Talent Hounds shares do’s, don’ts, expert advice and insider knowledge.
Have you ever seen dogs in a magazine ad or TV series, film, live show or commercial and thought “my dog is cuter, funnier, more photogenic, better for the part, better trained…” and wondered how to get your dog on TV?
Your dog may get discovered at a dog park or event, but getting to the point where your dog is hired for media work is really tough. There are so many dogs vying for a few good roles so it is very competitive. It will probably take lots of hard work, training, rejection, waiting, luck a positive attitude and good timing.
Is Talent Hounds a Dog Talent Agency?
People often ask if Talent Hounds is a Casting or Talent Agency. We are not. We are actually part of a media and production company (see here to find out what we do and how to work with us).
We do cast our own projects with kids and dogs including television series, commercials, live shows, and print ads. We are also well connected and showcase gorgeous talented dogs on our sites and in our shows. We work with casting directors, agents, directors, events, ad agencies, PR companies, and producers to help them find talent. They frequently peruse our gallery of dogs or call us, especially in Toronto.
We get a lot of questions about how to get kids and fur kids into the business so we thought we should share some helpful tips.
Acting or modelling is hard work.
The work may sound glamorous, but is not always fun – it’s work. It can mean long hours sitting around with hot lights, strangers, and noise. The first thing to consider is if this work is right for your child and/or your dog.
I am totally besotted with Kilo the Pug (my “favourite child”) and think he is just adorable. I feature him in lots of our small videos and posts if I film him with someone he knows, but I absolutely would never put him in a public show or film as he might be anxious or reactive.
He loves posing and doing tricks for treats at home alone but would hate anything more. A mission of ours at Talent Hounds is to promote how incredible shelter and rescue dogs can be. Even if your dog had a hard past, positive reinforcement training may help correct behavioral issues. However, with any dog – rescue or not, you must be honest with yourself about your dog’s temperament. Your dog must have the right mentality to be a star and so must you.
You never want to put your dogs or kids in a situation they are not comfortable with.
What To Consider Before Looking For An Agent or Work
- Will my dog enjoy this, or at least not dislike it?
- Does my dog know all basic obedience especially sit, lie, stay, drop, even with distractions?
- Does my dog have a totally reliable recall?
- Does my dog like strangers – both dogs and humans.
- Is my dog well socialized and friendly?
- Will my dog mind sitting around on set for long hours?
- Is my dog healthy and physically able to keep up with a demanding film schedule?
- Since your dog may be working in close proximity with other animals, producers will probably want to make sure he’s vaccinated and up-to-date.
- When we filmed Backseat Barkers it was so hot we adjusted our schedule but others shoots might not have that luxury.
- Does my dog respond at a distance to commands?
- Are there any behavioural issues that could cause a problem on set?
- Can my dog go potty on command with long waits?
If you answer yes to these questions your dog may be a fit for television.
What You Can Do to Help?
International Casting Director Melanie Tanz shared her casting process with us, ” I will usually receive a script from the director. Based on the character analysis and descriptions, I’ll put out a breakdown to agents and/or online and ask for submissions (a breakdown describes the role and character). The description for a dog may include something like “small, cute high energy dog that can jump on an actor’s knee and pick up and hold a hotdog in it’s mouth or unravel toilet paper or sit in the backseat of a car and look out the window”.
I’ll review the submissions and arrange to audition a range of dogs that seem to fit the role in terms of looks, personality, and abilities. A good resume and photos help. I will meet the dogs and watch them perform to see if they are comfortable and natural. I then make my recommendation and the client will decide with me by watching the live auditions or tapes.
It is an absolute must to be on time, clean, healthy, well-behaved and enthusiastic/positive (both dog and owner)”
You may face a lot of rejection as maybe only one dog will get the part lots applied for. Do not take rejection personally. Learn from it if you think you could have done better or accept the fact that they may have been looking for a different appearance or delivery. Never punish your dog (or child).
Work on training.
Dogs in show business need to be very intelligent, trainable and happy to perform. A stubborn dog, even if they are very smart, might not be suited for this career.
Think of training specific “tricks” and behaviors that might come up in everyday scenes. Go beyond the basic commands and think of some unique marketable tricks. Rather than just “shake a paw”, practice having your dog:
- Pretend pee or lift a leg
- Scratch and sneeze (like Linzy who won the audition contest on CBC for the part of Toto in Over the Rainbow)
- Bark (speak)
- Move to a mark
- Go to bed
- Look sad, look happy, look guilty
- Head down, head up, cover your ears
- Look a direction
- Jump up, jump down
- Hold items
- Pick up items
- Bring something
Check out some videos of 22 Talent Hounds members who are amazing trick dogs HERE
Nana in our Backseat Barkers pilot and Lottie who also filmed with us are the breed we wanted (Border Collie), super intelligent and well-trained and were able to do the behaviours or tricks we had in the script (cleaning up toys, bringing a beer, covering ears, sitting with Jess etc). Nana has lots of experience as a professional actress and Lottie has worked with us on many live shows. They both like having a job.
Fishstick had exactly the look we wanted and is very easy going, friendly and food motivated. All the parents have a great attitude.
