SEAL Team dog handler and actor Justin Melnick recently discussed how he trains Dita for K9 activities on the show. Melnick actually brought Dita into the show and while she was a trained police dog, he trained her for TV. Dita is a five-year-old Belgian Malinois who plays the important role of an explosives detection dog.
It all started when his roommate brought home the dog from a city department but was unable to keep her. The actor told Variety all about the fascinating behind-the-scenes role he’s taken on the show as the dog trainer.
“My roommate had gotten Dita — he’s a K9 officer for a larger city department — and he ended up not being able to keep her,” he said. “Our narcotics K9 at the time retired because he had been in service for eight or nine years, and we work on a very limited budget in the small town — we have five full time officers and 24 reserve, part-time officers. So I took Dita and started training her.”
Originally, Melnick worked with a real police force in Indiana. So he was asked about how it’s different training her for the show vs in the field.
The Transition to ‘SEAL Team’ was Actually Quite Simple For Dita
“This isn’t a show where they want her to do tricks like sitting up and begging or carrying [something]. This is a show that’s real and they want a real working dog. She plays an explosives detection dog, so all we do is replace the explosives odors with narcotics odors, because that’s what she’s trained in,” he said. And just like that, he has an already trained dog ready to bring some realism to the show.
Now, he just makes sure he keeps up her traditional training so she doesn’t get rusty.
“So when you see her searching and she finds an explosive on the show, she’s finding her narcotics odors. We try and stay current on everything just because if you had a kid who’s a math wiz, just because he’s good at it doesn’t mean you stop challenging him.
Dita has pulled some impressive stunts on the show, wowing the audience when she climbed a ladder. The only thing that Melnick had to say no to was when producers wanted a shot of someone feeding beef jerky. But Dita isn’t allowed any human food, so Melnick declined. Thankfully, they were completely cool about it.
Melnick also has his own role on SEAL Team as Brock Reynolds. Dita and the other dog that makes appearances, Cerberus, aren’t in every episode. But the dogs are always a fascinating part of the series when they do make an appearance.
If you want to watch episodes of SEAL Team, you can find the show on Paramount +.