Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Animal trainer Teresa Miller’s canine cast is Oscar-worthy
White God, the latest film by acclaimed Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó, is a tale of politics, class and society. The movie tells the story of a group of unruly canines confined to an overcrowded public shelter in Budapest who break free of their chains and storm the streets of the city, waging bloody retaliation against their human oppressors. White God draws upon Eastern Europe’s painfully recent history of government tyranny and exploitation under Communism, as well as its subsequent slide into radical ultra-conservatism, to construct a fast- paced, emotionally devastating parable about the fearsome power of a dehumanized underclass.
The film’s perspective shifts between that of the four-legged rebel leader, Hagen, and his adolescent human sympathizer, Lili. While Hagen endures starvation, abuse and confinement, Lili roams the streets searching for her lost pet, whose agonies are the result of a cruel, impulsive abandonment by Lilli’s embittered father. The real culprit, though, is a “mutt tax” levied against all non-purebreds, which is so ridiculously high that Lili’s father refuses to pay it. Though the film has a fairy tale quality, it is strictly adult fare and not suitable for children. There are scenes of violence and inhumanity that may prove upsetting to any animal lover.
Still, White God is a cinematic triumph—all of the filming is live action using real dogs—hundreds of them. Atypical for this day and age, the filmmakers avoided computer generated imagery (CGI). That choice lends the film a level of reality and surrealness unlike any film before it. The complexity of the crowd scenes and action sequences has to be seen to be believed, made all the more incredible when you know the task the film’s animal trainers were faced with. The trainer for White God’ is Teresa Miller, she and the director, Kornél Mundruczó, share their thoughts on the making of the film. Mundruczó, share their thoughts on the making of the film.
TRAINER: TERESA MILLER
To cast the right dog to play Hagen, I literally researched hundreds of dogs that were available to be adopted. I started locally in California and branched further West, as Kornél had not yet seen “Hagen” in my pictures. It was important to not only find that unique dog that would stand out in a pack of 200 dogs but also a dog that had a photo double. The amount of work that the dog had to do in this film would have been nearly impossible without the help of a double. After two months of searching I finally found “Luke” and “Bodie,” two brothers that were in need of a new home. They were very young—nine months old—and had a lot of energy and playfulness which was essential to accomplish this project. We began training in December of 2012 and in February 2013, traveled to Budapest to begin working with the pack dogs, trained by Arpad Halasz. The “Hagen” dogs were 13 months old when we started filming.
I have been training animals for the film industry since 1983. I worked very closely and learned most of my trade by working with my father, Karl Lewis Miller, for more than 20 years. He is responsible for many successful animal films such as Beethoven, Babe, K-9 and the infamous dog Cujo and the white Shepherd from Samuel Fuller’s film White Dog, to name a few. He was a master at training acting dogs, not just dogs that performed.
While preparing the dogs for the film White God, many training techniques were used to safely portray the level of violence that is depicted in the film. At no time was any animal treated badly or hurt in any manner. For example: The “Hagen” dogs were always wagging their tail and they looked too sweet, so I taught them to put their tail down. I also taught them to hang their head down to look sad or mean. We used an artificial dog for the scenes of medical and dental work. I also taught him to snarl and growl at me—not because he was angry, but because I asked him to respond to me that way.
DIRECTOR: KORNÉL MUNDRUCZÓ
It was a therapeutic experience. It was like coming into contact with Mother Nature herself or even a bit of the Universe: It was the big picture. It was a shooting process where we had to adjust to them, and not the other way around. The film is an outstanding example of the singular cooperation between two species. It was also an uplifting experience because each dog that appeared in the film came to us from shelters, and after the shooting ended, they were all adopted and found new homes.
While cooperating with the dogs, we adhered to the instructions of the U.S. Guide to Animal Treatment in all cases. Each scene had to be playful and painless for the animals. In a sense, the dogs became actors and the actors became dogs.
July 15 2015
With summer in full swing, perhaps you’ve not yet made plans for that special getaway—an escape that both you and your canine co-pilot can enjoy equally. We offer up five of our favorite dog-friendly destinations. Each makes a perfect summer getaway for a week or weekend. In our estimation, these places are special.
