Hotel for Dogs

While trying to find a home for their dog, mischievous orphans Andi (Emma Roberts) and Bruce (Jake T. Austin) discover an abandoned hotel, which they fix up so they can take in stray dogs and care for them.

  • Starring: Emma Roberts, Don Cheadle and Jake T. Austin
  • Director(s): Thor Freudenthal
  • Producer(s): Lauren Shuler Donner
  • Screenwriter(s): Jeff Lowell
  • Distributor: Paramount Pictures
  • Animal Coordinator: Birds and Animals Unlimited
  • Release Date: Friday, January 16, 2009
  • Rating: Outstanding

Featured Animal Action

All grounds were inspected for safety. Cast and crew members were instructed on the animals' proper handling before filming began. Whenever dogs were to be near each other or near actors, they were introduced to each other before filming began and given time to become comfortable and familiar with each other. Whenever a dog is seen performing such mild action as sitting, lying down, walking (on- or off-leash), or jumping a short distance, trainers placed the animal on its mark and stood off-camera, using hand signals and verbal commands to cue the actions, which the trained canines were accustomed to. When a dog runs by itself, the streets were closed to the public — only cars that were part of film were nearby and they moved slowly and at a safe distance from the animals. Trainers either doubled as actors whenever possible or stood just off-camera to direct the dog where to run or walk. They allowed the dogs to set their pace and stop along the way if they wanted. All food the dogs ate was deemed safe for consumption, and takes were limited to prevent overeating. All animal clothing was custom-made, and each animal was accustomed to wearing it. Anytime Georgia the dog is shown carrying things in her mouth, they were lightweight props that she was comfortable with and well-rehearsed to carry. Whenever the bulldog, Cooper, is seen chewing on something, the items were safe for chewing and this was the dog's natural behavior. Whenever dogs are shown knocking items over, such as dinner plates, the items were plastic props that posed no harm to the animals. To get Romeo (a Chinese crested dog) and Juliet (a poodle) to kiss in two scenes, a thin piece of plastic smeared with baby food was held between the two dogs, who were cued to lick it, making it appear as if they are kissing. The rain that Friday runs through in the alley was created with a special effects machine, and it did not faze the dog. The scene in which Bernie (Don Cheadle) calls roll for the dogs in the hotel was filmed in several separate shots using about six dogs at a time and then edited together to make it appear as if all the dogs were there at the same time. The dogs seen on treadmills were placed on real treadmills, which were turned to a slow setting depending on the size and speed of each dog, while trainers stood nearby. All barking and howling was a cued behavior.

Dogs and Cat

Andi's (Emma Roberts) and Bruce's (Jake T. Austin) dog Friday is on the kitchen counter, then hides behind a bag of groceries, hops on the microwave, jumps onto the refrigerator, takes the portable ironing board down and uses it to walk to the stove, and eats the bacon off a plate. Trainers used hand signals and verbal commands to cue the dog to jump from one secured area or object to another and then approach the bacon. The stove was a nonworking prop, and the ironing board was rigged with a monofilament line and was lowered by an off-screen crew member. The bacon was fake, except for one piece that the dog was allowed to eat.

Bruce picks Friday up and runs into his room with him, finally placing the dog on the fire escape. Friday then climbs into a milk crate, which is hooked up to a pulley system, and goes down to the ground — but not before passing a cat on another fire-escape landing. The well-instructed and well-rehearsed actor carefully picked up the dog and set it on the fire escape, which was a custom-made, safe and secure movie set piece. Off-screen trainers cued the dog to get into the milk crate, and a crew member controlled the pulley system. The cat was placed on its mark by its trainer, who stood nearby. The cat was unfazed by the presence of the dog.

Friday scratches at the window of a store while tied on a long rope. Trainers placed the dog on its mark and cued it to scratch at the window. The rope was attached to the dog's collar, which was loose enough to fit over its head. Then trainer stood nearby and cued the dog to squirm out of the collar.

For the scene in which Friday is on top of a trash can eating garbage with a banana peel on his head, the trash can was equipped with a piece of wood for the dog to stand on. Trainers placed the peel on the dog's head and put prop garbage items inside the can.

