You Oughta Be In Pictures

Ty Brown on Pet Life Radio

Many pet professionals have very well trained pets. Well-trained pets are in demand for movies, television, and print media. This can be a real source of income for enterprising pet professionals, not to mention the extra shot of credibility that comes from having trained animals for media work. Pet owners from around the country (you don't have to live in New York or L.A.) can add revenue streams to their business by training their animals to be in movies, television, or print advertising. Listen in as Dawn Wolfe provides a step-by-step interview on how you can do this.


    For Dawn Wolfe, it started with the movie "Benji." Dawn, 10 years old when the movie was released, was immediately smitten with the canine star, Benji. She wished she had a dog that could do tricks like him. Her wish was answered with Shelby, a border collie/shepherd mix pup, who became her "Benji." By the time Dawn was 12, she was putting on animal acts for neighbors and friends at the local park. People began bringing their animals to her and before long, she became known as the neighborhood pet sitter, dog trainer and wildlife rehabilitator!

    Enter Athena

    Dawn had read Jack London's Call of the Wild and White Fang many times. She was determined that someday she would have her own wolf. In 1988, Athena, a black British Columbian wolf cub, entered Dawn's life and another aspect of her animal training business was born.

    At 9 months old, Athena became the official mascot for a local Alaskan FM radio station—KWLF, of course! Not long afterwards, Dawn, her children and Athena left Alaska and came back to the states. While visiting a friend in New Jersey, Dawn was invited to attend a meeting of local wolf and wolfdog owners. One of the guest speakers that day was retired U.S. Army Major Fred Fink. Major Fink was a dog trainer who had previously served as principal handler for the U.S. Army's canine corps and had personally trained dogs for active duty in Viet Nam. He was also involved in training wolves for a pilot project for the army. Major Fink was adamant that wolves could learn basic obedience if trained properly. Not surprisingly, Dawn was intrigued by this concept. She moved to the Trenton/Ewing area to apprentice under Major Fink for one year. At the end of the year, Dawn received her "Certified Dog Behaviorist and Master Trainer" certificate and moved to Medford, New Jersey where she served as the South Jersey Regional Director of Training for Major Fink's company, Analytic Dog Training, until his passing in 1992.

    On Her Own

    At a crossroads, Dawn decided to start her own dog training business. Fink had enabled her to live out her childhood dream of being a professional animal trainer. Not only is she doing what she wants to do, the flexible hours and good money have allowed her to raise her two sons and participate in all of their school events and activities—something that a 9-5 job would not have let her do! Being a "hands on" mom is Dawn's top priority.

    Since Dawn believes "you never stop learning," attending seminars and networking with other professionals has always been an important part of her business philosophy. In addition to remote collar training, Dawn is proficient in a number of different training methods and equipment. Remote collar training, however, has been her primary tool of choice from the start of her career and has helped to differentiate her from other trainers. Dawn's unique approach to training with an e-collar allows her to motivate her dogs not only for obedience work, but also for tricks, retrieves and even posing for the camera!

    Holistic Approach

    She takes a holistic approach to helping clients whenever possible. Not only do they learn to understand dog behavior and pack law, but Dawn also educates them on subjects they might not have considered— diet, dental care, essential oils, massage, herbal supplements and more. Fitness training is another subject she is passionate about—skatejoring, swimming, using a treadmill, etc. Dawn's motto is: "A tired dog is a good dog." 

    Since much of her business is through word of mouth and veterinarian referrals, Dawn has quickly become known as the `go to' person when it comes to problem pooches. Local professionals, as well as other professionals throughout the U.S. and Canada call upon her expertise. Dawn clearly states, "We make bad dogs good and good dogs better." Without Dawn's help, the next step for many of the "bad" dogs would be the local animal shelter or euthanasia.

    What's on the horizon?

    At this point in her career, Dawn is becoming more involved in training animals for TV and movies, and acting as a talent coordinator. She also conducts workshops and auditions for aspiring animal actors throughout the U.S.