It’s a dog’s Life

What's the biggest misconception owners have about their dogs?
August 1, 2008

What’s the biggest misconception owners have about their dogs?
That they are tiny humans covered in fur. The most important part of my job is ‘retraining’ humans to see the world from their dog’s point of view. I teach them that their dogs experience the world with their nose, eyes and then their ears; this is the opposite of how we experience it – ears, eyes and then nose.

What’s the best thing about your job?
It is wonderful to be able to work with dogs every day and stay in tune with Mother Nature. I also enjoy sharing my knowledge with people. It was very rewarding at the 100th episode party to see just how much the dogs and their owners have changed. I feel like I am making a difference, and that is very important to me.

Working in TV you often have to do several takes. How does this work when working with dogs who are not actors?
The producers of Dog Whisperer like to joke that we are the only true reality show on television. I can’t stop to do a second take when working with a dog, so if the shooters don’t get the shot the first time, they just don’t get it.

What is your favorite moment in the show?
My favorite moment of every show is when the owner ‘gets it.’ It’s like a light bulb goes on, and you can see that they understand what they have to do. It is rewarding every time.

How do you prepare before filming?
They don’t tell me about the dogs or the owners before I go to the shoot. To me, the most important thing is living in the moment and working with what is in front of me.

Can you paint a picture of what your workplace atmosphere is like?
At the Dog Psychology Center, we have 20 to 40 dogs at a time. They all had issues in the past and have been rehabilitated. The center is designed to fulfill their needs. We have two pools, a canine massage room, a recreation area where we play fetch, and ramps and tubes for obstacle courses. The buildings are painted with bright, positive colors and there are cultural artwork and statues to help the humans there focus on positive energy and remain calm and assertive.

Is working with the dogs of celebrities and those of regular people different?
No. Dogs don’t know if you’re a successful movie star or unemployed. They don’t care if you give them a diamond collar or the most expensive dog bed. What they do notice is energy. Are you tense, nervous, angry or fearful? Your dog will pick up on that, so my message to all humans, whether they are celebrities or not, is to be sure to maintain balanced, calm and assertive energy.

If you weren’t the Dog Whisperer, what would you be?
Maybe working at the zoo or Sea World – any job working with animals!

Bonus question: arf arf woof woof bark?
Bow wow.

About The Author
Andrew Tracy joined Realscreen as associate editor in 2021, following 17 years as managing editor of the award-winning international film magazine Cinema Scope. From 2010 to 2020 he also held the position of senior editor at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he oversaw the flagship publication for the organization’s year-round Cinematheque programming and edited its first original monograph in a decade, Steve Gravestock’s A History of Icelandic Film. He was a scriptwriter and consultant on the first season of the Vice TV series The Vice Guide to Film, and his writing and reporting have been featured in such outlets as Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot, Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Film Comment, MUBI Notebook, POV, and Montage.