NATURE’s Underdogs tells the poignant story of two misfits whose lives were turned around by people who saw their potential for greatness.

Holly and Herbie were renegade youths. Troubled and defiant, they were shuttled from home to home throughout their young lives; no family could manage their unruly conduct. But finally, each found someone who saw that beneath their mischievous veneers were two highly intelligent and gifted animals.

Holly, an 85-pound bloodhound, chewed everything in sight and by the time she was 10 months old, had been removed from six different homes. She was languishing in a shelter, with her days numbered, until professional dog trainer Larry Allen intervened. Having trained countless bloodhounds for law enforcement agencies across the United States, Allen sets out to help Holly harness her natural abilities as a tracker in the hope that one day she would become a competent police dog.

Herbie, a two-year-old bearded collie, couldn’t rein in his impish personality or his penchant for attacking livestock. His errant ways had put him at risk of being shot by a local farmer. Fortunately, sheepdog trainer Barbara Sykes sensed Herbie was more than just a marauder. In her gentle yet firm manner, she coaches him hoping to hone his skills to herd rather than bite sheep on her working farm in England.

Beginning with the initial meeting between dog and trainer, viewers follow Sykes and Allen as they apply their professional skills to transform these misfit mutts into the noble working dogs they were bred to be. As their stories unfold, we witness the powerful bond that develops between trainer and pupil.

Celebrate the beauty of a second chance with these remarkable and resilient Underdogs.

To order a copy of Underdogs, visit the NATURE Shop.

Online content for Underdogs was originally posted January 2006.

  • Irene

    Fantastic show. Thank you!

  • Alexandra Kahl

    Such a wonderful story!

  • thomas baker

    one of the best training prgrams I have ever seen.where in wva are you located as I am familiar with Barbour Co. Having been around Phillipi.

  • BEcky

    I so would love to get a copy of this program for a friend. is there a way or can the entire show be viewed on your website. Herby and Hollie, the underdogs. Thank you.

  • Pat Laurent

    I really enjoyed this program. I was amazed at how
    they were able to train both of these dogs, so they
    could be productive dogs the rest of their life. I have a walker hound, who is in need of a good home.
    He kind of acts like these dogs before they were
    professionally trained. In my eyes, he is a good
    dog, but I’m about the only one that feels that way
    because of how he acts when he first meets new people.
    He acts a lot like that border collie; where he wants
    to have the control when you walk him. Do you know
    of a place I could contact, where I could find him
    a good home, where he could be trained an productive.
    I have to sell my house, and want a really good home
    for him to go to. He is four years old and I got him
    from the dog pound. Thanks for your help in advance!


  • Jill Yamasawa

    A really wonderful program. Thanks for airing it. Our family enjoyed watching it together.


    It’s sad that animal shelters are overflowing with countless numbers of unwanted throwaway dogs such as Herbie and Holly. We’ve seen that it’s not because these dogs are incorrigible, but because their owners are unable – or unwilling – to commit to a training program. These people have the idea that the dog will, through osmosis, become obedient. Training even the most simple commands, through positive reinforcement rather than fear, develop communication and reward both dog and trainer with a lifetime bond.
    This program provided a wonderful demonstration for the benefits of positive training. Not once did these trainers use a prong collar, shock collar, or other aversive training method. The dogs eagerly responded to their firm, consistent and specific commands. These are requirements for building a foundation of trust; without TRUST, all training becomes futile. Great job Nature!!!!

  • Barry

    Thanks for 2 success stories about these wonderful creatures. In 2002, we rescued a Catahoula who has trained us very well. We are now better workers because of his hard work. No really, anyone who loves dogs should find it very easy to find the ‘pre-owned’ companion of their lives in a shelter rather than a ‘new’ model.

  • christine

    This was a wonderful program. I would love to see it as a series.

  • Elizabeth

    Pat Laurent:

    Please try contacting a rescue group at, “www.coonhoundrescue.com”. They specialize in rescuing Blk and Tan Coonhounds, but they frequently have Walkers too. Fantastic people and if they can’t help I’m sure they can direct you to an organization that can.
    I LOVED watching this show last night and it inspired me make more time for scent training my dog. I have a rescued Blk and Tan hound and he is the most wonderful housedog EVER, but he needs a job to make him happier.
    Best of Luck,
    Elizabeth in GA

  • alex monroe

    very inspiring.

  • Bill Kuhns

    How can I purchase this video?
    Thank you.

  • JJ

    I was in tears, this episode was a joy to watch. Highly recommend it for dog lovers. Thank you for changing the dogs lives.

  • Dacia Johnson

    I loved this show – are there going to be more episodes?? My husband and I would like to provide a rescue home for Walker hounds and this show is a perfect example of how much work it takes. I would love to see more!!

  • Michael Sullivan

    This show was on a year or 18 months ago! I sought DVDs and all, but nothing! I was moved to tears the first time, and this past Sunday night! Yes, a DVD would be not just to benefit me, but what a great gift to dispense too; re: friends and family! It was a real treat to see it again!

  • Julia Stacy

    I volunteer at a no-kill shelter in southwest Iowa, and over ten years ago (who counts?) I agreed to “foster” a hellion of a dog who could get out of any enclosure, destroyed the walls of my basement, tore out a (admittedly weak) portion of my house’s foundation. He’s known as Martin the Basement Eater and he’s (I thought) a mixed breed–the BEST kind to get–and I’ve finally found out what he is! Make Herbie’s black into dark gray, and presto! Martin!

