On a whim I decided to go to the Seattle Dog Winterfest this weekend. http://www.seattledogwinterfest.com/
Saturday night I was looking over the website and saw that they were holding auditions for the “Next Dog Star”. I giggled at thought…”Wouldn’t that be fun?”. So I read over the requirements and judging criteria.
Next Dog Star Judging Criteria
All dogs will be judged accordingly:
- Ability to work on set
A dog may have certifications in Canine Good Citizen, be a therapy dog or be a show dog, have won awards in any dogs shows or contests or have purebred papers, these are not judging criteria and DO NOT determine in anyway a dogs ability to work on set.
Appearance: A dogs general appearance will be one of the main judging values; however the breed of a dog or mix bred of a dog will not be a judging factor
- Eye Color
- Hair/Fur Color
Ability to work on set in a TV show, commercial or film: Working on set can be long and difficult process. These simple questions will help determine if you and your dog will be good candidates.
- How obedient the dog is to the owner:
- What types of tricks can the dog do?
- Does the dog have the ability to take direction from the owner: Will the dog take commands from someone else?
- Are the commands given to the dog verbally? Or hand signals? Are these
signals recognized by Union 399 animal trainers or self taught?
- What distance can a dog be from the owner and still perform the “asked for” command?
- How focused the dog is to the owner?
Marketability: Directors and producers can be very demanding. When a dog is sent to set to work we need to make sure they are the right dog for the role. These questions help us determine if a dog is a good canine actor.
- Is the dog easily distracted?
- Is the dog obedient?
- Is the dog focused on owner?
- Does the dog have any separation anxiety issues?
- Is the dog between 6 months – 10 years old?
- Is the dog unique looking?
- Does the dog look like he enjoys working?
- How does the dog interact with strangers?
Ranger fit all of the criteria. He is handsome, obedient, focused amid many distractions, has a fantastic goofy personality.
I filled out the application, attached Ranger’s picture and hit ‘submit’.
Then I freaked out.
I realized that they were going to expect us to audition...like, you know....D'oh... PERFORM.
Oh, my, DOG! I didn’t know what the heck we would do? I didn’t have a routine put together. I didn’t have time to figure one out!
I tried to cancel the application – it was to late, we were already scheduled for Sunday at 12:10. (At this point, any other rational person would decide to just not go...but I didnt).
At 11 o’clock at night I am in the kitchen working with Ranger, teaching him how to jump over a stick I am holding and doing basic obedience commands. I knew he would do great – me on the other hand, I am a moron.
I didn’t sleep much. Ranger slept like a baby.
Sunday morning dawned. I loaded up a freshly bathed Ranger into the car and drove to the Seattle Waterfront. Ranger was his normal delightful self. We got into the convention center, paid our admission and registered for the audition. The whole time I am telling myself that this would be good for us. If I am ever going to go to a trial or agility competition I better get used to performing with my dog.
We sat & waited. While waiting a woman came up to us and introduced herself. She is an animal talent agent in Seattle. She apologized for approaching me in this venue. She gave me her card and asked me to send her some pictures of Ranger because she said she may have some work for him. Hmmm…maybe other people think Ranger is as cute as I do!
Then the Le Paws Agent doing the auditions came and introduced herself to me. She asked me if Ranger was good with distractions because they were holding a seminar on the other side of the curtain where the auditions were being held. I told her that Ranger was fine with distractions – he lived in a house with five teenagers – he can handle anything.
She took us back to a curtained off area next to the stage. On the other side of the black curtain there were lots of people mulling about and activity. The agent left, giving me a few minutes to prepare. Not knowing what to do, I grabbed a chair, a broom & and a orange cone that was hiding in the back corner.
When she came back she explained a few things to me, asked me about Ranger (where he came from & his story) and then asked me to do our ‘routine’. I explained to her that we didn’t have a routine but I would take Ranger through some basic things we had been working on a home & in agility. We did, sit, down, stay, hand targeting, come to heel, backing up, etc. Then I used the chair for perch work. By accident Ranger figured out he could push the chair around while he had his front legs perched on it (very cute) I pretended that was intentional. I had him circle the cone (right and left). Jump over the broom stick and a few other things.
It was not professional or well orchestrated.
Ranger was PERFECT!
Then the agent asked if she could work with him. Ranger did everything she asked. She was impressed. She explained to me that my handling skills were good and that I need more confidence in what I was doing. She went on to explain that it wasn’t the amount of tricks the dog is taught, or how many clothes he can wear. It is really how well he does with distractions – given the seminar that was going on – he had the ability to completely focus and relax amidst chaos. She said that was relatively rare and exactly what they were looking for. The fact that Ranger was striking, had a great personality and is extremely photogenic - an added bonus!
Then she handed me a paper and said we were being moved up as a finalist and needed to perform on stage at 3:30.
I couldn’t believe it!
After the audition was over I called John and let him know we were being moved to the finals. He grabbed the kids, threw them in the car and drove up to Seattle to watch us in the finals. I was so excited and proud of Ranger.
Then I saw the competition.
Crap…we were in trouble.
A bulldog that won Nick and Night’s Fido Awards who rode a rocking horse & skate board.
An adorable border collie mix who was a Frisbee champion
An Aussie with fantastic tricks & a very well spoken handler
A beagle with spot on perfect obedience
A little Chihuahua with a host of AKC awards & etc whose mom had a complete mini agility set up on stage
An adorable poodle mix with an entire routine of sweet little tricks and antics
Then there was me and Ranger – with basically nothing. Talk about getting promoted on good looks.
A few hours later the finals began.
The judges were (Right to Left) Art Director of Le Paws Agency, Owner of "Pawparazzi", and Editor of Seattle Dog Magazine aka Dog Queen.
We were second after the agility star Chihuahua
When the evaluator introduced us to the judges she said (I am paraphrasing from the video tape John shot) “I chose Ranger because I was fascinated by his relationship with Carolynn. I want to remind everyone that this contest is not about finding the most talented dog nor the most obedient. It is about a dog with the right appearance who can work on a movies set full of distractions and activity and still able to listen to his handler and do what is asked of him. While Carolynn is just beginning as a dog trainer, I saw that Ranger has everything we are looking for and more.”
She then handed the microphone to me and I tried to introduce Ranger. I explained where we got him. Told his ‘rescue’ story about falling out of a truck and dragged behind as a puppy.
Ranger was wonderful. He did everything I asked him to do. I was an unorganized, nervous scatter brained idiot.
I took him up on the stage and put him through the obedience basics. Had him jump over the stick a few times. I put him in a down stay facing the audience – then threw his treat down the “runway” and said “Okay” which is his release word. He must not have heard me because he kept looking at me waiting. Finally I made a big deal out of throwing his treat and saying OKAY – then noticed I threw the treat right off the stage. Like a good boy he jumped off…found his treat among the people watching and jumped the four feet back up on stage coming right back to me. I was so proud of him.
After the ‘finals’ the process was explained to us. We have to watch the Next Dog Star website for our standing as they move across the country. When they are done with all the auditions in all the different cities they will choose a winner who will be crowned “The Next Dog Star”, win $10K, a new car, contract with Le Paws Animal Talent Agency, 2 weeks in LA with a dog trainer and a few other things.
They took a group picture of all of us (which will be posted on the website soon). John shot some pictures of the group trying to get together for the picture.
We don’t stand a chance in Haiti of winning anything.
However, I saw something in my dog that I will always remember. He loves me, he wants to please me, and surrounded by people, cameras & chaos he still will do anything I ask of him just for my approval, some love and a treat. That was better than winning any silly contest.