Could your dog be the next top dog model? If you have aspirations of your dog being the next Purina pup or the next spokes-dog for Chewy.com, and you’re up for being a stage pet parent, then it’s time to learn how to get your dog’s paw in the door of showbiz. Here's what you should know about dog modeling and dog acting careers and how to get started.
Table of Contents
- Getting Started in Dog Modeling
- Dog Modeling FAQ’s
- Key Points on Pursuing Dog Modeling
Getting Started in Dog Modeling
There's a certain step-by-step path you can follow to launch yourself and your pooch into the dog modeling and acting business. Follow the below steps to get yourself off the ground.
1. Snapping “Headshots.”
First, you need to put together your dog's modeling “package,” which you'll use to market your pet. Headshots (essential a style of pet portrait) are one of the key components of that package.
There are many ways of snapping your dog's headshots. You can hire a professional headshot photographer with a studio, which usually costs anywhere from $200 to $1000 per session. Or you can save money by taking pictures yourself in a well-lit area, but there's a proper way to do it.
Ensure that your pictures are clear and show a variety of situations and expressions that showcase your dog’s versatility. Don’t just go with the traditional poses either; try to include some off-the-wall and unique snaps that will grab an agent's attention.
The more diversity you can include in your dog modeling portfolio, the better your chance of getting audition opportunities. Most agents, companies, photographers, and producers are looking for unique dogs that stand out, and your pup's headshots are how you can prove to them you have a “different” dog.
If you've tried and found that you're not good at snapping headshots for your dog modeling portfolio yourself, try hiring a local professional pet photographer who will know how to get the best out of your pooch. Here are some people: Jenna Regan, Margaret Bryant, or a studio like Haute Dog. Find something similar in your area.
Then, once you have a nice range of pictures to pick from, choose about 3-5 of the best dog modeling photos and get 8” x 10” prints done (this is standard). You can then include these in your dog’s portfolio and start showing them to people to get pet auditions.
2. Draw Up a “Dog Modeling Resume.”
After you have photographs for your dog modeling portfolio, it’s time to start working on your pup's second most important package part – the resume. This is essentially a showbiz CV that will demonstrate to potential buyers, casting directors, and agents what they can expect from your dog and why they should hire your pet.
What kind of things should you include on your dog’s resume? There are standard requirements for dog modeling/acting resume, and they must be structured in a certain way:
- Previous acting or modeling experience
- Honors, awards, certifications
- Dog training experience
- Unique talents, unique characteristics
- Any other abilities that may make the dog stand out from other audition candidates.
For example, if your dog is comfortable around large farm animals, this is something that could make you stand out from other candidates for a commercial spot set on a farm. If your dog is extremely good at some unique trick (riding a skateboard?), this should also be on the resume and at the very top of their unique abilities.
Here's what a dog modeling resume looks like (download hi-res resume template here):
What if you don't have any experience?
If you find your dog's acting resume close to empty because you don't have any experience with model dogs or actor dogs, and your current pet hasn't done any actual modeling/acting work that you can put on your dog modeling resume yet – do not stress because it's not a big deal and not the end of things.
Remember that every Fido has to start somewhere; nobody's born with experience. So include only the measurements, training, and skills for now. Do not invent things and do not lie because it's likely that the casting director will ask you to prove things.
3. Get Your Dog an Agent
Now you have the package – headshots and resume. Time to find someone who can help you market your dog and bring your pup to the attention of casting directors, producers, and other showbiz players.
A pet modeling agent is perhaps your biggest key to success (they're often referred to as “gatekeepers”) in the dog modeling and acting community. Sometimes, this could also be a well-connected manager. Setting your dog up with a reputable agent or manager will give you access to more auditions and better-quality auditions than if you select a lesser-known agent.
To begin your search for an animal actor/model agent, hop online and start your research for a “dog modeling agency near me.” Find an agent local to you for easier access to them when needed but be forewarned that most big animal actor agents are located in large cities like New York and Los Angeles.
A note about agent/manager scams
Show business is full of scammers that always look to make easy money off people with big dreams. This is especially common among “agents” and/or “managers,” so be careful and stay vigilant.
To keep yourself and your dog away from these shady scam artists, there's only one simple rule you need to follow: no reputable agent or manager will ask you to pay for their service, ever.
Agents and managers make their money on commissions only. This means that an animal agent meets you and your dog, decides to sign you up as their client, and then goes out and tries to find your work and auditions. If your pup books a modeling or acting audition, does the job, and gets paid, an agent gets 10-20% commission off of that pay. That's the only way reputable dog modeling agents and managers make money.
Again – NEVER pay anybody to represent your model/actor dog.
Tips on finding a reputable dog agent
When searching for a reputable animal actor agent, try to find and contact other successful animal actors and determine who they use as their agent.
Ask friends, dog trainers, veterinarians, canine behaviorists, or anybody else in a related field for recommendations if their clients' dogs are already in the modeling or acting industries.
