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‘Alpha’ Dog Trainer Explains Why Hollywood Dogs Need Their Scripts Early

Wait? Is that a real wolf?

If you missed the feel-good dog-lovers movie Alpha when it was in theaters, fear not, you can stream it and buy it right now. Set during the ice age, the movie follows a young boy and his dog wolf named Alpha. It’s an endearing movie, but also a little like Call of the Wild or Hatchet but set in prehistoric times. The star of the movie, in real life, is a Czechoslovakian wolf-dog named Chuck, and he’s awesome. More importantly, though, it turns out Hollywood dogs (and wolf-dogs) have something in common with your family dog: they need certitude to behave.

In an exclusive behind-the-scenes clip from the movie, several folks who worked on Alpha explain how you make it seem like a wolf is really an actor in the film.

“You can never work with a real wolf,” explains producer Andrew Rona. “They’re very skittish, they come on set and they don’t trust you, they don’t look at you. But the Czech-hybrid dog is the perfect combination because it gives you that wolf-y behavior.”

The animal trainer for Chuck the Czechoslovakian wolf-dog in Alpha is Mark Forbes, who in addition to convincing audiences that Chuck is a prehistoric wolf also has credits on a ton of Hollywood movies, most recently, A Dog’s PurposeIn October of this year, Forbes revealed his secret to MondernDog, and it turns out it’s actually pretty simple: the dogs need the script way beforehand.

“You have the script months in advance so it becomes a challenge when you’re suddenly asking the dog to do something he’s not prepared for,” Forbes explained. This actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Animals, like small children, need predictable patterns, meaning, you can’t have a ton of ad-libbing in a dog movie!

This isn’t because actor dogs are really spoiled, it’s just common sense. So, if you are dealing with problems with the family dog, consider a tip from the Hollywood dog pros: let your dog know what is going on way before it happens.

Alpha is out on Blu-ray and digital rental right now.