Show Business Dogs: How They Pawed Their Way to the Top
Hollywood knows audiences flock to dogs in the limelight, whether they're in commercials, TV shows, print ads, or movies. After all, the most talked-about ads after the Super Bowl often involve dogs, and moviegoers love a good canine tear-jerker (Marley and Me, anyone?). But as breaking into showbiz can be downright exhausting for even the most talented human, imagine trying to break a dog into the industry.
We take an insider’s look at some dogs who have made it to the top and some who are still climbing the ladder, rung by rung.
Your dog should be in magazine ads and show business. These are the words every dog mom or dad with a passion for the spotlight pines to hear. Marie Shelto heard it so many times about her Labradoodle, Bocker, she knew she had to act on it.
“Bocker loves the camera, and it all started with his famous head tilt,” Shelto says. “I sent some photos to agents in New York City, and Bocker started landing ads.” The camera-ready canine has modeled for Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren Polo, and has appeared in a bevy of ads, including Barney’s New York, Target, and Walmart. There’s more than a pretty face to this boy, as he’s been in the movies Eat Pray Love and Men in Black III, along with TV shows such as Good Morning America and Animal Planet’s Dogs 101.
“Bocker is a champion for those less fortunate, and he's an animal rights activist,” Shelto says. “He was asked to be a celebrity guest for Animal Advocacy Day in Albany to help bring awareness and to strengthen laws regarding animal abuse.”
More than a pretty face, indeed.
Some dogs trick themselves out for a shot a fame. Just ask CJ Jackson, whose 6-year-old Havanese “trick” dog, Jasmine (or Jaz), has been on television 24 times, with 11 appearances to date in 2012.
Jaz and CJ bonded over basic training when the happy Havanese was just a pup. Jaz picked up on the basics so fast, CJ knew she had to channel Jaz’s energy further. Responding to both positive reinforcement and clicker training, Jaz began doing basic tricks for family and friends.
Knowing your dog’s motivation and what makes him or her tick is key. CJ keeps her training sessions short -- 10 to 15 minutes a day maximum -- and always rewards with special treats not given any other time of day.
“Always end on a good note. If Jaz is having a bit of difficulty with a new trick, I take step back and let Jaz do a trick she knows well. Finish the session and reward for that behavior,” CJ says.
High paws to these dog moms and their efforts, but how can you do the same and score big for your pooch? One industry insider offers these tips: Socialize and train your dog, allow your dog to meet a variety of people, expose him to new environments and animals, and be prepared to work long hours. Many of those interviewed say that finding a good agent who can help you understand your dog's rights is crucial.
Climbing the ladder to superstardom is no easy task, but Zoey ("The Booger"), a two-and-a-half-year-old Boston Terrier, is making her ascent. Her proud mom, Lisa Pruitt Smith, admits the rambunctious pooch is addicted to food and her Frisbee, so training her has been a wonderful experience. “It didn't take long to realize how intelligent and focused Zoey was, even in front of the camera,” Lisa says. “Recently Zoey was featured on Southwest Airlines' blog, Nuts About Southwest, and she is the face of the Tails for TaTas Dog Walk for Breast Cancer event.”
When it’s raining cats and dogs, New Yorkers can guarantee Schmitty the Weather Dog will report the latest meteorologic news. Schmitty is the canine half of the weather team that reports for the Westminster Kennel Club dog show every February, along with other appearances. During the rest of the year, Schmitty and meteorologist Ron Trotta make appearances in and around New York at events and fundraisers “pawcasting” the weather.
Having met Ron and Schmitty backstage at Madison Square Garden in February, I can attest to the charm, candor, and warm personalities of both weatherman and weatherpup.
If television and commercials don’t appeal to your canine, perhaps another path in is the cards? Rufio is a two-year-old Neapolitan Mastiff who has appeared on a variety of Hallmark greeting cards. Donning a gladiator costume at 5 months, he was destined to shine. “He has appeared on television and in many publications, but our latest venture is signing with a production company to produce a show featuring Rufio,” mom Kathryn Dunlap says. “Rufio has his very own greeting-card line, too, called Rufio's Rumblings, with 20 percent of his sales going to dog rescue."
So, would you like to see your dog hit the big time? If so, what would be your dog’s claim to fame? Television? Movies? Commercials? Bark at us below -- the spotlight’s on you!