Your dog can be a professional actor - WDAM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports

Your dog can be a professional actor

Updated: July 25, 2011 01:47 PM EDT
What does it take to be a star? First, as with human stars, looks count. (©iStockphoto/Thinkstock) What does it take to be a star? First, as with human stars, looks count. (©iStockphoto/Thinkstock)
  • Most ReadMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Meridian's Bonnie Blue Dulaney crowned Miss Hospitality

    Meridian's Bonnie Blue Dulaney crowned Miss Hospitality

    Sunday, July 27 2014 12:42 AM EDT2014-07-27 04:42:42 GMT
    A Senior Mississippi State University biochemistry major from Meridian has been crowned Mississippi's Miss Hospitality for 2014. Bonnie Blue Dulaney, 21, won the Miss Hospitality Pageant in HattiesburgMore >>
    A Senior Mississippi State University biochemistry major from Meridian has been crowned Mississippi's Miss Hospitality for 2014.More >>
  • Sex allegations lead to investigation at PACE Head Start

    Sex allegations lead to investigation at PACE Head Start

    Friday, July 25 2014 7:52 PM EDT2014-07-25 23:52:45 GMT
    An interim agency will take over operations of the Forrest County PACE Head Start Program due to the failure of properly reporting sexual abuse allegations. The Administration for Children and FamiliesMore >>
    An interim agency will take over operations of the Forrest County PACE Head Start Program due to the failure of properly reporting sexual abuse allegations.More >>
  • Victim of Jackson gang rape sends warning to metro area women

    Victim of Jackson gang rape sends warning to metro area women

    Thursday, July 24 2014 12:04 AM EDT2014-07-24 04:04:58 GMT
    The victim of a vicious gang rape is warning other women in the metro area. The victim and her attorney talked about the attack exclusively with WLBT. The 35-year-old woman, whose identity we are protecting,More >>
    The victim, whose identity we are protecting, said, "He put the gun to my head and told me to take my clothes off.  And that's when I couldn't do nothing. I was just standing there crying. And the other dude came from behind the truck. He put one in my side. And they bent me over in my front seat and they started raping me over and over again."
    More >>

By Kim Boatman
 

Their names may not draw Brangelina-level attention, but plenty of dogs find regular work in Hollywood, on Broadway, in TV commercials, on fashion shoots and more.

What does it take to be a star? First, as with human stars, looks count. Demand for certain breeds follows trends, says Diane Haithman, whose German shepherd, Heidi, has appeared in "Desperate Housewives" and the Web series "Glen of Glenwood." For instance, the "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" movies increased interest in Chihuahuas. "Pets get typecast too," says Jim Leske, a Hollywood-based trainer whose 11-year-old German shepherd, Bear, appears often in police shows.

German shepherds are sought after for "tough dog" or "mean dog" roles, Haithman has found. Golden retrievers win parts for family dogs. Cute mutts also find roles. Some casting is a matter of practicality. A dog with light coloring, for example, will be easier to light on camera.

However, your dog also needs to, well, act. Behavior is a critical element in casting parts for tail-wagging actors, say the experts. Before you begin knocking on doors with 8-by-10 glossies of your best friend, consider this checklist:

  • Temperament -- "Evaluate your little star's temperament before subjecting it to the limelight," says Colleen Safford, a trainer based in New York City. "If your dog is easily startled, not overly interested in mingling with strangers, or spooks easily with different sounds, it's unfair -- not to mention it can be dangerous -- to put him in this position. Sets are busy, unpredictable places."

  • Obedience -- Your dog must have basic obedience skills. It should be able to walk gently on a leash, sit and stay, says Leske. Your dog also will be asked to hit a mark, meaning move to a location on cue. This can be taught with clicker training, offering a food treat, and sounding a clicker when your dog successfully places his front paws on the mark. "Most casting calls only require that dogs do very simple things, but they must be able to do them repetitively, reliably and among the distractions of a busy set," explains Safford.

  • Time -- It is not just about your dog's potential star-power, but it's about the time you're willing to invest. "Most pets you see in commercials either belong to a trainer or to a family who can afford to have a trainer on the payroll," says Leske. For instance, Haithman did pay for some training sessions for Heidi. Also, someone needs to stay on the set or the shoot with your dog, explains Safford. You need to make sure your dog is working in short bursts, taking regular breaks.

Getting Started

You can find casting calls on websites such as Craigslist, says Safford. You can approach talent agencies, but be wary about investing thousands in training on the promise of roles that might not come.

Working with a legitimate trainer can be helpful, though. Casting directors often approach trainers in big media markets, such as New York City and Los Angeles, says Safford. Networking helps. Heidi landed work through someone Haithman's husband knew at the gym where he works out.

Most importantly, think about whether your dog will enjoy the experience. "Is it for you or for the animal?" asks Haithman. "It's a hard life, but there are certain dogs who really take to it. Heidi enjoyed our training sessions immensely, learning to hit a mark. It makes her happy to learn something."

Kim Boatman is a journalist based in Northern California. Her work has appeared in such publications as the Miami Herald, Detroit Free Press and the San Jose Mercury News. She is a lifetime lover of animals and the managing editor of the Exceptional Canine Web program.  

Copyright © 2011 Studio One Networks. All rights reserved.

*DISCLAIMER*: The information contained in or provided through this site section is intended for general consumer understanding and education only and is not intended to be and is not a substitute for professional advice. Use of this site section and any information contained on or provided through this site section is at your own risk and any information contained on or provided through this site section is provided on an "as is" basis without any representations or warranties.