From supermarket parking lot to his first starring role alongside Will Farrell, Baxter, the dog of "Anchorman 2," has come a long way. The adorable Terrier mix goes by Quince, and as you may notice, he’s a bit different than the original Baxter. (R.I.P. Peanut.) His trainer, Raymond Beal, sat down with PawNation to tell us all about Quince’s storybook life and what it takes to work with dog stars.
What is Quince's background?
Quince is a shelter dog. He was found wandering around the parking lot of a supermarket. As we were looking for dogs for film work, we happened to stumble across him and he had this great look. He had a lot of energy, so we picked him up and put him in our company, started training him, and he got the job. He was a year old at least.
What is the process for casting for a film like this?
We do what we call a showing, which is basically a dog audition. We bring down a handful of dogs for production to look at and choose. They can choose through pictures and then we bring them in to do a live show, to see the different behaviors ... if it’s going to work for them, or if they need to know more. Once they pick the animal, then you get the script and you start training per the script.
What made them pick Quince out of the others?
They loved his look. We had three dogs for the film, but Quincey was the lead. He's got this great, adorable look and they love his floppy ears. He was one of the closest ones we had that looked like Peanut. That dog was a mutt, so it's hard to double mutts. Especially 10 years later.
How did you come to work with Quince for Anchorman 2?
Quince is owned by our company, which is Birds and Animals Unlimited. Productions usually call our company up when they're looking for specific kinds of animals, you know — dogs, cats, rats, birds, pigs, you name it. It just happened to be that we had done the original film for them, so they came back to us. We did a good enough job that they liked us, so they called us up and said 'We're doing "Anchorman 2," we'd like to get Baxter back in the movie, and what do you guys have for us?'
How long does it take to get a shelter dog to get ready for the camera?
For basics and even to just be ready to start filming anything, usually a good 12 to 16 weeks is standard for a dog that has never been trained in his life. We've done it faster, depending on if it's a major part or if the dog has to do a couple big scenes. You can get by with a couple weeks of training just to get by with a few little small scenes. It's also about how much craziness is in the script.
How often do you get shelter dogs for films?
I'd say that 80 percent of the dogs and cats at our company are from the shelter. Unless somebody's asking for a puppy, specifically, we usually look for a year old or more, that way they've had the opportunity to be a normal, everyday dog. When you start training as puppies — which is great, they're sponges and they want to learn — sometimes they're almost too good and they're almost too into you and they don't do the natural stuff as much.
Is it difficult to train out bad behaviors from rescue dogs?
It's the luck of a gamble sometimes. You do the best you can, you go with the look, you go with the personality you do see. You may not see something or know something that has happened to the animal in the past. We've run into a few where they don't quite make it for film work, but even if they don't it's not like we're going to send them away. We keep them or find them a home where someone will foster them out for us.
It looks like Baxter was snarling in the Paul Rudd arm-biting scene. How do you teach a dog to bite someone’s arm like that?
If you just make it a game for him, he knows he's supposed to pick up the arm, because that's what the command is, so he naturally pulls his lips back to get a hold of something, because the arm is really bigger than a stick or something small. He pulls his lips back and in the slow motion, it really sells it. If you saw it at normal speed you'd think, "Oh, he just picked it up." But when you slow it down, it really helps sell that his lips are curling back to expose his teeth.
What was the most difficult thing to Quince to do for "Anchorman 2"?
We had to teach him to ride in a harness to be puppeteered in the air like he's floating for the crashing RV scene. During that scene, he also had to do a bite on the arm ... those two things have never been paired together. So pairing those together was one of our more stressful behaviors that he had to learn. Basically, the only other test behavior we had was working at the beach, because there were birds everywhere and they wanted the birds to be in the shot. He happens to like to chase birds, so the hardest part was getting him not to.
What was the hardest scene to film?
He had never swam before, so we had to get him used to swimming. Then we had to get him used to the ocean, which is completely different than just swimming in the pool. We did two versions, we did some swimming in a pool — for all the shark work — him in the water with the shark. Then all the ocean stuff was shot with him on the shore and the ocean changed drastically from high tide to low tide. When it was low tide it was almost like a lake. When the tide started rolling in the sea got pretty rough, so we had to time it back for when it was doable for him to swim in that kind of current.
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Did Quince like the water?
He is not a gung-ho water dog. We had to ease him in down on the steps and he'd sit on the steps for a while. Then swim to the trainer and then swim back to the other trainer on the step. We built that up. We would go take him swimming every day at the end of our training day. It wears them out, too — it’s very tiring. So we'd leave that for the end of the day so he got done with that, and we could dry him off and make him take a good rest.