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Beginners' Animal Trainer Extraordinaire

Bark: What other tools do you have in your training kit?
De Cagny: We always have a bag of tricks. Cosmo loves toys; a ball will get one type of reaction from him and a noise will get another. Again, it’s a little like cooking. It depends on the moment. It depends on how I feel, what’s going on, what we’re looking for.
I use a wand, a kind of a “look stick” [with a piece of cheese on one end], which helps the dog focus. On “Frasier,” that’s how I got Moose to do the stare. Mike was talking to me about it, and I said, “Oh! I’m the specialist! I’ve done it for 10 years! I can do the stare.” This was one of Moose’s trademarks, the stare, and I’ve got it down to a science.
Bark: We heard that another tool you use is a paper-towel tube. What do you do with that?
De Cagny:
I use it as part of the noisemaking. I did a movie with Martin Scorsese, who wanted a dog to turn his head in a particular way. In addition to the paper-towel tube, I used my voice, an iPhone and every single toy I had. Sometimes I would make a sound like a kitten, or like an elephant. It depends how intense I wanted the dog to be.
B: Ewan got a dog after the movie wrapped, didn’t he?
De Cagny: Yeah, he was so cute. He said, “Mathilde, it revived a feeling in me that I realized has been missing for my entire life.” Cosmo couldn’t wait to see him in the morning. He would jump into his arms and kiss him. It made him feel like Cosmo was his dog. At first, he tried to steal him! I said, “Not even in your dreams, Mr. McGregor!” Once he realized there was no chance he would get Cosmo, we were on the Web looking at dogs who would work for his family. Then, on his own, he got [Sid]. I asked a lot of Ewan — he had a high degree of involvement. Actors usually are pretty good [about the dogs], but few devote their acting time and on-set time to be around an animal like he did. David Hyde Pierce [Niles, in “Frasier”] and Ewan are probably my two top-of- the-line [in that department].
Bark: Did Ewan ask for training tips?
De Cagny: Not so much training tips — it was more about how to acclimate Sid to his lifestyle and his household … you know, the crate. Also, Ewan has a duck! He’s had a duck for many years. So I went to his house a couple of times to make sure the dog and the duck would be good friends. He asked me to supervise so that when the duck ran, the dog wouldn’t go after him. Sid wanted to at first, but we stopped him. That dog is amazing. He’s so cute.
Bark: When we talked to Ewan, he told us that Sid joins him on his motorcycle.
De Cagny: I gave him absolutely no training tips for the motorcycle. Well, just a few — how to get Sid used to being in the sidecar without anything going on, then get used to the noise. They just took off one day; I wasn’t there, but he sent me a video of them together on their first ride. It was adorable. That’s how Ewan is. He shares some of his dog and his moments with me, and we stay in touch because of that. So I did help him a tiny bit. Bark: Ewan seems to have a genuine love of dogs.
De Cagny: I felt that, too. We could never have accomplished what we did [without it] because as well trained as a dog is, if he’s ignored by the actors, or if they don’t want to create that bond, then you can’t force one, as much as you try. I had nothing to do with it, really. It just came from his heart and soul.

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