Think your dog’s got what it takes to strut their stuff in front of the camera like the stars of Rover’s new Walk It Out commercial? We asked celebrity dog trainer Nicole Ellis, member of Rover’s Dog People Panel, just what your dog needs to know before heading to Hollywood.
Walk It Out
Read on for tips about getting your dog in showbiz, and enjoy the commercial with its fabulous human and dog actors. You’ll also find out more about the dogs behind the scenes of Walk It Out.
In addition to her work with family pets, Nicole has trained dogs for jobs in photo shoots, commercials, and movie productions. Her personal dog Maggie has an impressive acting resume and knows well over 100 tricks. Maggie’s friendly demeanor and ability to learn new behaviors quickly land her prize roles.
Dexter the Corgi
Being a canine actor means being confronted with unusual situations. Nicole shares, “Maggie’s done all sorts of odd shots from 20,000 balloons falling on her to being chased by Yoda while riding on a skateboard. Having a confident dog is going to be very important for potentially scary scenes like this.”
Dog actors and models work with a wide range of people in a lot of different settings. A reserved or reactive dog may quickly reach burnout or boiling point on a busy set.
Talon the Afghan Hound
Motivated by Toys or Treats
A highly-motivated dog wants to learn new things in order to enjoy playing the training game. They want to win great prizes like food or time with a favorite toy.
Motivated dogs learn new behaviors quickly, are able to reproduce them reliably and don’t mind performing them again and again in front of the camera.
Jeremy the Poodle
Training is definitely the most important part of getting gigs for your dog. Not only does your dog need to know a lot of commands for the stage, they need to reproduce those behaviors quickly and accurately every time they are asked on set.
Nicole adds, “one of our most common behaviors for set work is taking a mark, which means teaching the dog to stand on a particular spot or object, from a leaf to tape on the ground, and doing every behavior asked while staying on that mark.”
This helps keep the camera perfectly focused on the dog during filming.
Carlos the Mutt and Zamara the Great Dane
Nicole’s Top 10 Commands for Dog Actors
These important commands need to be performed in response to silent hand cues. Not only that, but they’re performed at a distance of at least 10 feet from the trainer.
- Go to mark
- Stay on mark
- Move from mark to mark
- Lie down
- Head up
- Head down
Delilah and Macy the Pekingese
All Day Energy
A successful dog actor is excited to work and loves to work, no matter how long the day or how many repetitions of a scene. Sometimes dog and trainer are on set for a very long time.
While the pets do get to rest in their crates and are always with their trainer, it’s important that even at hour 10 they are just as excited to do their job as on hour 1.
Bosco the Basset Hound
Consider Using a Pet Agent
It’s not required to have a pet agent, but they streamline your dog’s career in three important ways.
The big thing your agent will do is help your dog find available jobs. A pet agency also handles insurance and contracts for your dog, and can easily hire a trainer to take your dog to shoots when you’re not available.
If you’re managing your dog’s career on your own, Nicole recommends Craigslist as a good place to find smaller gigs. Knowing people in the industry is a huge benefit to finding work, as well.
Does your Dog Have What it Takes?
Nicole’s makes an interesting final point: don’t do this for the money! “It’s definitely not the riches people imagine and most people, like Maggie and I, do it because we love it.”
Nicole adds, “most dogs in the business are owned by trainers and animal training companies specifically for production work.” Logistically, it’s easier for the trainers as they know the dogs’ behavior and demeanor.
But don’t give up hope—a lot of casting are looking for fresh faces, too. If your dog fits the bill, there’s always a chance she can be a star.