When I first saw my friend Sam’s dog Red debut on national television in a commercial, I screamed and got my hubbies to watch. I figured it would be fun to do a Q&A to learn more about how they got into the world of dog courtship. My favorite part of the TV commercial? Red is lying on a dog bed with one leg in the air. Ha! Scroll down to see the full dog commercial.
Sam kindly agreed to answer a few questions about Red’s work in dog advertising.
Tell me about Red (age, race mix, athletic achievements, etc.).
Red is a 6 year old cattle dog mix. Originally from Mississippi, Red entertained himself by going into chicken coops, so thanks to rescue partnerships, he was sent north for a chance at a less mischievous, less rural life. Red is trained in many canine sports including obedience, agility, rally and dock diving. Obedience and rally are his main tasks. He also enjoys hiking and swimming.
How did you get into this type of work in dog advertising? How much work has he done (print, digital, TV ads, etc.)?
Red’s very first time on camera was in 2019 when ESPN partnered with the American Kennel Club for “ESPN Dog Day.” We were involved in this project thanks to our Dog Acting Instructor who is an experienced handler of amazing dogs – a guru about dogs and advertising.
Before Red got more jobs, he was listed with an animal talent agency, which had information on his height, weight, and markings, as well as behaviors he can reliably perform. The early ESPN experience actually came in handy for Red’s “career” because, as Red’s handler, I was able to tell his agent that he already knew cameras and had some experience on set.
Red worked four jobs in 2021. Jobs are generally only offered as still images, video or a combination thereof. He did all three. Where they end up (print, TV, social media) varies.
How did you come up with this particular dog ad? Did you have to fight for the role? If so, how?
When an agency is contacted about a possible job, they may be asked about a specific breed, size or color of dog, etc. The dealers aren’t really part of this process other than letting their agency know if they’re available. Sometimes your dog will be chosen for the role; sometimes it’s someone else’s dog. This time, Red’s look must have been exactly what they were looking for – or maybe they were just blown away by his cuteness. Ha!
Different projects require different behaviors – so the behaviors required for this job align with what Red can reliably deliver. There are some jobs that have required me to submit special video auditions.
Do you think it helps that you are close to NYC?
Somehow! Red’s agent, All Creatures Great and Small, works a lot in the NYC area. There are also agencies in other big cities. I would imagine it’s harder for people far from big cities, but as I understand it, jobs are popping up all over the country. If you’re ready to travel…even better.
How long did it take to shoot?
The Farmer’s Dog commercial took two days to shoot. This included the time spent on several recordings that Red was not involved with. There’s always plenty of free time on set for dogs to nap, go for walks, and munch on bully sticks.
If so, which of the tricks/behaviours did you have to teach yourself on the spot? Or did they tell you what they need beforehand so you can teach it beforehand? Or maybe they had a trainer on site training/treating him? I do not know. You tell me.
I was the one who gave Red most of the direction behind the camera, with a little help from our agent. A representative from the American Humane Association was also on site to ensure the welfare of the working animals.
Some shots were pretty simple and set in stone – Red pulling on a leash, lying in a bed, looking up expectantly at the dining table or eating out of a bowl, for example.
There have been other instances where a shot was planned but changed during filming. There is a fluid element to these situations – something could catch the customer/production crew’s attention and be used in place of the original idea. For example, Red putting his paws on the counter while his food was being prepared wasn’t specifically in the script, but when we tried it, it was a hit!
The key concrete behaviors for this shoot were “WATCH ME” (keep the dog’s gaze in the desired direction) and “Stay” (including Red being malleable enough to stay in different positions, like in the dog bed scene) . Remember that the dog must maintain these behaviors/positions while people and equipment are moving, sometimes in very close proximity to them.
Also keep in mind that most scenes will be filmed in multiple takes, so dogs need to be comfortable showing the same behavior many times.
Abilities we’ve used on other sets include:
- ON YOUR STOMACH/ROLL OVER
Here’s Red’s big commercial debut!!
Years ago I had the opportunity to review this meal. We even tried it as a topper for what our dogs actually eat for a while, but decided not to write/post a review when I found out it would cost more per week, Clover and Tori to feed (we still had Mr.Stix) as I spend on human food for the 2 of us.
Still, I thought it would be fun to brag about Sam and Red, especially when dog courtship often plays such a big part in the upcoming Super Bowl.
Tiny background story if you’re still reading ;o)
Sam and I met through for the first time our blogs back when she was still in high school. We met in person a few times (when I went to NYC on business or she came to Colorado). We were friends during her college years and grad school and now in her professional life. It’s kind of a scream. I once met her, her dog Marge, after a ferry and tube ride. In her career, Marge has earned 2 MACHs in agility and a RACH in rallying. Go, Marge, go! I also met Sam’s mother who felt like a sister as we all came from families of Italian descent. I’m quite old enough to be her mother. Ha!
On another NYC trip in 2014, Sam even took me to Times Square in the rain! If I remember correctly, we had a LONG discussion about it *Possibly adopting Red The last time I came to Brooklyn for work was in 2016.