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November 2005 >>

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Frequently Asked Questions

Animal Acting FAQs

Q: How do I get my dog into show business?

A: Your pet must be well trained to be eligible for any entertainment work - even still photos. Hollywood Paws offers comprehensive workshops and also serves as an agency for animal actors. You can try to contact local film animal trainers without taking these steps, but it's unlikely that they will be interested in your dog.

Q: How well-trained does my dog have to be?

A: A dog can never be too well trained for the film business. To be considered for film, TV or even a photo shoot, an animal must be solid on all off-leash basic obedience - with distractions. The American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizenship test is a good measure; a dog with CGC certification has a foundation to begin training for entertainment. Hollywood Paws classes emphasize specific behaviors that are not found in your basic obedience school, which is why it's the perfect place to prepare your dog for possible work in film, television and commercials.

Q: How do I find an agent for my dog?

A: There's no such thing as a "true" animal agency. We may offer your dog representation but they, like all animals in the entertainment industry, are considered "props" and are rented for daily production. There are schools, like Hollywood Paws, that help train owners and their dogs to prepare for film work and then promote and market these animals. Other film/animal companies generally have their own kennels and rarely use private pets. There are exceptions, but your pet must be extremely well trained and unique to merit consideration.

Q: What are the basic tricks dogs need to know to become actors?

A: Solid off-leash obedience with heavy distractions, as well as basic film behaviors like "go to a mark", "head down", "speak", "on your side", "go with", etc. Hollywood Paws classes can provide a foundation in all of these and much more.

Q: What are the most popular breeds used in films, TV and commercials?

A: Golden Retrievers, yellow Labs, Border Collies, Jack Russell Terriers and Bulldogs are all popular breeds. But scripts frequently call for an unexceptional-looking mutt. What's more, breed popularity tends to follow fads; a trainer might go for two years without a single call for Huskies and then get five Husky jobs in one month.

Q: At what age can a dog start training for entertainment?

A: As early as eight weeks old. But dogs can begin learning as adults.

Q: I have the cutest dog. What are his chances of becoming a star?

A: Directors often choose dogs for their look, but a dog cannot be submitted for any kind of role or shoot unless he or she is very solid with all off-leash obedience behaviors and basic film behaviors. Hollywood Paws workshops offer the required foundation.

Q: How do we know dogs are treated well and work under safe conditions on set?

A: The American Humane Association Film & Television Unit, watches over all animal action on film sets. They are there to ensure that producers, directors and others don't pressure the trainer to jeopardize a dog's safety. Professional trainers welcome the AHA representatives on set, because his or her presence helps keep the dogs safe.

Q: How well trained does my pet have to be?

A: Whether you've got a darling dog, a cuddly guinea pig or a handsome iguana, looks alone aren't sufficient to make the grade. Your pet will require advanced training, an outgoing friendly personality, and the ability to accept commands and maintain focus amid multiple distractions. By "accept commands", we mean that the animal performs the behavior at the trainer's first request. Multiple requests by on-set trainers are counterproductive and generally convey inadequate training and preparation.

Q: What kind of training does a dog or cat need to be represented by Hollywood Paws?

A: All of our four-legged performers are fully trained - from basic behavior to advanced animal acting. In general, we have found that dogs with "basic behavior training" are not up to our standards of basic behavior. When we send a Hollywood Paws actor out on a job, that animal is a representative of our company and must be fully prepared to meet the production's exact needs.

Q: What is CGC?

A: CGC stands for the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen certification. Hollywood Paws requires all its animals to pass this test. For more information on CGC, visit http://www.akc.org/events/cgc/program.cfm

Q: How many actual dogs are used to play a single do character in a film?

A: Several animals frequently share the work of portraying one on-screen dog; "Air Bud" is a perfect example. One dog was used for all the beauty shots; a calm dog was enlisted to work with the human actors and high energy dogs handled the cray ball-playing sequences. Sometimes as many as five dogs are enlisted to capture all the qualities of a single canine character. In addition to providing a deeper characterization, this tradition keeps the production from overworking any particular dog.

