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All you ever wanted to know about dogs

It would take more restraint than I possess to refrain from saying that Man's Best Friend (PBS, Sunday, 8-9 p.m., check local listings) is a bow-wow of a show. This segment of the acclaimed ``Nature'' series tries to explain the close symbiotic relationship man has always had with his dog. Traced as far back as the Stone Age, all domestic dogs seem to have evolved from wild wolves. Selective breeding over thousands of years has resulted in the widely different look of the breeds.

A production of John Paling & Co., under the aegis of WNET's George Page (who also serves as narrator), ``Man's Best Friend'' delves into every aspect of man and his canine friends. Some of it is pretty far-fetched, implying that a pet represents a basic need of man because his life style is not satisfying enough, man's that is. Or that dogs reflect a tribal need to share meaningful experiences with other living things.

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A bit more down-to-earth is the theory that man has chosen the dog to be his best friend because dogs are not born with an inherent realization that they are dogs and thus can shift loyalties from their own dog family to human families. More realistic is the theory that man has chosen dogs (and cats) because they can be trained to relieve themselves in definite places.

One segment of the show -- on civilizations which eat dogs -- is a bit too explicit for me as it shows the killing and cooking of a dog. Then there is a rather unambiguous segment on breeding, which may make some people just a bit uncomfortable.

Although there are lots of facts and scientific theorizing, for pet lovers, the best part of ``Man's Best Friend'' will be the charming footage of dogs, dogs, dogs. If the show has a major weakness, it is that there is not enough detail on many more breeds of dogs and how they got that way. Now that ``Nature'' has done one of man's best friends -- the dog -- it is planning to do the same thing for cats next season. But I must warn readers: That may give me a chance to use a ``cat's meow'' line.

On a scale of 10, ``Man's Best Friend'' is a 9 doggie-biscuit show. Oh, well.

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