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How to Get Your Dog into Movies

Everyone thinks their pet is a star. But does your dog show true Hollywood potential? Getting him or her into show business may seem like an easy way to get famous, or at least pet-famous, but preparing your dog for the big time can be even more difficult than trying to get yourself into a movie or a TV show.

The main problem are the numerous professionals and lack of opportunities out there. Your pet will face competition from private kennels and dogs that have been trained to be actors from birth. And to be honest, it cannot be stressed enough how difficult it is for any private pets to break into the industry. Like we constantly talk about this on TopDogTips.com, it’s simply more convenient for mid to large sized productions to contact a kennel and have them prepare well-trained animals who are always ready.

Now, is it possible that you can have your dog taken to a pet casting, and start him off on this journey in movies and TV? And that possibly some day he may attract some attention from a bigger production and get paid a lot of movie to appear in a Hollywood blockbuster? It is. It’s difficult, but it’s definitely possible, and there are ways to do this. There are castings happening all the time, especially in places like Los Angeles, and there are schools that teach dogs to be film stars.

An obedient dog is a potential star, according to CDs

Obedience training has to become your first priority at this point. If you want to see your dogs in a Hollywood film or an ad on TV some day, your have to train them to be 100% obedient on and off the leash. Animal agencies and film directors need an animal who will do as they say the first time they say it. There are so many things that are happening on a film or TV set, and even more that goes into a creating a picture, so directors often don’t have the time or patience to repeat themselves if a dog doesn’t listen the first time. Behave, or be fired.

How to Get Your Dog into Movies
Remember Uggie, a dog movie star from an Oscar-winning film  “The Artist”?

The tricks that your dog needs to know in show business are common sense when you think about it. You’ve likely seen a dog on TV before. What did he have to do? Usually, they’ve have to be trained to go to a certain spot on the set, follow certain actors at the right time, sit and speak on command, roll over, and other basic actions.

In terms of training, there’s nothing new even for a first time dog owner. All you need to keep in mind is that your pooch’s training and response must be foolproof. For commands, even the basic ones will do to start with: “go to a mark”, “head down”, “speak”, “on your side”, “go with,” “sit, stay, voice.” Your dog must be able to perform all of this without hesitation in a very distraction-rich environment to have a chance in Hollywood.

RELATED: Best dog obedience training schools

If you are really worried that you might not be able to train your dog to follow these commands, there are so-called Hollywood dog obedience classes specifically designed to teach show business tricks to dogs, cats, and other talented animals. If you live in an area or a city where they constantly set filming products, such as Los Angeles, it is highly likely you will find an acting class for your pet in your area. That’s right – dog acting classes!

To check if your canine is ready for filming before you contact any local animal agencies, test your pooch with the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizenship test, or CGC for short. This dog training test ensures that your Fido meets the highest standards of behavior and is well mannered, well kept, and well trained. Everyone who passes the official test earn themselves a certificate and title that proves to casting directors that this dog is one that they might want to consider.

CGC is by no means Hollywood-ready enough, but it’s a good start.

How to Get Your Dog into Movies
Photo: Joyce

Your dog breed’s and your specific canine’s temperament will have a huge impact on how well he can be trained, and how successful he can become in movies. You’ll need to use some common sense and objectivity. Assess your dog’s personality with 100% honesty and decide if he has the chops to break into Hollywood scene. A few things to look for in a potential dog movie star:

  • He must be confident and not shy
  • Friendliness and social skills are important
  • Full obedience is necessary, and stubbornness is bad
  • Patience will have a great deal of importance, too
  • Always well-balanced, calm mood with no anxiety

There are just a few qualities that would represent a well-behaved dog who is safe, trainable and simply a perfect choice to work in a big team on a large film production where there’s a lot of distractions.

“Looking for a gorgeous dog to play the lead part!”

The next thing you should do to make sure your dog is the one canine casting directors will pick to be the next famous Hollywood dog is that he’s really well groomed. Remember how often you’ve heard that a good looking person must become an actor or a model? Then you shouldn’t be surprised that the same applies even to dogs!

RELATED: How to groom a dog at home

Casting directors often choose pets and animals based on their looks, after being certain the animal is well trained. It doesn’t matter what breed your Fido is, because dog breeds go in and out of fashion in show business just like clothing and hairstyle trends. A director might ask for a popular breed such as a Golden Retriever, or they may ask for a unique-looking dog of mixed breed. There is no telling who will want your dog or when, so the best thing you can do is make sure your dog is ready and looks his best when it’s time to shine.

