We recently introduced you to Stella, the beautiful 10-month-old Labrador Retriever from Mission, British Columbia who starred in our first-ever television commercial. But did you know she was trained in just four days?
Stella’s family took Stella to Allstars K9 Training in Mission, BC for a new puppy training class when she was just 12-weeks-old. She was a very happy and enthusiastic pup who showed a lot of potential. When the trainers heard that Trupanion needed a dog for a commercial in Vancouver, they instantly thought of Stella for the part.
The trainers met up with Stella to gauge her interest in training for the commercial. She proved to be eager to participate in the training games she was presented with. She is also a naturally outgoing dog, another reason she was a great candidate for job.
Her trainer, Crystal, started by establishing a system of clear and consistent communication through the use of marker words to help Stella understand what she wanted. Marker words help with shaping new behaviors. Allstars K9 Training use three different words to help the dogs they work with to understand what they want. Those three words are “yes,” “good,” and “ah-ah.” They use the word “yes” only if the dog did the behavior they are looking for then the dog will get his reward, usually a treat or a toy. “Good” is used when the dog is on the right track doing what they want them to do, but this does not mean they get their reward. “Ah-ah” is a verbal correction only used to let the dog know they have made a mistake. Once that was established between the two, it was easy for Stella to pick up on basic cues for obedience and tricks.
Since adolescent dogs are well-known for being excitable, distracted, and impulsive, Stella and Crystal spent a lot of time playing impulse control games. This contributed to a much better “stay” command and being more polite when meeting new people. There were a few things Stella needed to learn for the commercial. Speak, a solid stay and recall, and beeper training (which helped her run after the little girl around the living room in the commercial). Beeper training is an easy way to get film dogs to go out to someone, like an actor, and not focus on the trainer so much. Allstars K9 Training train dogs to go to the sound of the beep to get rewarded with food. Stella really liked learning this one and was very good at it! Stella had very good impulse control! In fact, Stella was almost too good at impulse control. The scene where she leans down to eat food from the bowl took several takes because Stella would wait for a command to eat. As they would set the bowl down, Stella would just look and wait—a problem that they did not anticipate! Crystal gave her every release word in the book but Stella would not go for the food! It took her a few minutes and a few takes to finally eat the kibble from the bowl.
Do you want to get your dog on the big (or small) screen but don’t know where to start?
Crystal recommends that if other dog owners are interested in getting their dogs on television or film, or just want to tune up on their obedience, seek out a local trainer that practices positive reinforcement techniques. This type of training creates happy, confident dogs that love to learn, and are fun to work with on set.
Now that you know what took place behind scenes, check out our television commercial below: