Paul O’Grady on For the Love of Dogs: ‘A dog is not an accessory!’

Paul O'Grady reveals how he almost felt tempted to adopt another pet pooch while filming his new series of For the Love of Dogs…

Paul O’Grady on how he made more canine companions this series – and nearly took another one home…

For the Love of Dogs is back for its eighth series. What do you most enjoy about returning to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home to film the show?

“I always love meeting new dogs but the state some of them come to us in is horrific. It never ceases to amaze me what abuse some dogs are put through. This show strikes a chord with people because it’s a real Cinderella story where a little abandoned dog comes in, the staff make it better, then it goes off to a new home. People always stop me in the street and say: ‘You made me cry last night’. But then they tell me it’s such a lovely programme.”

Who do we meet as the series begins?

“A mongrel called Sunny is brought in, who’s a lovely dog but just so sad. He’d been fitted with a chip, which revealed he’d been missing for 13 years but we don’t know where he’s been. We tried calling his owners and I must have rung about 30 times in one day willing them to pick up the phone but I got no answer. We then discovered Sunny has a heart condition and medication to treat it is very expensive. You’re left wondering is this dog ever going to find a home?”

Paul O'Grady with mongrel sunny

Paul wonders if sad Sunny will ever find his forever home…

Do you find there’s a trend for people only wanting to adopt ‘cute’ dogs?

“Yes! Black dogs and black cats are hard to shift because they don’t photograph well on Instagram. Well, if that’s the reason you’re getting a dog, you don’t deserve one. Fortunately, the staff here can suss those people out, so they don’t get the dog. A dog is not an accessory. It’s not jewellery or shoes. It’s a dog!”

Are there any standout dogs later in the series?

“Marty, a lurcher, got rehomed a couple of times but then the owners realised they couldn’t handle him. He’s a dog who likes to work and needed something to keep him busy – so we got him a part in the BBC medical drama Holby City. Ali, one of the Battersea staff, walked on with Marty. I couldn’t be in the scene with him, though, as my character was dead!”

Are there any other stories coming up later in the series that really touched your heart?

“Just when you think you’ve seen it all, another dog will come in and their poor condition just takes your breath away. There’s one dog, Lady, who came to us full of shotgun pellets. And Splash, a terrier, had been chucked in the River Thames. This dog is so full of life and, fortunately, he’s since been given a good home.”

Paul O'Grady staffie Hippo

Paul babysits ‘Hippo’, one of a gang of very mischievous staffie pups

You famously adopted Jack Russell pup Eddie on the show. Were you tempted to take any more dogs home this series?

“I came very close. There was a Pyrenean Mountain Dog called Lynda. She was beautiful, with snow-white fur and she was as gentle as a kitten. We really bonded and I was like: ‘Oh no, please don’t get too fond of me’. I’ve got four dogs at home now – Eddie, Conchita, Arthur and Boycie – and I’m telling myself that four is enough!”

What advice would you give anyone who might be thinking of adopting a dog?

“Never get a dog at Christmas. That’s a huge mistake because you’re bringing a dog into a home that’s full of strangers, kids, Christmas trees, food and chocolates, so there’s lots of temptation. Never ever buy a dog off the internet, and always make sure you clean up after your dog when you’re out. At the National Television Awards one year, I was up on stage collecting an award, put my hand in my pocket and there was a dog poo bag and a load of biscuits. So I had my award in one hand and a dog poo bag in the other!”

Why do dogs make great pets?

“Dogs are loyal and they don’t ask for much, they just want feeding, a walk and to sit with you. Although with my four at home, it’s often a nightmare for me trying to do anything. They follow me everywhere – while I’m in the shower or on the loo – and they’ll constantly just stare at me. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Paul O’Grady For The Love of Dogs starts on Wednesday October 23 at 8pm on ITV.