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Last Updated: Friday July 10 2009 14:38 GMT

Gavin finds out about animal acting classes

Gavin with animal acting team

Animals learn to act

Lots of top actors started out at stage school or by going to drama clubs after lessons, but there's another group that also takes acting lessons that you may not know about.

Many of the animals you see on screen have been specially taught how to do the right things when a camera is pointed at them.

So where do acting animals go to learn the craft? Gavin's been finding out.


"I went to visit a place where animals are given special training for film and television.

They play quite a big role in some productions. Soaps like EastEnders and films like Marley & Me are always featuring pets and a lot of discipline is needed to get them ready to perform.

Dog trainer Ceris

Ceris is one of the trainers at the school in Oxfordshire. It's mainly dogs and cats who get their showbiz training there, but the school does have other animals on its books.

Bark on demand

The animals need to learn the correct behaviour that a director on a set may want from them. They need to be able to bark on demand, jump or do a trick when called upon - or just give the correct look or snarl at the right moment!

The way to get a dog to do what is needed, is to reward it with a snack as soon as it performs the right move (like a crawl or jump).

The trainer says a word or uses a hand signal for the dog so that it learns the technique and gives it a treat if it performs well. The process is called positive reinforcement.

Gavin tries dog training

We practised some of the techniques on a couple of dogs in their line-up.

Gav has a go!

Luckily for me they were already trained so I didn't have to persist with too much praise and reward for what I wanted them to do. I was surprised by how much they really took notice.

Then again, I suppose they need to get used to a big production with actors telling them what to do - some who might have never been around animals much before."

Gavin