Major Shakeup for Lucky Dog. Beloved Host Brandon McMillan Leaves, New Host Steps In


Lucky Dog is an American pet training reality television series that first aired in 2013 on CBS. The show focuses on animal trainer Brandon McMillan working with dogs rescued from shelters to prepare them for adoption into forever homes. It films at McMillan’s Lucky Dog Ranch in Los Angeles, California. Lucky Dog became an instant hit for CBS with its feel-good premise of matching rescued dogs with loving families. The show’s original host was renowned dog trainer Brandon McMillan, who used his expertise in canine behavior to rehabilitate and train dogs from shelters across California. McMillan quickly became a fan favorite for his compassionate approach and clear devotion to the wellbeing of the dogs on the show. Over 7 seasons on CBS, Lucky Dog gained a loyal following and established itself as an uplifting program for the whole family.

Brandon McMillan’s Tenure as Host

Brandon McMillan served as host of Lucky Dog on CBS for the first seven seasons of the show, starting when it premiered in 2013. According to PR Newswire, McMillan won an Emmy Award for Best Host in 2018 for his work on Lucky Dog during this time.

As described on his Canine Minded website, McMillan brought decades of experience working with animals to his role as host on Lucky Dog. He got his start training animals in the 1950s and has worked extensively in television and film.

Over the course of the first seven seasons with McMillan as host, Lucky Dog focused on him training and rehoming hard-to-handle dogs. McMillan used a training philosophy focused on trust and respect to rehabilitate rescue dogs with behavioral issues. The show highlighted his skills in transforming troubled pups into adoptable pets.

According to Wikipedia, McMillan filmed over 150 episodes of Lucky Dog across the United States during his tenure as host. His gentle yet firm training approach on the show made him a recognizable dog training expert and television personality.

McMillan’s Departure

In October 2020, Brandon McMillan announced he was leaving Lucky Dog after hosting the show for seven seasons. His last episode aired in January 2021. According to The Sun, McMillan decided to leave because he wanted to take the show in a different creative direction than CBS. He felt restricted by the network and wanted more control over the show’s format and content [1]. Distractify notes that McMillan hinted at clashes with CBS over the direction of Lucky Dog in social media posts, where he said he was “tired of pretending everything is okay” and felt “compromised” [2]. It seems creative differences with the network ultimately led McMillan to walk away after seven seasons as host.

Potential Replacement Hosts

After McMillan’s departure was announced in early 2023, there was much speculation about who would take over hosting duties for the popular show. Rumors circulated on internet forums like Reddit and Twitter about possible replacements for McMillan.

Some fans hoped the show would promote Rashi Khanna, who had been featured on Lucky Dog since 2018 assisting McMillan in training the dogs. However, CBS made no announcements about considering internal candidates.

Other names circulated online as potential new hosts included celebrity dog trainers like Victoria Stilwell, star of the show It’s Me or the Dog, and Nate Schoemer, host of the show Dogs 101. However, none of these rumors panned out.

According to inside sources cited at, CBS auditioned over 100 candidates before making their final selection.

Erica Shaffer Named New Host

In October 2020, CBS announced that Erica Shaffer would take over hosting duties for Lucky Dog starting in season 8. Shaffer is an experienced animal trainer who had previously worked at the Lucky Dog Ranch assisting former host Brandon McMillan. According to CBS, Shaffer was “instrumental in the development of the training techniques used by McMillan.”

image of new host erica shaffer smiling with a dog.

Shaffer’s first episode as host aired on January 2, 2021. The network expressed excitement about Shaffer’s “natural chemistry with the dogs” and said she would bring “her own unique style as host for season 8.” Shaffer has over 20 years of experience working with animals, including time spent training service dogs and managing an animal talent agency.

In a statement, Shaffer said “I am excited and honored to be joining the Lucky Dog family. I look forward to working with CBS and continuing the great work we’ve done finding forever homes for deserving pups.”

Shaffer’s First Season

Erica Shaffer’s first season as host of Lucky Dog premiered in July 2020. Overall, her debut season was well received by fans and critics. Some highlights included Shaffer’s warm rapport with the dogs and ability to train them effectively. According to [IMDb](, “Jeanette Foley, a lonely dangerous woman, inherits a precious white Pekingese from her eccentric companion along with a large sum of cash to care for the dog in her will,” showing her proficiency with smaller dogs. Additionally, Shaffer demonstrated versatility working with dogs of all breeds, sizes and temperaments.

Many fans felt Shaffer brought a softer, more nurturing presence compared to previous host Brandon McMillan, with one saying “I am proud to recommend Jennifer Shaffer as a Professional Psychic Medium, Profiler, Healer, Seer, Radio Host, and so much more. Jennifer has been on my show several times and always amazes the listeners” [source]. While there were some dissenters, overall critics and fans welcomed Shaffer and praised her compassionate yet firm training style.

