Many pet owners argue that their dog is the cutest, the smartest, and the most talented dog around. Are you wondering how you can turn Spot’s star quality into superstardom and get your dog in the movies? Kyra Kirkwood of Dog Fancy Magazine gives us some advice on how to get your pooch into the fiercely competitive world of showbiz. Using her tips, perhaps some day you can take your dog for a walk – on the red carpet!
How to get your Dog in the Movies
What makes a great canine media star? First, the dog must have the right temperament and disposition to be in front of the camera. Dogs who succeed in print work for magazines, in commercials, on television, or in the movies all possess a strong level of friendliness, confidence, a rock-solid temperament, and a willingness to learn.
“A dog who is well-socialized and can adapt to strange environments can do really well as a dog actor,” says Marla Friedler-Cooper of Hollywood Dog Stars, based in San Clemente, Calif.
No particular breed does better than others. Mixed breeds and purebreds all make fabulous dog stars, so long as their individual personalities and confidence levels are suited for the work, industry professionals say.
A dog doesn’t have to be extraordinarily cute to be chosen, either. Average family dogs or those with a unique look can and do succeed.
“Cuteness is often the last thing that comes up,” says Joel Norton, head studio trainer with Hollywood Paws talent agency in Los Angeles. This group has more than 200 production credits to its name.
Although a distinctive look can be an advantage, dogs who are extremely different looking – one eye, three legs, massive under bite – aren’t booked for many jobs, simply because roles needing those physical descriptions are few and far between, according to canine talent agents.
Another must-have trait for dog stars is a high food drive. Dogs who will perform enthusiastically for treats are easier to work with and master the needed skills quickly.
“If the dog doesn’t want treats, we can’t make a dog do anything,” Norton says.
Age does not matter, but most talent agents will not work with puppies younger than 6 months.
Head of the class
Training is vital. Before launching into a showbiz career, dogs should have a good mastery of basic obedience skills: Sit, Stand, Stay, Come.
“Having some foundation of training is so important when working with animals on a film set,” says Georgina Bradley, animal coordinator for DogStars Animal Training & Talent in Vancouver, Canada.
Even better are the dogs who obey despite many distractions, and respond to their owners’ non-verbal commands (hand signals) from a distance. This is especially helpful on set, when the owner or trainer is located halfway across the room and nowhere near the dog.
“For movie work, you’ve got to start getting some distance in your training”, says Jaime Van Wye, CEO of the Zoom Room Dog Agility Center & Canine Social Club, with venues across the U.S. including Hollywood, Calif. “Your dog needs to be impeccably trained.”
Although mastering obedience skills is mandatory, acting classes are an additional fun and oftentimes useful training option. Dogs learn Hollywood-type tricks and traits, such as finding a mark (a piece of tape on the floor that indicates where an actor should stand), cocking his head, waving a paw, and even lifting a leg on command without urinating. Many dog-training venues offer acting classes.
“We train the owners to train the dogs,” says Van Wye, a master certified dog trainer.
That’s a key component to success in canine Hollywood: the owner’s motivation and dedication. It takes work to train a dog, and even more work when training a dog to do complex tricks. Owners must keep up the learned skills, because there’s no telling when Hollywood will call.
As we learned from Kyra Kirkwood from Dog Fancy Magazine, with a lot of persistence, training and luck you just might be able to get your dog in the movies. You can read the rest of her article here. Has your pup been a star on the silver screen? Tell us how your dog broke into showbiz below!