Dog Modeling: The Ultimate Guide

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, and you’re up for being a stage-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 how to get started.

Getting Started in Dog Modeling

There's a certain step-by-step path you can follow to launch yourself and your pooch into dog modeling and acting career. Here's what you should start with.

Snapping “Headshots”

There are plenty of options when it comes to snapping your dog's headshots. You can save money by taking pictures yourself in a well-lit area, and there's a proper way to do it. Make sure 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 attention.

Dog modeling headshot example

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 is how you can prove to them you have a “different” dog.

If you’re not comfortable snapping headshots for your dog modeling portfolio yourself, try hiring a professional pet photographer who will know how to get the best out of your pooch. 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, which you can then include in your dog’s portfolio and start showing to people to get auditions.

Draw Up a “Dog Modeling Resume”

Once you have photographs for your dog modeling portfolio, it’s time to start working on your pup's resume that will demonstrate to potential buyers what they can expect from your dog and why they should hire the dog.

What kind of things should you include on your dog’s resume?

Previous acting or modeling experience, honors/awards/certifications, training experience, unique talents, unique characteristics, and abilities that may make them 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.

Here's what a dog modeling resume looks like (download resume template here):

Dog Modeling Resume
Dog Modeling Resume ©

If you don't have any actual work that you can put on your dog modeling resume yet – do not stress about it. Every Fido has to start somewhere, so simply include the measurements, training and skills for now.

Get Your Dog an Agent

A pet modeling agent is perhaps your biggest key to success in the dog modeling and acting community. Setting your dog up with a reputable agent 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, just hop online and start your research for “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.

When searching for a reputable animal actor agent, try to find and contact other successful animal actors and find out who they use as their agent. Ask friends for recommendations if their dogs are already in the modeling or acting industries. You can also ask around on doggy forums or reddit to see if any other dog owners have gotten into dog modeling, and can give you specific advice. Finally, if you just don’t know where to begin, Animal Actors International is a good starting point too.

Seek Out Appropriate Auditions

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. At the same time you're trying to get your pooch seen by dog modeling agencies, you can also search for dog modeling jobs, commercial work, enter contests, and otherwise promote your pooch, including using social media. So will help you get your and your dog's name out there, which increases your chances of being signed with a dog modeling agency.

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, but 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.

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 they might not be comfortable with. Never push your dog beyond their 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 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 the both of you; when you start making it unpleasant or anxiety-inducing, it becomes just another job.

Work on Obedience

Obedience training for dog modelingEven 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 that you can help your dog to 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 on a daily basis to reinforce what they already know.

Wash Up and Brush Up

Before you head out to any 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 dog shampoo and conditioner to use that will give your Fido the best look, and shiny and healthy coat. Make sure to brush your pooch thoroughly and deal with tangles, matted hair and other issues that may prevent your pet 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.

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 out in dog modeling and acting, no part is beneath you. There's likely to always be plenty of competition for most parts; however, 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. The more successful jobs your dog has on their resume, the better chance they will have at future auditions because they are considered an experienced animal model or actor.

Dog Modeling and Dog Acting Classes

Even with every obedience class under their belt, you should also look into pursuing dog modeling and pet acting specific classes with your Fido. These classes will help you to better understand what life as a stage parent will be like, but it 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

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 do 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 photo shoots 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, in order to succeed in “animal show biz” your dog must be a performer at heart. This means they cannot be aggressive or stubborn, and must be very social and friendly, and have a good grasp of obedience commands.

A dog should be able to keep their cool even when there’s a lot of 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 know not to be) then they simply don’t have anything compelling them to perform well, which will 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 at around $150 for a single shoot 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 and as their client, they can get you an opportunity to interview. A dog modeling agency is the 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 different jobs when trying out for auditions and to show plenty of variety in their portfolio of photos and action videos. Include pieces that showcase your dog’s talents as well as 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, but 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

Dog Modeling - The Ultimate GuideAs the final point I want to remind people of safety. When pursuing 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 a lot of wolves out there who pray 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.
  • You should 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 the way you treat people in the industry has 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!

READ NEXT: How to Get Started in Dog Shows


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