    Never BUY dogs, adopt them!!! You can’t get more quality anywhere.

  • Wolf B.

    Wonderful! Television as it should be. I cried. Thx

  • Karen

    great show and a good reminder that dogs were bred for certain things. Too often people like the looks of a dog or what have you but don’t realize what tendencies they may have and then don’t use the dogs skills/drive for anything and then wonder why the dog misbehaves!
    I rescued a dog a few yrs back, he’s a mutt likely mix of great dane, boxer, and bird dog may be even some hound in there, whatever it is he was a handful as a pup. We realized quickly that he needed tons of exercise and tons of mental work. As he approaches 3 you couldn’t ask for a better dog – BUT he still needs plenty of exercise and he has work to do everyday. His drive to work is intense, so you get him to use it or he will find ways to use it.
    Several people have commented that is is lucky we took him on because many people would have brought him back to the shelter.
    I feel lucky to have got him! There is no doubt though that he needs energy spending on him just like the dogs in this show

  • Maureen

    I love all of the “Nature” series but this one touched my heart especially. So much so that I purchased the DVD the next day and will share it with all my Rescue Groups and friends. All Herbie and Holly needed were wonderful people like Barbara and Larry to see that under those mischievous exteriors were sweet and loving animals who just want to please their humans. I have 2 Australian Shepherds and a Border Collie all rescues, that were once like Herbie. Thank you PBS and Nature for such brilliant,worthwhile Television.

  • Kelly

    I was so glad to see this program air again…I own a breed of dog that herds, but not in the style of Border Collies (so my Border Collie-owning friends haven’t been able to help me), and this program has excellent footage that will help me train my dogs to be real herders and not destructive chasers. I’m glad that it was available for purchase.

  • Tarrah Sterling

    What an excellent program! I saw Herbie’s anxious behavior in my own rescued dog. With the insights given I copied Barbara’s style and in no time my dog quit chasing the cats. Thank you for enhancing the relationship I have with this wonderful rescued dog!!

  • Roger

    Just a great show! I had tears in my eyes when Larry Allen had to say goodbye to Holly. I really felt the bond they’d developed. Either of those stories would make a wonderful children’s book.

  • Cheryl E

    I thought the program was WONDERFUL. Please keep repeating it or even make it into a series. I would love to see it reach a huge audience – this is information that more people need. As “mom” to a truly wonderful hound/lab I would urge every dog owner to participate in a training program that stresses positive reinforcement. PEOPLE are really the ones that need the training – even if you have experience with dogs, you will both benefit from classes. ANY dog can be a success story if only the people in their lives make the time to really work with them in a loving, positive manner. Sadly, too many wonderful dogs end up in shelters or worse because they are not given the proper opportunity to live up to their potential. And, too many people don’t acknowledge that sharing your life with a dog is a lifetime commitment. You don’t give up when you hit a rough patch…

  • Pat

    Great show! Both trainers were truly dedicated to these animals. I enjoyed the show. Never give up.

  • blayne

    I love it when she says, “Herbie! Leave it!!!”

  • Cecilia, Mom of Two Labs

    Loved the show! I watched it when it aired for the second time on Feb. 15th. The relationship between the trainers and the dogs is amazing. It is a connection that most humans cannot reach in a 12 week span! Dogs are just a true joy in life if we give them what they need: our time, love, trust & exercise!! I would love to watch a series of other “Underdogs.” Larry was so endearing and such a wonderful surrogate daddy to Holly.

  • Eileen

    Will this episode be aired again? If so, when? :)

  • Mercy

    I saw this show last night and I was so happy to see that dogs like Holly and Herbie have hope in becoming functional dogs. I have rescued a few dogs and they have also been very good and loving dogs. It has been a rewarding expirience to see this show.

  • Stephanie, Lab and Beagle mom

    I gladly watched this show a second time earlier this week. I cried again when Larry said goodbye to Holly. Both our dogs are pound puppies. I don’t think we’ll ever get a “brand new” dog again!

  • Malynda

    I watched this last night for the first time and was so touched by Herbie and Holly. Good luck to them – I hope that they continue to do well. Thank you, PBS, for such a wonderful show.

  • Clair

    My daughter really enjoyed watching this show. We wish it could be a series, with various animals or different breeds. Learnt alot and enjoyed it immensely. Thank You!

  • GWEN

    Wonderful show!!! I would love to speak with Larry Allen. I have a Beagle/Blood Hound mix that we rescued from the shelter. I feel we’re holding him back from reaching his full potential.

  • Roger Thomas

    There is more information here and on the rest of the site relating to the Working Bearded Collie.


  • Jenny Fuller

    I am glad to see Animal shelter resuces yet I have to say that the method of dog training that Barbara used for Herbie turnned my stomach andsic
    kened me. There is no reasin in the world that a dog has to be yelled and screamed at into submission. Possitive reiforcement training is just as effective and it makes the dog want to please not obey out of fear. One can be a gental and effective leader.

  • Rhonda P

    I missed the last half of the show,,, what happended to Holly? Did she get in the police dept?

  • Suzanne K

    A wonderful show. Larry allen is God’s grace in action. What a blessing!

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  • keke

    This is a FANTASTIC story!!!!!

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  • G-PA

    I so agree with Jenny Fuller. There was no reason for Barbara to yell and scream at Herbie the way she did. I think Barbara was clearly out of control. Barbara is the one that needs to be retrained!! Send her (Barbara) to the Dog Whisper!!

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