Friday, May 1, 2009
Through the miracle of the Internet we recently met Traci Murdock, a certified professional dog trainer. Traci, shown here with her pooch Cyan during a recent appearance on Good Morning Texas, works in Carrollton, Texas. Traci trains dogs for sports such as agility, obedience, flyball and rally. She is well known for her "Hollywood Dog Classes," which teach people how to break their dog into Show Biz. Traci also works as a Talent Scout and Wrangler on the sets of commercials and other places where canine actors work. Traci actively volunteers with shelters and rescue groups. Traci is our guest blogger today.
So without further ado, take it away Traci!
Is your dog just waiting to be discovered? Are you convinced he’s cuter, smarter, and more talented then all those dogs you see in the movies or in ads?
I was convinced that my dogs would be perfect for Show Biz! After all, they are Cattle Dog and Border Collie types and I knew they needed a “job.” Since I’m an experienced dog trainer, I thought this won’t be hard at all. Moreover, I already had a head start since my dogs’ training adventures began as soon as they came home with me. In order to compete in dog sports, they had to learn to focus on me and the job and learn to love tricks and playing the game with me.
I started researching and contacting agents and sending out portfolios. Then, we got our first callback from an agent and the client choose US! And that, of course, was when the adventure really began.
Although I had a better idea of what to expect than most first-timers because of my training and photography background, it was still overwhelming. There are so many things to remember, people to please, and expectations to meet in a very compressed time frame. If you don't meet expectations then you won’t get another chance -- no one can afford to spend the money if you and your pooch aren’t a “sure thing.”
As I worked with my dogs and began working as a Talent Scout and Wrangler, I began to assemble a list of things that a dog and owner needed to know in order to succeed in The Biz. This list was the basis for the creation of my Hollywood Dog class.
Here's what you need to know:
Learn clicker training. Although the concepts and skills needed can be taught in other ways, I prefer clicker training or marker-based training. I've found that this is the surest way to get the behavior on cue in the shortest time period. When casting a job, the director provides an outline of the skills and behaviors that will be needed. The outline is often incomplete or changed on the fly during the shoot. If you and your dog can use a clicker, you can quickly and positively train a new behavior on set. You never want to have to say that your dog can’t do what's needed. (ed: For those of you not familiar with dog training techniques, a clicker is a hand-held device that makes a "clicking" sound, which tells the dog that his behavior is correct or that he is doing the right thing.)
Learn commonly requested skills and tricks, and know how to improvise if you get a new request. Every dog must know sit, down, stand and stay. The dog should be able to be a "Gumby" and stay in whatever position he's put in until formally released. I also teach students how to send their dogs to a mark to perform, how to get the dogs used to working for others and in scary and unfamiliar places and how to build new tricks from known commands.
Practice under real conditions. We practice everything at a distance, since the owner will be behind the camera. In addition canine actors have to ignore many distractions on set, such as anxious humans, screaming kids, other dogs in weird situations, and new and scary objects and products. Your dog may even have to perform with a camera flash popping every couple of seconds.
Once your dog is ready, research the talent agents in your area and have your dog photographed. Every actor, even the four-legged type requires a head shot.
For more information about Traci, her classes or to learn how to make your dog a star, contact Traci here or give her a ring at The Training Spot: 214-878-2230.