You should also ask around online on different dog forums or Reddit to see if any other dog owners have gotten into dog modeling and can give you specific advice. Try subreddits like /r/dogs and /r/DogAdvice for more tips.
Finally, if you don’t know where to begin, Animal Actors International is a good starting point, too, at least to read up on the basics of dog modeling and to act.
4. Seek Out Auditions Yourself
The ultimate goal is to find the agent who will get you top-tier auditions. However, it may take a while to find an agent and get signed, and patience and perseverance are what it takes in this business. As they say, it's a marathon – not a sprint.
As you're trying to get your pooch seen by my dog modeling agencies, you can also search for dog modeling jobs, commercial work, enter show dog contests, and otherwise promote your pooch, including using social media, by yourself.
Nobody's stopping you from turning your pup into a social media superstar, which would be extremely helpful in getting further (and better paid) work. This will help you get your dog's name out there and start building a fan-base, which increases your chances of being signed with a top-tier dog modeling agency in Los Angeles or New York City.
Build your dog's brand
You're taking two approaches here: agent path and personal path, and you need to work on both simultaneously to increase your chances of success. Your goal is to build a brand around your dog. So while you're applying to animal modeling and acting agencies, while seeking auditions, and/or while your agent is doing this, you should also do more work yourself – get on social media.
- Tik Tok
- Personal dog's website
Register on these platforms and start creating simple, funny, short-form content with quick videos and photos. Keep pumping these out and promoting them—the more shareable, the better. If you have an agent, make sure you're aware of all these.
Keep finding auditions, and keep auditioning your dog
Once you get signed and have a dog modeling agency on your side, you will have access to more legit and bigger pet modeling and animal acting opportunities for your Fido, including big Hollywood blockbuster movies, commercials for huge brands like Purina or Coca-Cola, and more. This is where the big money and fame are, but it takes work.
At the very beginning of these “high-level” auditions, it’s still important that you screen those auditions. In addition to having your agent seek out audition opportunities, you can also continue to seek out auditions on your own and find similarly huge opportunities on casting websites.
However you come across dog modeling auditions or other pet showbiz gigs, never take your dog to an audition if you know that it’s something your pup might not be comfortable with. Never push your dog beyond its limits either, both health-wise and age-wise.
For example, if your dog is 10 years old, they may be perfect for a senior dog food brand commercial, but don’t take them to an audition for a white water rafting commercial. The dog modeling and pet acting process should always be fun for both of you; when you start making it unpleasant or anxiety-inducing, it becomes just another job.
5. Work on Obedience
Even if your dog has flown through basic and advanced obedience classes, it’s always advantageous to pursue other classes that will refine your dog’s skills and give them practice being around strangers, and particularly a large number of people.
The more skills you can help your dog master, the more confident they will be in their auditions and the more likely you will be to get the part. Unique skills, in particular, can help you find more dog modeling auditions and book them.
Even if you don’t pursue formal classes with your dog anymore because they’ve “done them all,” take every opportunity available to practice tricks, commands, and talents. At the very least, you should work with your dog for an hour a day daily to reinforce what they already know.
6. Wash Up and Brush Up
Before you head out to an audition, be sure to give your pup a bath and a good brush. At this point, you must know exactly which type of products, like what dog shampoo and conditioner to use that will give your Fido the best look and shiny and healthy coat.
Looks are essential for a model or actor dog, so make sure to brush your pooch thoroughly and deal with tangles, matted hair, and other issues that may prevent your pet from looking his best for a dog modeling audition – photos will be taken!
After the full-on grooming session, whether at home or a professional studio, this will leave the dog looking particularly attractive and help stand out in photos; plus, it’ll also cut down on shedding on set for the audition. Don’t try using any new bath products on the day before or the day of an audition, though; the last thing you want to risk is an allergic reaction to a new bath product or poor results from the wash.
7. Go for Parts to Build Your Dog’s Resume
When your dog modeling agency offers you auditions, if they’re a fit for your dog’s talent, take as many of them as you can. When you first start dog modeling and acting, you should know that almost no part is beneath you (or your dog).
There's likely always to be plenty of competition for most parts. However, as long as it doesn't put your pet in danger, the goal should be for the dog to gain experience auditioning, always be comfortable, and slowly make connections with casting directors and producers.
Your aim is also to have fun and give your dog the chance to experience plenty of new situations, all the while building up the dog modeling resume in case you book any jobs. Your dog's more successful jobs on their resume, the better chance they will have at future auditions because they are considered an experienced animal model or actor.
8. Dog Modeling and Dog Acting Classes
Even with every obedience class under their belt, you should also pursue dog modeling and pet acting specific classes with your pooch. These classes will help you to understand better what life as a stage parent will be like, but they will also give you and your dog industry-specific skills that will help them to stand out from other audition candidates.
Additionally, industry-specific skills will make your dog more confident in their ability when they recognize on-set commands and know how to behave in response to them.
Your dog modeling agency will be able to put you in touch with reputable animal acting and dog modeling classes that are worth pursuing or specific people like dog trainers who can work with you and your pooch.