How to Get Your Dog into Movies
Photo: B Garrett

For the most part, a lot of dogs are already cute and good looking. Especially if the part calls for a puppy, you can take any young dog and it would be difficult to say no to them. Looks wouldn’t be my first concern, if I were to choose to get my dog into Hollywood movies.

Your first and primary concern should be over something you do have control over, and that’s training, training, training. There’s a lot that goes into a canine’s training routine, and especially the one where you have to prepare them for a Hollywood production, so I won’t expand on this here. I will write a separate post later on how to train dogs for movies where we can discuss strictly training routines and methods.

Choosing a dog breed that’s guaranteed to be popular

Unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to do this.

This is more of a side note in case you were ever thinking about picking a dog breed for the sole purpose of making him into a movie star and relying on the breed’s popularity. In reality, there’s nothing you can do to guesstimate or impact the popularity of dog breeds. There were some theories before that shows like Westminister Dog Show have a big impact on the popularity of the breed which then transfers into movies, but this hypothesis has since been debunked (study, PDF).

Other theories suggest that the influence of dog breed popularity comes from the movies themselves, and this seems to be a more probable case:

Our results confirm quantitatively the common belief that movies can have a lasting impact on popular culture. In the case of dog breed popularity, the impact of movies has been large.” – from the linked study.

If that’s true, there is no way for us to know which breed will be a more successful movie star next year. Casting directors, directors and producers will make that decision for us, and the success of the movie or a TV show will determine how popular the breed becomes.

Surviving dog casting process for movies will be tough

Casting for animal actors is just as tough and competitive as casting for human actors, and you will probably meet a lot of rejection, especially in the beginning. Don’t hold it against the CDs; it’s the nature of the business. Many people dislike casting directors because they are the ones who reject 99% of pets. They have to. There’s only one part, and hundreds, if not thousands, of animals. It’s a tough job, and talent should be more understanding towards these professionals.

RELATED: 25 best dog books pet owners should read

You and your dog will likely not be hired right off the bat the minute you decide to embark on this journey of making your dog a Hollywood success, even if your dog is super well trained and ultra cute (okay, maybe in that case your chances are higher). Rejection is synonymous with Hollywod. There will be long periods of time between jobs where your particular dog breed is just not being asked for. It is important to keep trying and to not give up. The more you get out there, the better you’ll understand how show business works, you’ll get experience and will do better at auditions ever single time.

How to Get Your Dog into Movies
So which one fits the best the best? Photo: xan latta

Also remember that canines are capable of sensing your emotions, and even estimating your mood based on your facial expressions. Don’t channel any negativity towards them from all the rejection that you receive. Your dog will likely pick up on that and it may affect the way they act during future auditions. Always be hopeful, cheerful and give off a very positive vibe so that your pooch can associate happiness with auditions. This will make it much easier for you to handle your dog and have him follow directions during multiple auditions you’ll be going to.

If your dog becomes a Hollywood movie star…

The life of a Hollywood dog star can be difficult for both, the dog and his trainer. If you are the trainer of your pet, the situation might be slightly less stressful, but stressful nonetheless. However, most bigger movie productions will insist on hiring a certified dog trainer to ensure a well-trained and obedient dog at all times. They probably won’t take your word for it.

How to Get Your Dog into Movies
Photo: Robb Wilson

Try to enjoy life as much as possible, and do the same for your pooch who’s now probably earning you quite a bit of that Hollywood cash. Make some effort so that you and your dog are able to travel for work without getting stressed out.

Shooting days often start early and end late, and can take many hours to finish, so you’ll be the one caring for your pooch the most during those long hours. Conditions on set will always be safe for your dog, so that shouldn’t be a worry for you as his handler (if you remain one).

Any film or TV set using an animal actor must meet standards set by the American Humane Society Film and Television Unit and will often have a representative on set to make sure in person that the dog and trainer are not pressured into doing something that is unsafe for the dog. There’s also a website that expands more on this – HumaneHollywood.org.

RELATED: 21 must-know dog training tips

Can a dog have an agent? No, there’s no such thing as a true pet agency (or at least there wasn’t at the time of this writing). Pets are usually considered to be props, and will be “rented” to the production, as cold as that sounds to an animal rights activist. Same applies to all animals across the board; that’s just how Hollywood works. The reason being is what I have said in the very beginning – most film and TV productions will use kennels and special training schools from where they “rent” dogs. Casting for private pets happens, but it’s rare.

How to Get Your Dog into MoviesDon’t give up though. Hollywood is a high-end business that’s constantly expanding, innovating and providing new opportunities. If this is your ambition, then you’ll be able to push hard enough to break through that outer layer of rejection and get to where you need to be. Best of luck to you and your pooch!