Our own Mike Ryan may be "so over" Uggie from "The Artist," but plenty of others are waiting with baited breath for the adorable Jack Russell terrier to perform with host Billy Crystal at the 84th Annual Academy Awards.
The treat of the evening's mysterious man-and-canine choreography has been dangled in front of our faces long enough -- which is why Moviefone asked three professional dog trainers what routine they'd orchestrate for Uggie and Billy on Oscar night. (And how they'd teach both man and dog the sketch!)
You'll have to wait until Sunday, February 26 to find out if any of these predictions ring apropos - until then, enjoy the mental imagery.
"I think it would be fun for Uggie to show off his artistic skills, given that he's in 'The Artist.' There is a fun trick called Paintbrush Painting that he could do at the beginning. Uggie takes a brush from a paint can and touches it to an easel to create art. Billy could comment on how talented he is as an artist while Uggie puts the brush back in the can and proceeds to 'dance' around on his hind legs and show off his dancing skills. Billy could then start asking Uggie questions about the making of the film. At this point, Uggie seems distracted and goes to sit in front of a mirror (maybe on a chaise lounge or something). Billy says, 'Hey - I'm talking to you!' Uggie releases two barks and his hair and makeup people come out - one with a brush, maybe a manicurist, too. Billy could end the segment by saying something like, 'Ahh, his true artistic talent lies as an actor. I think he's got it down pat, don't you?'
The best part! Uggie's 'artwork' could be signed by Billy Crystal and auctioned off after the Oscars for charity!" -- Kim Mayes, CTDI
"My favorite skits are the ones where important people get bested by mischievous dogs. I can picture Uggie swiping Billy's cue card or reading glasses and running up a ladder to dangle them just out of Billy's reach.
The neat thing about trained dogs is that they can pick up new behaviors very quickly. Uggie would only need a day of prep time to learn to swipe the object and take it to the top of the ladder. But what differentiates a dog doing a trick from a real dog actor is the subtleties. Most dogs would simply stand at the top of the ladder holding the reading glasses. But a good dog actor would subtly lower his head toward Billy, and right as Billy jumps for the glasses the dog would go 'yoink!' and pull his head back.
To achieve this advanced behavior, we take advantage of a little dog psychology. You've probably been 'yoinked' at some point by your own dog, when you reached for his favorite toy in his mouth. Dogs get possessive when they really like the object they are holding. I'd wrap a little piece of hot dog in plastic and tape it to the glasses. The dog will smell the treat, but not be able to eat it. He'll really want to keep possession of this valuable object!" -- Kyra Sundance, author of "101 Dog Tricks"
"What if both rolled onto stage on skateboards? I've taught all my dogs to skateboard - they can even push it with one leg off and three on the board. Basically, I put the board out and any attention that they pay to it, I reinforce with a cookie. I like using a marker like a clicker or by saying 'yes' to tell them that what they did was right - followed by a treat. Initially, they touch the board, then move to putting one foot on, then two, and so on. So they could roll out, even flip the board to roll away from them - followed by a high five. Then I'd have them both take a bow - easy to teach with a lure: Put the cookie in front of Uggie's nose, bring it down and when his elbows hit the ground, that's the 'yes.'
Next, if Billy Crystal was going to be talking about the movie or explaining something, I'd have Uggie sitting by him, looking very interested, but ever so slowly lying down - looking bored, then more bored, and finally sleeping on his back with his feet in the air. Or go out of sight, come back with glasses and a newspaper and sit down and 'read' the paper. Then maybe have Billy Crystal say something like, 'Okay, Uggie - let's go grab dinner!' - which would be a cue to have him grab a bowl and follow Billy off stage.
Note: It's much easier to train dogs than men!" -- Becky Hutchins, certified dog trainer and teacher at Nassau Veterinary Clinic in Nassau, NY
For more on Uggie, check out a comprehensive look at your favorite movie-star dog throughout awards season below.
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