The Poodle is well-known as a versatile breed. Historically, he was used for general work such as hunting, herding, and cart pulling. Possessing a vibrant personality and athletic body, he was also a natural for stage and circus performing. With the advent of modern dog sports, he has proven to be competent in musical canine freestyle, tracking, dock-diving, flyball, disc-catching, agility, obedience, weight-pulling, and skijing. Training a Poodle in any one of these activities takes time, effort, and dedication, and most people concentrate on only one or a selected few of them.
Those who train dogs usually like to have a goal to work towards. For sports competition, it is titles. For live entertainment (stage shows), it is performing before an audience. To be successful in attaining a title, a dog must learn a limited number of behaviors done in a specific way, and he is judged on how perfectly he does each exercise. In order to hold an audience’s attention, a stage show dog is trained mostly high-energy physical actions: climbing ladders, leaping from a springing platform, hind-leg work, jumping rope, doing back flips, etc.
For those interested in making movies, the Poodle’s versatility makes him an ideal canine actor. Not only can the Poodle learn anything you want to teach him but he can also be taught to perform it in a way that looks like a natural everyday behavior. Acting "natural" on screen IS a trained behavior. People in general do not realize that to teach a dog to act like a dog when you cue him to, can require more patience and ingenuity than it does to teach him seemingly more difficult actions and behaviors.
Movie work for the dog who is a main actor is mentally challenging because he has to be flexible in everything he does. He must have an excellent foundation of trained skills as he will be asked to combine them in different ways throughout a movie. For example: when the movie dog is asked to "come" in a scene, it will usually be different in some way: come slowly with head lowered pausing between steps (stalking), come quickly and then drop to the ground (as if hurt), come forward walking with book on head (like a model), or come forward to stop at a predetermined spot and look right then left (which way do I go?).
Within the bounds of his personality type, the movie dog’s actions and attitude must be consistent with what is being presented in the storyline, whether it is a dramatic scene, an action scene, or a comedic scene, since what he does on-screen must tell the story, much like how a Hollywood actor uses his repertoire to create a character for films. Like the human actor, a movie dog would look rather silly if he always had the same demeanor in every situation.
As talented and charismatic as Poodles are, most commercial productions use them only to make a social statement, and the Poodle’s wonderful personality and abilities go untapped and unrecognized. We Poodle owners can change that. Since most computers now come with video editing capabilities, people can easily produce their own movies. By "movies" I don’t mean the general concept of "home-movies" where shots of this and that are taken at random. I mean: 1) a creative story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end, 2) using camera shots in a way that supports and enhances what is happening in the story, and 3) adding sound effects and music creatively placed to underscore the visual story. A movie must have a theme, some kind of conflict, and a resolution that wraps up the story. Once produced, movies can be displayed on the Internet where they have an unlimited viewing audience.
Quite a few trained skills can be displayed in a very short movie. My Kidnapped story is only nine minutes long yet there are numerous trained actions and behaviors in it. In the story, Sydney believes that her brother Jyah has been kidnapped. Although Sydney is a very girly-girl and not all that brave, she nonetheless sets out to save her brother. For this movie, some of the trained skills I used were: "talking," nodding head "yes" and "no" (tricks), weaving through poles, climbing a ladder, walking a narrow ledge (agility/obstacle), following a scent (tracking), pulling up a toy by a rope, unwinding a rope, pulling another dog along by a scarf, and tossing dice (retrieving skills).
The main skill that I wanted to show in "Kidnapped" was Jyah performing actions while blindfolded. The behaviors I had him do while blindfolded were ones he had done hundreds of times previously without a blindfold. I began training him to accept a blindfold by using a semi-opaque piece of interfacing (sewing enthusiastic will know what this is). He could see through it but not very well. Once he was used to doing the behaviors with limited vision, it was not difficult to get him to do them while wearing a silk scarf (folded many times) over his eyes.
So, for those who treasure the relationship that working with your dog creates but are not interested in competitions, making movies with your versatile Poodle might be just your thing. Not only will you have an enjoyable recording of your Poodle’s accomplishments and personality to enjoy for years to come, but your Poodle can be a source of entertainment for others as well.