Dr. Jan Pol really is incredible. The star of Nat Geo WILD’s The Incredible Dr. Pol has kept his show going for a whopping 17 seasons, and this year expanded it even further with a YouTube series entitled Recheck that brings viewers further into his world.
As if that’s not enough, he’s just launched a new line of animal feeds that are available through several major retailers including Amazon, Chewy.com and in-store and online at Tractor Supply Co.; a full list is at the end of this article. I caught up with Dr. Pol to ask about these new ventures and discuss why he’s continued to stick with the TV show for so long in our interview.
The season finale of The Incredible Dr. Pol airs tonight at 9:00 p.m. on Nat Geo WILD; you can also find Recheck on Dr. Pol’s YouTube channel.
Brittany Frederick: What is it about The Incredible Dr. Pol that still interests you after all these years?
Dr. Jan Pol: To be honest with you, I don’t watch much of the show. Because whenever I watch the show I always think,” Why did they use this?” or, “Why didn’t they use that? Why isn’t it this way?” They’re filming over a hundred hours a week and they use 40 minutes for the show. I don’t know what they’re going to do if I ever retire because they probably have so much footage that they can use it for the next 50 years if they want to. (laughs)
It’s a family show for all ages. [His wife] Diane and I go to church. We treat others like we want to be treated. And it’s the positive message that comes through the show that people really love. This is what we hear from all our fans – oh, it’s so nice to see that the family all gets along good together, [that they] have fun together. That the people in the clinic are almost like family. This is what our fans really like.
BF: Your job is very detail-oriented; you need a lot of focus. So how have you continued to work with a TV crew following you around all the time? Did that take some adjustment in the early going?
JP: When you’re working with large animals, or even small animals, you cannot be distracted. I can’t ever turn my back on an animal. I have to focus on the animal because otherwise you get hurt. And if they ever do behind the scenes [footage], watch it, because I yell at those camera guys so much. “You’re standing in the wrong spot. Hey, get out of there. You’re going to get hurt.”
I know animals. I grew up with them. I was born and raised on a dairy farm in The Netherlands. I have a book out called Never Turn Your Back on an Angus Cow. And it is so true, because I just had a lady here this week who got run over by an Angus cow, and when she was thrown on the ground, he stomped on her. She had a broken clavicle, a broken rib, broken vertebrae – you name it.
BF: The great thing about season 17 is you’re expanding your brand with the YouTube aftershow. How much fun has that been for you, because it’s very different from linear TV.
JP: It’s a whole new thing filming our new YouTube variety show. When I have to be in front of the camera and not doing my thing with animals it’s a little bit harder. I have to think a little bit more, I guess. It’s different. It’s fun. [His son] Charles is the one who created the new YouTube show, and Charles is also a producer of The Incredible Dr. Pol, which he created 10 years ago. He knows what he wants and he knows how to get it. Many times we don’t even have to do two or three takes; usually the first one is the best.
BF: Working so closely with your son and having your family on the show, has that made the overall reality TV experience better? Because you’re sharing it with them and it really is a family project, not just your show.
JP: Doing it with Diane and our family makes it so much fun. There’s always a lot happening, and the reaction we get from fans is very, very positive.
I’ve always been a guy who wanted to know why. My parents and my brothers and sister got sick of me always asking why? The same thing happens in my practice when I tell clients, especially the farmers, why I’m doing it and they can see how I’m doing it. And sometimes the next time they can do it themselves which is fine. Especially if it’s not something special, and it helps them do a better follow-up. If I prescribe medicine for them to give their animals, they know why it has to be done. And I think that’s very important.
BF: The Incredible Dr. Pol has educated so many viewers, so is there anything that you have learned through the experience of the show?
JP: We had no idea that a show like this could be that popular. There are so many people out there who want to watch a clean show that is family-orientated so that the whole family can watch together, and [that] is what they got. We also didn’t know that this was going to be an educational show that people can learn from.
All these things just amaze me, that it’s happened this way. And I’m very happy. We were at the national conference of the AVMA several years ago, and we were told that the teachers from New York to California use our show in their school districts to teach kids who don’t have access to farming.
BF: The 17th season is wrapping up, but you still have a busy practice even when the cameras aren’t rolling. So do you ever get actual time off, or what is your life like when we’re not seeing it on TV?
JP: We are still at work and we still see a lot of cases when the crew isn’t there. We will just keep going. When the crew isn’t here it’s a little bit more quiet, but the work is always there. About 10 years ago, a lady walked into the clinic with a camera on her belly and she looks around. Looks at us and says, is this a real clinic? “Yes ma’am, we work here but the filming is secondary.”
The funny thing is also when the crew has been off for six weeks then [they] come back, I tell them oh my gosh, you missed this thing, you missed that thing. You’re not going on vacation; you can’t go to Florida. Now nobody’s traveling any place, of course. But through the years when the crew is gone for a couple of weeks, they always miss some good things.
BF: Now on top of all this you have your branded feed line that’s recently come out. What do fans need to know about that, and what sets it apart from other products?
JP: We have partnered with a company called Consumers Supply in Sioux City, Iowa that makes high-quality pet and farm animal feeds for dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, goats, chicken and gamebirds – all made in America.
Whereas most animal feed products on the market today use meat meals or by-product meals as the source of animal protein because they are less expensive than strictly using animal meat, the Dr. Pol Difference is that these diets use high inclusions of single animal meats and no meals or by-products.
The feedback is that the animals all like it and do very well on it! I heard a story recently about a lady who has an older horse that was always getting picked on and was losing weight. We gave her a bag of the horse feed, and within a week that horse was gaining weight and doing real good. So we are very proud of the new Dr. Pol feeds! I hope that more and more people will find it and start feeding it to their animals.
The Dr Pol feeds are now available in store and online at Tractor Supply Co & TractorSupply.com, Chewy.com, HeartyPet.com, Amazon.com, and Theisens & Theisens.com.
The Incredible Dr. Pol season 17 finale airs tonight at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on Nat Geo WILD. Previous seasons of the series are now streaming on Disney+.