Bozeman, Montana not only has unforgettable big sky vistas, but ample space for dog outing recreation. Not only does the city boast of a 37-acre off leash dog area at Snowfill Recreation Area, but the county and a volunteer group, Run Dog Run, have just broken ground at Gallatin Regional Park for a new 13-acre dog park with amenities like ponds, diving docks and a dog sports area. The same group is responsible for developing a series of smaller dog parks throughout the whole area. Kudos to them, they know how to get the job done. Bozeman is the gateway to day-trips that will satisfy every level of outdoorsperson (and dog) ranging from mountain hikes to rafting and canoeing, plus world-class fishing. Montanans love their dogs, and see nothing unusual about including them in just about everything they do—outdoor adventures, dining, socializing—you’ll find dogs at every turn.
Asheville, North Carolina, offers a unique take on southern hospitality—mixing traditional and bohemian cultures into something special. Summertime brings a lively mix of music and arts festivals, a handful of which are dog-friendly. A host of the city’s al fresco dining areas welcome dogs, as do many of the area’s nearly two dozen microbreweries. Even some of its farmers’ markets are canine-friendly. At nearby Pisgah National Forest dogs can be unfettered by leashes as they hike through its thousand of acres and their stunning waterfalls. In the nearby town of Brevard book at stay at DogWoods Retreat surrounded by broadleaf forests and with easy access to the unforgettable Blue Ridge Parkway.
Seattle, Washington offers a little of everything: cultural attractions, great local fare and untrampled wilderness a car (or ferry) ride away, all in a still manageable urban setting. While Seattle’s sometime chilly embrace of strangers known as the infamous “Seattle freeze” survives—they do love dogs. The city’s dog-friendly amenities reflect the statistic that shows that there are more dogs than children according to the recent census. There are 11 official off-leash areas in the city proper, plus Marymoor Park, the 40-acre off-leash paradise with meadows, trails and river access located 20 miles east of the city. Marymoor Park is a must-see to experience how a dedicated dog community can partner with municipal leaders with great success. Seattle claims 45 pet-friendly hotels, 150 pet-friendly restaurants where one can dine outside with a pup, plus loads of special doggie events ranging from ice cream socials to Dogtoberfest plus an outdoor movie series that welcomes dogs. While Seattle’s leash laws are strictly enforced, much of the city is dog-friendly, so whether you are shopping, dining or sightseeing … chances are your pooch can tag along.
Marymoor Off-Leash Area outside of Seattle is one of the finest municipal facilities in the country (left); Sonny, an official Canine Ambassador at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, near Banff, Canada (right).
Minneapolis, Minnesota or the “City of Lakes” has much to offer visitors, and not just those that love the water. It’s vibrant art scene includes the Guthrie Theater and the Walker Art Center, two venerable cultural institutions. Still, the canines in your pack will be more interested in the city’s seven dog parks, our favorite being Minnehaha Falls Dog Park nestled along the Mississippi River with water access and acres of woods to roam. Check out the nearby 53-foot waterfall and surrounding limestone bluffs. For nearby day trips, head in just about any direction to enjoy a canoe or kayak trip with your dog. The nearby Cannon and St. Croix Rivers are scenic and relatively easy, though start early to avoid the tubers. For serious canoers and kayakers, the trek north (4+ hours) to Superior National Forest and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness will provide you and your co-pilot an outdoor experience of a lifetime.
Banff, nestled in the Canadian Rockies, provides an awe-inspiring outdoor experience with its majestic peaks, dense forests and scattered valleys, rivers and lakes. It is a popular tourist destination, so if you and your pup are seeking solitude … search elsewhere. The first-class amenities do make up for the crowds, and it’s not that difficult to locate an unbeaten path. Dogs are welcome at Banff National Park and nearby Jasper National Park, Canadian National Parks are significantly more canine-friendly than their American counterparts. Lake Louise, Lake Agnes, Lake Minnewanka—all offer incredible views and boating of every kind (even the commercial scenic tours are dog-friendly). As for those first-class accommodations—splurge and stay at the historic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel, old-style luxury that welcomes four-footed guests.
