Radio Waves: November 5

Pet Show Celebrates 40 Years

Warren Eckstein knows dogs. Actually, he knows all pets, and he loves to talk about them … dogs especially … so much so that he’s been doing it on the radio for a long time. In fact, November 8th marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of The Pet Show, heard locally on KRLA (870 AM) Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

He actually does two shows, one for the local KRLA audience and a second for a nationally syndicated audience that begins immediately following the KRLA show at 1:00. That’s four hours a week of talking pets. Let’s just say it’s in his blood.

Internationally known as a pet and animal expert, he might be considered a pet communicator. It started at a young age, in large part due to shyness at the time. “I was able to connect easier to animals than to people,” he explained, which led to his developing a reputation as a master of animal behavior. Soon he was being asked to help with family pets and animals around his hometown on Long Island: “People said that even stray dogs were trained when I was around,” he quipped.

While he was always comfortable around animals, his training expertise came from his observations made while working in Europe. “I actually snuck into East Germany in 1969,” he told me, in order to see for himself the techniques they used in training dogs for the military and police. “I obtained a fake passport in order to get across the border,” he said.

But it wasn’t a career in the early days. “You try to find a job as an animal psychologist in 1971,” Eckstein said laughing. “So I took other jobs including at a dry cleaners.” But he loved the training, so he put an ad in the local Pennysaver stating that he would “teach your dog Yiddish for $15.” It worked … he got some calls.

Eventually his name started getting around, and local veterinarians started recommending him to help clients with their pet problems. What made him different — and so successful — is that he looked at dogs and cats at their level to try to determine what was causing the negative behavior. This seemed to me to be at odds with what he observed in East Germany, and he confirmed that he didn’t necessarily adopt the training techniques he saw, but the experience helped him to see what worked and what could be done better.

What developed was a passion that comes through the interview I did with him as well as his shows, along with the tips and tricks you can read about in his posts he makes at Eckstein not only knows animals, you can tell he loves and respects them as well. In fact, his behavior modifications and training center on love and praise rather than discipline.

“I care about animals,” he says. “I care about animals, kids and families. I want them all to live in harmony, especially these days when our pets more than ever are full members of our families.”

His show began when he was approached by Bob Bruno, General Manager of WOR/New York, to do a weekend fill-in show one weekend when one of the hosts couldn’t make it. Audience reaction was positive, and it turned into a weekly two-hour program.

By 1995, his show had been syndicated out of New York a number of years, including a special edition he did for KABC. He decided to move to Los Angeles and do the program from here. Now on KRLA, he continues the tradition of doing a separate show for the Los Angeles audience. I asked him why.

“The audience in Los Angeles is totally different than the rest of the country,” he explained. It’s a different vibe, a different attitude. We take our animals seriously here!” He said.

Has much changed in the 40 years he’s been doing the show? “Absolutely,” he told me. “Today there are so many issues in daily life that didn’t exist often in the past. I get calls on divorce, for example, and who should get custody of the family dog.” (He recommends placement with whoever would give the dog a better life, especially if one would be able to give more attention to the dog). “You’ve heard of latch-key kids? Now we have latch-key pets, especially as more couples both work outside of the home.”

“Our pets need attention,; they need exercise” Eckstein explains. “You can’t just leave them alone. They need to get out and be social and active. They need exercise. Often problems arise in a pet’s behavior because they just need more attention and activity”

Eckstein has worked with more than 40,000 pets over his career, from celebrities (David Letterman, Cheryl Tiegs, Lily Tomlin, and Rodney Dangerfield, just to name a few) to mobsters (they may be viscous, but “they love their animals”). 

He routinely donates to smaller rescue groups — “the smaller ones that have trouble rising funds” — through the Hugs and Kisses Animal Fund, a nonprofit organization founded in memory of his wife Fay, who passed away in 1991. 

A contributor to numerous television programs such as NBC’s Today Show and the former Live with Regis and Kathy Lee, Eckstein says that he’s worked with almost every type of animal. By his count, he figures he’s helped over 100,000 pet owners via his radio show over the years.

If you have not ever heard the show, check it out. 40 years is a long time for any program; if Eckstein has his way, it will be around another 40.