We love the Pets with Credit commercial by “Interac” starring the super talented Australian Shepherd, Cohen. He’s clearly very well trained and can do a lot of amazing tricks.
Work on socialization
Your dog will need to be comfortable in any situation and with a variety of different people and possibly animals. Good socialization early in your dog’s life helps your dog adjust to new situations much faster.
Practice filming, posing, and performing behaviours at home in front of lights and in lots of situations. Get some great photos and videos.
Talent Agent Kama Rueschenberg of Arizona Animal Actors has this advice to share:
“The biggest question I get as an animal talent agent is how to “land big jobs” or “how can I get more work”. There are two ways. One, become a viral sensation (think Crusoe the Celebrity Dachshund selected for the #nobiteisrightcampaign and many others, and Social Media Mogul Doug the Pug who was here for Woofstock). These animals earn more and are requested more based on their social following and their viral fame.
Obviously, the other way to land a big job is to have an amazingly trained animal.
My suggestion, as an agent, would be the second option. Becoming a viral sensation is part hard work and part luck. Training your animal well doesn’t require luck, just time and patience.
Arizona Animal Actors is an Animal Talent Agency, experienced in providing high caliber talented dogs, cats, reptiles, birds, horses, small animals, and more for print advertisements, commercials, and feature films. They offer assistance in casting the perfect animal and providing trainers who will expertly work with the animal from preproduction to wrap to make sure everything runs smoothly.They are passionate about locating, auditioning and training animal talent to provide stress-free solutions for your projects, fewer takes, and Arizona’s best animal talent!
We met Kama through an influencer group called Blog Paws (we were there after The Backseat Barkers won best video in the annual Nose-to-Nose Awards). You can visit her website to apply for representation and get further information.
What Breeds are Popular?
We’ve found that certain breeds tend to be more popular in show business. For example Golden Retrievers and Labradors, tend to be in high demand and cast for roles most often. Jack Russells, Pugs, Belgian Malinois, Chihuahuas and Border Collies also get jobs. The unique look of mixed breeds may also be appreciated on TV. Like all things, dog breeds go through trends -what’s hot one week may be completely different the next.
Make sure your dog is well groomed- it is debatable whether to go for a unique look and cut or the dog next door look. They sometimes use more than one dog like for example in Marley and Me and the Budweiser and Heinz commercials they wanted dogs that look alike.
Build up a strong social media presence
Share your photos and videos, the more exposure the better!
Casting directors and directors are often looking for a specific breed or look or size and search on Talent Hounds and Instagram or Google. Having a profile for your dog with some good photos and videos to look at could help your dog get discovered.
Build your social media- hiring an Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube star like Doug the Pug or Crusoe the Celebrity Dachshund may be expensive – but it will give huge returns in marketing and reduce risk.
Networking groups, building mutual followings with other similar breed or social pups, and promotions from other pages will all boost your follower numbers. A substantial following will attract attention from agents as a built-in fan base may be beneficial.
Some agents will ask for your social media numbers as high numbers will mean high exposure for their projects. Be prepared to Tweet, Instagram, and post photos on your dog’s Facebook page to promote these endeavors. Mutual promotion is very common and can be the boost your dog needs.
If your dog is a rescue or has a unique/heartwarming story, sharing this on social media may get lots of shares, likes, or interactions.
You never know when a simple video or photo may go viral. Here are Talent Hounds members Lottie and Grizzly hugging in one of our Videos and Vines.
Sign up for groups that do castings like Talent Hounds or find an agent (don’t pay anyone up front and get legal advice before signing a contract).
Perform in live events, Fashion Shows, Talent Shows or Contests locally or beyond. You never know who could be in the crowd scouting.
Do charity or therapy work. Many of our friends who are working dogs naturally gain a fan base from all of the people they help or visit. It’s a great way to network while making a positive difference.
Be realistic. Overnight success is very rare. Be prepared for lots of auditions and rejections. Avoid scams.
How To Get Your Child On TV
Most of these tips are the same for getting your child on TV. We are currently casting for our new series Kids Pet Club, a show for pet-loving kids and families. Our content will be shown online and on TV, featuring kid hosts and ambassadors.
Owning a pet is great experience and can teach a child a lot of valuable skills. The series will engage children with interesting, factual and scripted videos about pets and animals presented by their peers in a cool way.
If your child loves their family pet and enjoys being on camera, talking to new people, and doing research about pets then maybe they are the right fit.
Casting For Kid Hosts and Pets
- Ages 6 to 12 years old
- Boys and Girls and Pets
- Ontario residents available to film with their pet/s within 2 hours of Toronto if selected (in the future we will expand beyond Ontario as well and kids and families anywhere in the world are welcome to join the community and participate)
- open to a variety of languages including German, Russian, French, Hindi, Portuguese and Spanish.
Live Woofstock Auditions
We held live auditions at Woofstock , Dog Lovers Days and Canadian Pet Expo and met some wonderful kids.
If you are unable to attend live auditions, you can email your photos/videos to email@example.com.
All applicants must fill out a release form signed by a parent which you can download HERE.
You can either scan it and e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org with a photo and or a video link or bring it with you to the next live auditions.