June 15 2015
Ever think there must be more to life than your daily 9 to 5? What if money didn’t matter and you could follow your life’s passions—what would you do? For Matt Hein that meant quitting his job in finance and moving to Norway, eventually becoming a dogwalker.
“Portrait of a Dogwalker,” by 21-year-old Norwegian filmmaker Fredrik Harper, chronicles the young Englishman’s decision to leave his job and travel to the French Alps. He began dating a Norwegian woman and followed her back to Oslo. It was there that he realized his two great passions: Being outside and being around dogs.
He now spends his days walking dogs in the woods outside the Norwegian capital and as depicted in the film—he appears to be absolutely content. The seven-and-a-half minute film shows his canine charges eagerly exploring nature while Hein ruminates on the meaning of life. Never has dogwalking appeared so appealing.
“You have to get in in the morning before your boss, and you have to leave after your boss because that way your boss thinks you’re working much harder than you are,” says Hein, harkening back to his days in London finance. “It’s a competition for who can be sat at their desk pretty much wasting their life. That’s not a way to live your life.”
PORTRAIT OF A DOGWALKER from Fredrik Harper on Vimeo.
(even if it’s only 7% of our lives)
May 13 2015
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American spends 87% of their life indoors with another 6% spent in automobiles for a total of 93% habitating in enclosed spaces. That leaves only 7% of one’s entire life to spend outdoors. Translated to daily life, we average only about 100 minutes of our day outside. For many, that’s time spent walking the dog or hanging out at the dog park. My outside quotient averages closer to 120 minutes per day—what with a morning and an evening walk, plus a daily noontime stroll. The revelation is that thanks to our dogs, I spend more time outside than the average American! Another reason why dogs make us healthier, happier and closer to nature by getting us outdoors …
J Cole video updates Lady and The Tramp
May 4 2015
Puppy love takes a surprising twist in the hands of rapper J Cole and his crew in a new music video for his song “Wet Dreamz.” The song is a confessional retelling of the singer’s first sexual encounter and details the normal adolescent angst. Cole interprets the song visually using puppies in an updated version of Lady and the Tramp, employing a young German Shepherd as a stand-in for the boy, and a female King Cavalier as the object of his affection. The pups play, tease and nuzzle. It’s all very tasteful if a little saucy in the juxtaposition of slow-motion tail wagging and R-rated lyrics, but we think it’s pretty sweet and inventive. Plus, it has an irresistible beat. Check it out for yourself, but be warned that the lyrics contain adult themes and a few expletives. (No harm comes to the puppies).
Kickstarter nurtures pet inventions
April 29 2015
Our friends at PAWW are quite good at designing clever leashes, bowls and toys—plenty of research, exploration and testing goes into every project they conceive. So, we were excited to hear about a new line of fetch toys they have been working on, and unveiled to the public via a Kickstarter campaign launched in mid-April. Their goal was to design an incredibly durable toy that would bounce erratically, float on water, and work for both big and little dogs. Each one would be compatible with your average ball launcher. Plus, act as a treat dispenser for around the house. A tall order … but they were up to the task. We think they have created something special. Check out their Kickstarter campaign, and consider getting on the ground floor of this cool fetch toy!
Pet projects continue to be a vital segment of Kickstarter campaigns. Spend a few minutes on the crowdfunding site and it soon becomes apparent that creative ideas aimed at dog people abound. An estimated $2M worth of pet products have successfully been funded so far.
April 29 2015
Bark welcomes the news of an entertaining auction at Christie’s titled Best in Show which features an array of animal-inspired works by the master of Pop Art, Andy Warhol. The upcoming online only sale includes over 100 lots of silver gelatin prints, Polaroids, screenprints and drawings by Warhol. It’s a rare glimpse of the art and ephemera that inspired Andy’s life, and reflects his love of animals—cats, horses, cows, birds, and, of course, dogs. Enjoy the online catalog, bidding continues until May 5, 2015.
