Bonnie Judd’s love of animals started early.
“My mom told me I learned to walk by holding on to our spaniel’s collar with one hand and my diaper with the other,” laughs Bonnie.
“As a young girl, I spent many hours teaching my dog to play soccer. I still do that sort of thing but… now, I get paid for it. Even the soccer playing came in handy as I used those techniques when I trained the dogs for Air Bud III -World Pup.”
An in-demand animal trainer for the film industry, Bonnie provides and trains not only dogs but critters as diverse as monkeys, camels, boars, elephant, cockroaches and lemurs to name just a few. She has trained animals for producers from as far away as Europe, Japan, Argentina, and of course her local area, Metro Vancouver.
Her work can be most recently seen on The Flash, Arrow, Signed, Sealed, Delivered, A Christmas Tail, and Monster Truck. She has an enviable list of credits that stretch back to the X-Files And Millennium, Smallville, Supernatural and feature such animal-centric movies as Air Bud (I, Ii, Iii & Iv), Dogs And Cats, Good Boy!, Bailey’s Billions and The Dogfather.
She has been asked to train animals to perform some strange behaviours over the years. For one commercial “Fergus Bud Light” she was required to train her dog Scrabble to bite a guy in the crotch. This proved an effective, if cringe-worth method of getting Scrabbles on-screen owner a beer. Recent commercials saw her teaching a sheep to paw at a smart phone, a dog to hump a guy’s leg and training a pony to kick the same poor guy in the head.
Bonnie’s success really comes down to one thing – she understands how animals think. Her training methods start by adapting the natural drives and instincts of the animal.
She says, “I meet the animal half-way and instead of forcing the animal to do something, I work with the animal to develop the behaviour in a way that is natural and fun. Most of the animals I see trained today are jerked or bribed into doing what the owner wants and often the dog eventually comes to perform the behaviour in spite of the training instead of because of it.”
While Bonnie is a proponent of positive motivation, she stresses that communication with the animal is key. If that animal doesn’t understand what you are asking of it all the treats and toys won’t make a difference.
Bonnie is known for finding the right animal for the job. She says as an animal coordinator she is often required to show 50 or more photos for a given project. This requires her to stay tuned-in to the animal community.
A few years back she developed Canine Co-Stars and started offering training classes at her facility in the Fraser Valley so that she would have a pool of trained animals to showcase to producers. Her classes focus on developing the partnership between student and dog and helping the student understand how to teach their dog to actively participate in the learning process. This makes it possible to take the training beyond the basic, heel, sit and down to where a dog can learn the specific (and sometimes weird) tasks for in front of camera.
“In the movies, we are often called to train dogs to do things you would totally not want in real life – like digging holes, barking and chasing people,” explains Bonnie.
Learn more about Bonnie and her on screen projects at www.bonniejudd.com/.
In addition to training, Bonnie’s love of dogs led her develop an all-natural raw dog food. Movie dogs need to have calm nerves, bright eyes, glossy coats and abundant energy to carry them through a long day on set. She found commercial dry food lacking and worked with a top canine nutritionist to develop a natural alternative. Word of mouth led to high demand and she eventually made the food commercially available – Chow For Now. You can find out more about her line of food products at www.chowfornow.ca
All work and no play is no fun – even for Bonnie. One of her current side projects has seen her erect a full-size extreme dock diving pool to provide fun and enrichment for her own and others’ animals.
It is a fact that no matter what the future brings for Bonnie we know for sure it will feature her animals. You can get in touch with Bonnie at www.bonniejudd.com
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