Q: How much money can an animal actor make on a film?

A: As is the case with any performer, these issues are negotiated when the actor lands the part.

Q: What are the chances that my pet will get a job?

A: If you have the requisite commitment and drive, we can give you and your pet the tools to vie for acting work. But show business is, well, a dog-eat-dog world - the competition for animal parts is as fierce as any human casting call. It's still up to the production company, director, producer, casting agent and other professionals to make the final decision. That said, the training provided by our program will give you a decided edge - whether you want to go out for a TV commercial or just impress your friends with your pet's stellar behavior.

Q: Do studio trainers ever get to appear in films or TV shows?

A: Trainers are frequently brought in for non-speaking roles that involve close contact with animal actors. Hollywood Paws trainers, for example, played zoo employees for a scene in "Indecent Proposal" involving several animal performers.

General Training FAQs

Q: Why should I train my dog?

A: Even if you aren't planning to turn your dog into a movie star, you still want a well-mannered and well-trained pet. That perfect, potty-trained dog who never does anything wrong is rare indeed. Participating in the Hollywood Paws animal training program will give you a very well-behaved pet and will help forge a strong, trust-based bond between you and your pet.

Q: How do I get my dog to stop peeing on the rug, chewing the sofa, barking and/or jumping on people?

A: Most pet behavior problems result from a lack of consistency and discipline in the home. Just like children, dogs need to know their boundaries. When we coddle our pets and fail to hold them to consistent rules, they get confused and act out - expressing their desire for clearly defined limits. Hollywood Paws workshops help address these dog behavior issues. It all boils down to being the alpha dog in your home and giving your dog fair, consistently applied rules and boundaries.

Q: I have a rescue dog - what do I need to know to train her?

A: Most rescue dogs come with some baggage or behavioral issues. However, once she settles in at home, our positive, treat-based fun training can help build a strong bond between you.

Q: Do you have advice for integrating new animals with my older pets?

A: Take it slow - introduce them in a neutral place, if possible. Also, respect the first pet's place in the home; don't put the new puppy in an established pet's favorite bed or let him play with the older animal's favorite toys. Make sure to give equal attention to older pets so they don't feel they're being replaced.

Q: What's the proper collar for dog training?

A: It's a good idea to start with a nylon or leather buckle collar and see how they do. If they're unresponsive, it's sometimes appropriate to switch to a training collar commonly known as a choke chain - for training sessions only. Avoid pinch or prong collars - they're quite harsh and tragically overused. Bear in mind that a qualified trainer makes far more "corrections" in training with tone of voice than with a collar.

Q: I want a dog but don't know which breed to pick. Advice?

A: There's no easy answer to this question. Several excellent manuals offer guidance on the subject, but the bottom line is that you need to do your homework. Are you a mellow person whose idea of a perfect evening involves curling up with a good book? Then a Jack Russell or Border collie is NOT for you; you'll be happier with a Basset Hound, a Great Dane or a Greyhound. Keep your lifestyle in mind and choose a breed that will complement it.

Q: What's the ideal age to start a dog's training?

A: The best time to start is around eight weeks of age. Rather than waiting for bad habits to emerge then trying to change them, owners are best advised to create and reinforce good behavior from the beginning.

Q: Why is it important for the owner to train the dog, rather than just sending the dog off somewhere to be trained?

A: Any good professional trainer can train a dog, but it's up to the person living under the same roof with the animal to reinforce the training. Just like any educational course, in order to succeed you must practice and do your homework.

Q: What do you recommend regarding diet and exercise?

A: We recommend a complete, balanced food appropriate for your dog's breed and energy level. Schedule regular meals once or twice a day rather than allowing free feeding, so you can monitor your dog's food intake. A regular exercise regimen is important for both you and your pet. A daily walk, a romp at the beach or dog park, ball or Frisbee-chasing sessions and other activities are important contributors to health and well-being.

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