Animal Acting- Does your Dog have what it takes?

Last fall, I was thrown head long into to “animal acting”, when my dog Sweets and I got our first gig. I knew ahead of time what behaviors I needed to train (she was required to push an alphabet block with her nose). After working with my 4 year old mutt for the last few years, dabbling in Agility for Fun classes, there was one thing that we both loved- trick training! With trick training, it was a great opportunity to work with her and allow her and I to be as creative as we wanted, and we both had fun.

If you have a little monster at home that has some great foundation behaviors- sit and down stays with distraction, and a few tricks, your dog may be a perfect candidate for animal acting. How do you break into the business?

Great question.

Contact the Right People

Locally, Carol Rosen, CPDT works with folks and their dogs looking to do production work. Carol is always looking for well-trained dogs that can be comfortable on set, around new things and people. Train the Basics Don’t waste too much time teaching a “roll over” if your dog first doesn’t have a basic sit or down stay with distraction and distance. Mostly, when we work with our dogs, we’re pretty darn close to them. A challenge with working on the set is being able to have your dog remain in a stay position with lights hanging, and people and cameras moving and you may be several feet away.

Extras for Fun
The more trained behaviors you have, the better. So, work on the basics, and then look to expand your bag of tricks. Things like teaching your dog to paw or wave are always good, as well as being able to send them to a spot or teaching them to cock their head from one side to another. Any tricks, like- playing dead, rolling over or smiling, barking, growling on cue are always a winner!

Does your Dog have “The Look”?
The Mutts have it! “Producers are usually looking for interesting looking mutts,” says Rosen. She also advises, the more unique look, the better. Forget the close haircuts for shaggy dogs, as the “just got out of bed” look is in!  Pure breeds, don’t despair, there’s plenty of work to go around. Though, Rosen says, “some breeds are overdone, Chihuahua’s al la Taco Bell, but recently there has been an increase in demand for German Shepherds, among others.”

Now What?
Many people with well-trained dogs can participate in production work, however, even working with an agent is not a “promise” that you will get work. Typically producers have a number of dogs to choose from and ultimately the “look” they like best, will be chosen. Once that happens, your agent should let you know what they need for the shot and give you a heads up for any behaviors to train, ideally, a few weeks in advance.

Once you make it on set, bring crates or a place to keep your dog comfortable while you wait- it could be several hours. Also, bring your dog’s favorite toys and food rewards (and bring ‘em hungry).

Several months after her debut on National Geographic’s “Dog Genius”, we’ve been in the running for other gigs, but nothing yet. No worries, it was so much fun for us and Sweets and I look forward to any upcoming times when she can showcase her inner Diva.

To contact Carol or find our more about Dog Acting and Dog Acting Workshops, please visit

by Leigh Siegfried, CPDT