Dog Modeling FAQ’s
Below are some of the most common questions pet owners ask about dog modeling.
What Kind of Work Can Dog Models Do?
Dog models can do just about anything human models do. They can print advertisements, video advertisements, star at special events, become a spokes-dog for a company, take part in theater shows, model on the runway, take part in action shots for magazine photographs, pose for product packaging photographs, and a lot more. Dog modeling doesn't involve only posing for photoshoots but a large range of projects.
What Type of Dogs Do Best in Pet Modeling or Acting?
Every dog breed, size, and age can find a place in dog modeling or animal acting; there really is a niche for everyone. That said, to succeed in “animal show biz,” your dog must be a performer at heart. This means they cannot be aggressive or stubborn, be very social and friendly, and have a good grasp of obedience commands.
The dog should be able to keep their cool even when there’s a lot of the hustle and bustle going on around them, and they should not be easily startled by new situations. Lastly, to excel, your dog must be driven to please. If your dog has no desire to please (and some dog breeds are known not to be), they don’t have anything compelling them to perform well, making it much harder to succeed at dog modeling.
How Much Do Dog Models Get Paid?
Just like with human modeling gigs, the amount your dog will get paid varies based on the job, your dog’s experience, and the commitment required of your dog on the project. For example, if your dog is to become the spokesperson in an exclusive contract with a large pet food store for the next 12 months, you can expect a larger paycheck than you would for a one-off commercial where your dog is a background extra.
To give you a basic idea, the starting point for dog models tends to be around $150 for a single shot, according to Michele Ryan, owner of Train Pawsitive.
What Does a “Typical” Dog Modeling Job Consist of?
There really is no such thing as a “typical” job when it comes to dog modeling. It’s an entertaining process to watch, but it’s always unpredictable, so if you like things to be just so and anything out of place makes you anxious, it’s better to stay away from being a dog stage-parent.
How Do You Find Modeling or Acting Jobs for Your Dog?
The internet is your best friend when it comes to finding dog modeling or acting jobs for your pet. Scroll through different acting-related message boards like Backstage Forum and join animal acting communities. Search online for dog auditions as well, and you’ll find plenty of results come up. If you’re willing to expand your search radius outside of your immediate living area, you will find that many more dog modeling audition opportunities open up as well.
Most importantly, find your dog an animal acting or modeling agent. An agent will not only help you to put together a professional portfolio for your dog and guide you through the process as a stage-parent, but they will also have connections that can get you auditions. Agents are often aware of upcoming auditions and closed auditions that are not listed on public websites and forums. As their client, they can get you an opportunity to interview. A dog modeling agency is a gatekeeper into show business.
What’s the Most Important Thing for Any Aspiring Dog Model or Pet Actor to Have on Their Resume?
When it comes to building up your dog modeling and acting resume, it’s important to show versatility and experience. The best way to do this is to pursue plenty of various jobs when trying out for auditions and show plenty of variety in their portfolio of photos and action videos. Include pieces that showcase your dog’s talents and portray them in various situations, for example, in action shots and videos as well as in calm and quiet roles such as sitting in a rest home with elderly patients.
A great way to build up your dog’s pet modeling portfolio variety is to show up for auditions in any niche you can find so long as it’s something that your dog will do well with and be comfortable doing. When you first begin, these jobs may not pay much or anything at all. Still, they will give you an invaluable opportunity to build an interesting portfolio and give your dog the experience they need to excel as a public figure.
Just make sure to keep your dog’s comfort in mind at all times; if your dog shows any signs of stress or just being uncomfortable, it's time to stop what you are doing and walk away. Dog modeling and acting should be fun; it should never be stressful.
Key Points on Pursuing Dog Modeling
As the final point, I want to remind people of safety. When pursuing a dog modeling and acting career with your dog, or even doing this simply for fun, it's best to familiarize yourself with the industry and how things work to avoid being scammed, cheated, or be prayed upon.
This industry can have many wolves out there who prey on the inexperienced, so make sure to do your research and ideally find a dog modeling agency that can have your back at all times.
Finally, even with your dog’s paw already in the door, here are some important things to remember about this business and pursuing your aspirations of dog modeling and acting career:
- If your dog doesn’t have the basic and advanced obedience skills mastered, you need to invest time into that process before you start pursuing a dog modeling or acting career.
- It would be best to never push your dog into a situation or role where they are uncomfortable. This won’t just result in a bad audition; it can also create a bad reputation for your dog in the industry and put a bad taste in your dog’s mouth for auditioning for roles!
- Always be polite. This goes for you and your dog. If you need to, take a class on manners – both of you! The way you and your dog behave and how you treat people in the industry have a huge impact on your future. People talk, and you never know who has what connections, so always be kind!
- It’s not the end of the world if your dog doesn’t do well with modeling or acting. There are many other great ways for your dog to exercise their talents, including taking part in sports, becoming a licensed therapy dog, training for search and rescue work, or just being your best friend!
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