The pros and cons of dogs in show business
By Nicole Pajer
Does this situation sound familiar? You can’t walk down the street without people stopping to tell you how adorable your dog is and commenting on the fact that he should be in movies. As you politely accept these compliments, you can’t help but wonder if what they are saying is true. Is your adorable pooch destined to have his name in lights?
Landing your canine a role on the big screen can be rewarding but is not an easy task. It is a very competitive industry - made even more competitive with the proliferation of blogs and social media - that involves a lot of patience, creativity, money, and advanced training. Before you launch your dog’s career on Instagram, Vine, or in traditional show business, here are some things to consider:
Your dog will learn all sorts of new tricks. Getting your dog ready for auditions will require enrolling it in advanced training programs that focus on television and film set preparation, as well as teaching new tricks at home:
“After Gracie learned about 30 behaviors (she knows 50), you start to think of what else can I get the dog to do? So, I taught her to scratch on cue, I thought if a flea medicine commercial ever comes up, she’s a shoo-in,” explains Mick Hannaway, owner of dog actor, Gracie.
It’s fun to see your dog in movies. Who wouldn’t love turning on their television and seeing their dog’s adorable face?
The folks at Rat Terrier ResQ recently had one of their puppies featured in Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet. “The pups had a great time and it was awesome to see one of our dogs on TV.”
Opportunity to make some money. “As far as money, you are not going to be a millionaire anytime soon, but dog rental can pay up to $300 to $400 per day. If you are lucky and book a four-day job, it’s a good chunk of money,” explains Joel Norton, head trainer at Hollywood Paws.
Canine actors can become therapy dogs. On-set training helps dogs cope with distractions, which is crucial in training for therapeutic situations.
“Gracie is also a Therapy Dog; she visits hospitals and children’s facilities and schools. Therapy dog training goes with animal acting training well, because a dog that can cope with distractions and odd noises as well as do the behaviors we ask, is what we want in a studio dog,” Hannaway explains.
Stronger bond between dog and owner. “The best part of training for production work is seeing owners spend more time and bond with their pet in a whole new way. There is an added benefit of much more control that can lead to new hobbies to do with your pet. If you developed the kind of control with your dog, having your dog earn their Canine Good Citizen or Therapy Dog certification is no problem,” Norton explains.
It’s a big commitment for both the dog and owner. In order to have your dog involved in acting, or to have a successful Instagram or Vine account for your dog, you’ll need to commit to extensive training and keeping your dog and it’s coat in perfect shape. You'll need to spend time almost daily coming up with creative concepts for photos or videos that will keep an Instagram or Vine audience engaged. You will also need to be available to rush off to last-minute castings as they pop up.
“If a job for your dog comes up, you have to be willing and able to take it, otherwise someone else will,” Hannaway says.
Preparing your dog for the big screen can be expensive. Animal acting often involves costly expenses such as advanced training classes and professional photographs.
It’s competitive. Just because you go through all the necessary training and grooming doesn’t guarantee that your dog will make it to the movies.
“The hard part in this industry is even of you have all of the necessary training and skill for production, just like in the human acting world, someone else has to pick your dog and decide that it has the look and skills they want,” explains Norton.
Having your dog in the spotlight takes away from it being a pet. When you are committing your dog to acting, the focus of your dog/owner relationship can shift from playing fetch and going to the dog park to rigorous training sessions and constant auditions.
“When on set, he couldn’t be a puppy and play – it was all work,” explains Sophia Petowski, whose dog appeared in a Dog Fancy advertisement.
If you’d like to bond with your dog, further it’s training, and earn a little extra income, then involving your dog in acting can be a great adventure for both yourself and your canine. If you are convinced that your dog is destined for the big screen, it is crucial that you find the balance between your pup being an actor and a family pet. Realize that your four-legged friend is probably not going to get his own star on Hollywood Blvd. or earn enough to pay all your household bills. See this as a bonding experience between you and your pet and a fun way to spend more time together.