was a great show. It ran for 4 years and it was presented by the best TV host ever who is the fabulous, handsome and extremely entertaining Derek Hobson. Need I say more.


    1. Hi Carole,

      I shall try and catch up on The Best of Bad TV on Channel Five’s video on demand service. Given the times we are living in nowadays, we need more programmes like That’s My Dog and less of the Saints and Sinners of Benefits Street type of programming.

      One thing I do recall from the episodes were the warm-hearted nature of Derek Hobson. He held the show together and did a most professional job. When I saw the reruns of New Faces on Challenge TV (in December 2002), need I say more: the consummate professional.

      With Paul O’Grady’s For The Love of Dogs a popular programme on ITV, perhaps we are long overdue a good canine orientated quiz programme.




  3. My family were on the show in 1988 with our black Labrador Merlin. We went through an audition process several months before filming began. It was great fun, all concerned with the show were friendly, and we were treated like ‘star’s’. It was filmed in two sections the first being the ability/maze at an indoor riding school just outside of Bristol. During filming there was a power cut, that took ages to fix. I remember running Merlin round the ability course at about midnight. By then the audience had all gone home. Then studio section was filmed in Plymouth, Merlin was attacked by the guest/surprise stars dog, thankfully no harm was done. We won and went through to try for the £500 prize, which in 1988 was quite a lot of money, and anything won went to a nominated charity. Merlin had to find a purse with my scent on it, amongst other purses. He did this quickly, then Derek Hobson, made a noise and Merlin who was just about to pick the purse up, then left it. We still won £240 for Pets As Therapy, and had a great time. This show, by today’s standards would be considered ‘corny’, but it was innocent, no smutty jokes and the dogs were well looked after on set. We have very fond memories of this show, where the dogs were definitely the stars!


      1. Hi Jan,

        Many thanks for your reminiscence as a contestant on That’s My Dog. It is much appreciated, especially how each episode was filmed in an outdoor location and in the TSW Studios in Plymouth. £500 in 1988 is equivalent to £1,230.38 according to the Bank of England’s online inflation calculator.

        I am glad to see that Pets As Therapy are prospering. Their website is very good too and it also proves one thing I have maintained myself: no life is complete without a furry friend. In my neck of the woods, there is a local charity called Noah’s ART which performs a similar role. They have their own furry friends (known as Furripists) and work with people with mental health issues. These include guinea pigs, a Jack Russell Terrier, and cats.

        I wish my Jack Russell Terrier could jump over the hoops or fences. Without the need for several chewy sticks. Then again he is approaching his fourteenth birthday, so it is a bit of a tall order. I doubt as if my previous dog during That’s My Dog‘s original transmission era – also a JRT – would have managed.

        Wishing you a (belated) Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,



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