Getting To Know Lucky Dog Trainer Brandon McMillan

When Lucky Dog trainer Brandon McMillan couldn’t find permanent homes for “foster fails” Koda and Lulu, he took them in—naughty habits and all.
Posted on Sep 5, 2019 | 09:45am
By Oliver Jones

The rescue dogs that Brandon McMillan trains for new "forever" homes get put through a training regimen that would exhaust a young Bruce Lee.

"These dogs eat, sleep, and breathe training," says McMillan, who for the last five years has been the host of Lucky Dog—part of the Saturday morning CBS Dream Team programming block—in which he turns unruly rovers into perfect pets. "I compare dog training to martial arts. These dogs have to be black belts by the time they leave my ranch."

Brandon McMillan training Koda to be a service dog.

And what if the dog doesn't become a kung fu master during their time at the Lucky Dog Ranch? Well, then there's the booby prize: They get to go home with McMillan.

"To be honest, all my dogs are foster fails," says McMillan, who last year won a Daytime Emmy Award for Best Host in a Lifestyle Series. "I go to the shelter looking for a dog for somebody else and if it happens to not work out, that dog becomes mine."

Brandon McMillan on stage during the 45th Annual Daytime Creative Arts Emmy Awards on April 27, 2018.

So far, that's happened only twice. First there was Lulu (pictured above), a Chihuahua with anger management issues that McMillan, 42, rescued from a shelter around 10 years ago. He placed her in four or five different homes, only to have the dog returned to the ranch by overwhelmed prospective owners. "She was aggressive with dogs, kids, everything," says McMillan. "But with me, she's perfect. She never pulls that stuff."

Then there's Koda, the flat-coated retriever that McMillan was training to be a service dog for a man who used a wheelchair. Unfortunately, Koda was more interested in chasing squirrels than following orders. These days, when you don't see Koda on the show greeting new dogs, he's out chasing wild rabbits around Lucky Dog Ranch, located in California.

Brandon McMillan and rescue dog Koda.

It's easy to tell McMillan's own dogs from those who pass through his school. "My dogs walk all over me," says McMillan. "They sleep in my bed. They've already been trained and already have a home. Now they get to relax."

Adds McMillan, "The other dogs that come through, the lucky dogs, they're not there yet. Loving a dog is not going to keep that dog out of the shelter. The best way I can help them is to teach them."

Photo Credits: Mark-Sobhani (McMillan); Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images (Emmy); Bob Riha (Koda).

Originally published in Watch! Magazine, July-August 2019.

Lucky Dog airs Saturday mornings on CBS and also streams on CBS All Access. Check local listings for time.