Hollywood dogs are some of the cutest stars on the big screen. Clever and well-trained, we often don’t think about everything that happens behind the scenes to make them camera ready. How do professional trainers find these amazing pups? How exactly are they trained?
Here’s a primer on Hollywood dogs and how they learn the tricks of the trade. And maybe a few fun things to try with your own pup.
Bred for Success?
A dog doesn’t have to be a purebred to break into show business. Far from it. Some of the most talented Hollywood dogs started their lives in animal shelters.
Professional trainers are looking for a dog with confidence and energy. They need to learn fast and not tiptoe around new behaviors. They should also be incredibly motivated, either by toys or food. The ideal Hollywood dog is excited to work and should love learning new tricks.
When looking for a show business dog, these are all attributes the professionals are seeking. So pedigree doesn’t matter, some of the best Hollywood dogs come from the most humble of backgrounds.
Learning the Trade
It’s crucial that a Hollywood pup have the basics down pat. Good sit, stay, and down behaviors are essential when training any animal, but particularly one that’s going to be in front of a camera.
The more advanced training tactics are where Hollywood pups earn their paycheck. Those behaviors include:
Go to mark
This is a directive to sit or stand on a particular spot. It can be marked specifically with an X in chalk or it can be something more subtle such as a leaf on the ground.
Teaching a pooch how to go to mark requires a lot of patience (and treats!). It can be broken down into the following steps:
Introduce stick: Present the dog with a training stick to be used.
Reinforce stick: When the dog touches the stick click and treat.
Create mark: Create a mark on the floor.
Reinforce mark: Point the stick at the mark. When the dog steps on the mark click and treat.
Reinforce “go to mark”: Step a few feet away and point at the mark. Once the dog goes to the mark click and treat.
Increase distance: Gradually increase your own distance from the mark.
Add behavior: Introduce the behavior you want the dog to perform on the mark.
Reinforce behavior: Direct the dog to mark. When the behavior is performed click and treat.
Remove click: Remove click, direct to mark, treat.
This is a directive to bark or whine and is a relatively easy command to teach. Here are the steps:
Have the reward ready: You need to be able to quickly reward the bark when it happens.
Get your dog to speak: Excite the dog to the point of barking.
Mark the bark: As soon as the dog barks mark the behavior with a command like “speak” and reward.
Add a hand signal: Once the dog understands the verbal command you can add a nonverbal queue.
This involves teaching the dog to spin in a circle. The steps involve:
Use a treat: Hold the treat in front of the dog’s nose and slowly pull it around the side of the head so they have to turn their head to follow the treat.
Circle: Keep pulling the treat in a complete circle so that the dog must spin to keep track of it.
Mark the behavior: Once the dog has completed a circle tell the pup “yes” and reward.
Add a command: Once the dog understands the action, add a command before the action such as “spin”.
Repeat: Spend about five minutes several times a day practicing the action.
Know your Pup’s Limits
If you decide to give your dog a little “Hollywood” training, don’t push it. It’s supposed to be fun. And while it’s not likely your pup will end up in the movies, it can be a great bonding experience and help you get some winning videos for social media.
When personally training an animal, you have to understand that you’re also in training yourself. Even if you have years of experience, every animal is different. You have to learn the ins and outs of each new dog that comes into your care.
Hollywood dogs: as clever as they are cute
Hollywood dogs are as talented as they are cute. With the right personality and dedicated training, any dog can learn the tricks of show business.
Now that you know how show business dogs are trained, do you think your pup has what it takes?
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