Trainer Justin Silver's Toughest Clients? Humans, Not Dogs

05/30/2012 at 05:35 PM EDT

Justin Silver Stars in New Series Dogs in the City
Justin Silver
Heather Wines/Landov
How do you go from being a stand-up comedian with a personal training day job to becoming the dog guru of New York City?

For Justin Silver, it was easy.

"The only thing on at 4 o'clock in the morning are those really depressing animal commercials," Silver tells PEOPLE. "Next thing I know, there are two adopted dogs and two cats living in my house and I was working as a foster. That was the first thing that made me feel whole and complete."

Fostering turned into dog training, and "before I knew it, I had to get business cards made." Now, Silver is the star of a new CBS reality series, Dogs in the City, where he tackles the unique yet universal challenges facing New York City dogs – and their bizarre, challenging owners.

"I really try to key into what the person's issues are," he says. "Dogs are the barometer for the person they live with. They're taking their cues from you."

While training a dog comes naturally for Silver, it's often the owners who take longer to learn better behavior. The backdrop of the big city makes the work all the more interesting.

"When you've got neurotic New Yorkers and you amplify that by putting their pets in front of them, you're in no shortage of entertainment," he says. "The issues are exaggerated because everything in New York is exaggerated. It's such an extreme environment."

Catch the premiere of Dogs in the City, airing tonight on CBS at 8 p.m.

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