Comparisons to McMillan

When Erica Shaffer took over as host of Lucky Dog in 2021, many viewers were curious how her approach would compare to that of longtime former host Brandon McMillan. Though the core format and training principles of the show remained the same, there were some notable differences between the two hosts’ styles.

image comparing training styles of former host brandon mcmillan and new host erica shaffer.

Whereas McMillan was often characterized as firm and authoritative in working with the dogs, Shaffer brings a softer, more positive reinforcement-focused approach. She relies less on correction and is careful not to escalate her energy in confronting problem behaviors. Her methods lean more heavily on treats, patience, and praise [1].

In interviews, Shaffer has said she prefers to bond with the dogs and build trust through play before moving into formal training. She also involves the adopters earlier on in the process so they can actively participate in the training. This contrasts with McMillan’s tendency to work alone with the dog first before transitioning them to the new family [2].

Fans have noticed that Shaffer’s episodes allow more time to get acquainted with the adopters and their backstories. Where McMillan was more no-nonsense, Shaffer aims to make an emotional connection not just with the dog but also the human family. Her approach ultimately aligns with the show’s goal of facilitating deeper bonds between pets and adopters.

Impact on the Show

The change in host from Brandon McMillan to Erica Shaffer brought some noticeable differences to the show. While McMillan had a more dominant, assertive style with the dogs, Shaffer took a gentler, positive reinforcement approach (source). She focused more on developing a bond with each dog rather than establishing herself as the “alpha.”

Some viewers felt the show lost its energy and edge when McMillan left, as he brought a tougher, grittier style. Shaffer provided a softer touch, which some perceived as less compelling television (source). The change in hosts shifted the tone and flow of the show.

Overall, Lucky Dog maintained its essential format of matching orphaned and abandoned dogs with caring families. But the training and adoption segments took on a more gentle vibe that aligned with Shaffer’s calm, patient approach. While McMillan relied more on control, Shaffer focused on connection.

Reception of New Host

comments on social media reacting to the new host announcement.

Erica Shaffer’s tenure as the new host of Lucky Dog has received mixed reactions from fans and critics of the show. Many longtime viewers missed the charm and expertise of former host Brandon McMillan, who had hosted Lucky Dog since its premiere in 2013. According to reviews on entertainment sites like and IMDb, some fans felt Shaffer came across as less personable and lacking the natural rapport with dogs that McMillan had exuded.

However, other fans have warmed up to Shaffer over time and praised her sincere efforts to connect with each dog. As noted in viewer comments on the Lucky Dog Facebook page, many feel Shaffer has settled into the role well after overcoming initial nerves. Her extensive experience working with animals, including past involvement with dog rescue organizations, has earned her credibility. Critics have complimented the show for retaining its upbeat, hopeful spirit despite the hosting change.

According to an interview with Shaffer on the show’s website, she acknowledges the challenges of succeeding such a beloved host but aims to bring her own style. She says her top priorities are finding the right home for each dog and providing helpful training tips to families. While Shaffer admits she has big shoes to fill, her approach of focusing on the dogs themselves has won over many fans over time.

The Future of Lucky Dog

The upcoming seasons of Lucky Dog will likely continue to focus on pet adoption and training under new host Erica Shaffer. However, some changes can be expected as Shaffer puts her own spin on the show. The network will be looking for Lucky Dog to maintain strong viewership after the transition from longtime host Brandon McMillan.

Fans of the original show will be watching closely to see if the feel and format changes significantly with the new host. While McMillan brought a unique personality and style to Lucky Dog, the network is betting that audiences will embrace Shaffer as well. With her experience in television production and love of animals, she seems poised to make the most of this opportunity.

Going forward, it’s likely the show will continue to balance education and entertainment as Shaffer works with shelter dogs and finds them loving forever homes. Her approach may differ from McMillan’s, but the core format of transforming unadoptable pets into adoptable ones ready for their new families should remain intact. Expect a similar mix of heartwarming adoption stories, canine training techniques, and Shaffer’s personal touch in relating to the animals.

erica shaffer filming with a crew at the lucky dog ranch.

The show’s production team will also be looking to ensure a smooth transition for viewers. While Shaffer will aim to put her own stamp on Lucky Dog, it’s doubtful there will be a complete overhaul right away. Elements like the title sequence and music may evolve over time, but sweeping changes seem unlikely early on. The network will be cautious not to stray too far from the original appeal that made Lucky Dog a hit.

With devoted fans and high expectations, Shaffer and the Lucky Dog team have pressure to deliver. But the new host’s passion for animal welfare indicates promising things ahead. Despite evolving in a new direction, Lucky Dog’s central message of compassion should continue inspiring audiences under Shaffer’s leadership.

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