April 7 2015
This week marks the centennial (April 7, 1915) of one of America’s greatest and most individualist artists, Billie Holiday. Considered the greatest jazz vocalist of all time, Holiday’s distinctive vocal style made her musicianship equal to the titans of the golden era—Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Lester Young—all musical collaborators with the great “Lady Day.” Her troubled life, drug addiction and arrests, could not overshadow one of the most creative legacies of the 20th century. Holiday’s influence still reverberates today. A constant presence in her later years were her dogs—Mister, a Boxer and Pepi, a Chihuahua. They no doubt provided comfort during uncertain times, and the love that echoes throughout many of her songs.
Mister and Billie Holiday, 1946. William P. Gottlieb/Libray of Congress
March 25 2015
What does technology hold for the future of dogs? It’s an interesting question that was posed by the FOUND Dog Tech Conference held at San Francisco’s Digital Garage last Thursday, March 19. The inaugural FOUND event was created by Pack, a social network for dogs and their owners. One of the new breed of tech companies designed to serve next generation dog owners and their canine companions, Pack brought together tech movers and shakers to rally around common causes—to elevate the conversation around dog focused technology businesses, share new ideas and opportunities, and ponder their collective future. The leaders of Pack, Rover, Petcube, PrideBites and Whistle took to the stage to showcase their particular vision on dog business. Part product showcase, part tent revival—each presenter worked hard to convince the audience that the “pet space” was being reinvented and that the market opportunity ($80 billion annually) is huge and growing. The big message: dogs, and thus these start-ups, were to be taken seriously.
Dog tech today is based more on emulation then innovation, so one is more apt to meet the Fitbit for dogs or Uber for dogwalkers then fresh, radical ideas. The most successful business models are service oriented—helping dog owners (or pet parents as marketers like to say) hook up with care, products and social groups. But the financial investment appears to be real, and early success is helping people forget the failures of the past. Pets.com and its talking sock puppet is often cited as the poster child for misguided failure from tech’s big bust in the late ’90s. Today’s entrepreneurs are working hard to connect to the burgeoning pet market and find success.
What does tech have in store for dogs and their people? Here are a few takeaways from FOUND:
Dogs are not frivolous—they help us be healthier and happier, and thus should be considered part of the health and wellness industry. This shift in perspective reflects a line of thinking that may find traction with investors, and in turn foster more innovation.
Dogs make us social—Pack’s goal is to connect dog owners … to each other, to their cities, to their dogs. Think of Facebook for dogs, a canine social network. Pack Co-founder/CEO Megan Casey emphasized the relationship between dogs and their owners’ well-being. She also noted that more than half of all U.S. smartphone users have dogs.
Responding to underserved markets—Rover connects owners to a nationwide network of qualified dog boarders. Founder/CEO Aaron Easterly feels he has identified a large underserved market, one that operates in what he termed “the shadow economy”—casual transactions between family and friends that operates under the radar of standard business analysis. The early returns of his venture are promising enough to secure a new round of $25M investment, raising Rover’s total funding to over $50M.
Customization—PrideBites is pursuing the megatrend of personalization, the desire of consumers to design their own product. In this case, it’s placing your dog’s name or likeness on to toys and apparel made in China but the greater potential lies in customized dog food, pharmaceutical products and data systems.
Digitizing dogs—Whistle is one of a handful of new “smart” collars or wearable devices that monitor a dog’s activity with the capacity to connect data to health providers. “Our goal with Whistle,” said Jacobs, “is to give dogs a voice.” As the technology expands, expect more complex data monitoring and analysis.
What was missing? For all the talk of unconditional love and dogs making us better people, we didn’t hear talk of a deeper understanding of dog people and their needs. Nor was there acknowledgement of the wide diversity of the canine community. But that may have to wait for Dog Tech 2.0—for now, companies are targeting the low hanging fruit. Speaking of community, scant mention was made of efforts to contribute to our most pressing issues … animal rescue/adoption, humane causes or education. I hope that changes.
For now, it was refreshing to see a serious gathering of energetic, smart business people committed to dogs, or at least, the dog market. Some good things will take hold, others will fail, but in the end, there will be new services and products to make your life and your dogs’ a little better. One of the most insightful comments of the evening came from panelist Jon Lax, director of product design at Facebook … “the goal for any dog app or website should be to make us better caretakers. If we are spending more time with our apps than we are with our dogs … then something is amiss.”
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