For the scene in which Friday jumps through the open window into the kids' bedroom and onto the bed, a trainer placed the dog on its mark outside the window while another trainer called to the dog. The dog jumped through the open window, which was only a short distance from the ground, and then jumped on the bed on cue.

While on the hotel stairs, Friday growls and snarls at an animal control officer. During this scene, the trainer was standing just off-camera, right behind the actor. The dog was accustomed to this action as being playful, so the trainer cued it to "play with" the actor.

Bruce makes a machine that throws tennis balls for the dogs to fetch. When the fetch machine accidentally tosses a spoon at Dave (Johnny Simmons), three dogs watch and one runs down the stairs, stepping over Dave to fetch the spoon. Crew members made the fetch machine. An off-screen crew member controlled the machine to make sure the balls and lightweight plastic spoon were tossed away from anyone. A trainer cued the dogs to stay as one trainer released one dog at the top of the stairs and another trainer standing at the bottom of the stairs called the dog. The kids begin to clean up as the dogs try their best to help. We see Dave sawing a piece of wood with Romeo on the other end to help hold the wood in place. Romeo falls to the floor as the piece of wood is sawed off. This scene was filmed in separate shots. The smooth piece of wood was secured to a sawhorse and rigged to fall a certain way, controlled by a crew member. A trainer placed the dog on its mark . A thick, padded mat was placed on the ground below the dog, who was well-rehearsed for this short fall.

The "dog toilet" machines were props. A long table secured to the ground safely held the dogs. Holes were made and toilet seats were bolted on the table over the holes. Trainers placed the dogs on their marks and cued them to sit on the toilet seats. For the shot in which Romeo urinates on the giant fire hydrant, he was released by the actor and cued to lift his leg on the hydrant. The puddle of urine was added in post-production.

The door-knocking machines were specially made so that when a dog stepped on the foot pad, it would set off a pulley system to knock or ring a doorbell. The dogs would then run to that door. Trainers cued the dogs to run from one door to another, and some trainers even stood on ladders above the doors to get the dogs to look in certain directions.

For the scene in which four dogs sit in the doggie car simulator ride, fans blew their fur and a screen behind them showed motion. At the end of the ride, the doors opened with monofilament lines controlled by crew members.

In the "dog fun room," mattresses line the floor and walls, kids play tug-of-war with dogs, feathers fly and a dog is washed in a machine. These "games" were all specially created for this film and deemed safe. The dogs were comfortable with their surroundings and the child actors were well-rehearsed on the dogs' proper handling. A dog was briefly placed in the prop washing machine and removed before any water or soap was let in. Two dogs, Romeo and Juliet, run through a border collie's herding room containing remote control sheep. The fake sheep were on little bumper cars controlled by crew members, who kept them a safe distance from the dogs. A trainer placed Romeo on top of a car and under a fake sheep while another trainer stood nearby.

When the kids decide to rescue dogs from animal control, Friday and Bruce man the radio and the kids in the mobile dog van drive around and rescue the dogs before animal control can get to them. They find a three-legged dog, Lucy, and use the van and Friday as a decoy to get the dogs from the animal control van into their van via a ramp. A ramp was secured from the animal control truck to their mobile dog truck. Dogs were cued to walk across the ramp into the mobile dog truck. Dogs went at their own speed. Trainers stood nearby to make sure all the dogs were fine.

The scene in which dogs are seen running from different areas of the hotel to the dinner table was shot in separate shots using about 10 dogs at a time. Trainers cued the dogs to run to the table and get up into a chair and stay. When a toy train comes down the table with the bowls, there were rocks inside the bowls instead of food, so that the dogs would not be tempted by the smell of food. To film the eating portion of this scene, trainers replaced the rocks with treats.

When no humans are around to work the food machine, the dogs get antsy and leave, resulting in chaos. Georgia finds a bone, but Henry wants it and chases her for it. They run through the dinner room and the other dogs start running, too. Georgia runs up on the scaffolding and slides down with the bone. She runs to the car simulator room and Henry knocks down the doors. She runs through the obstacle course and up onto a seesaw. Henry flies through the air, launching Georgia off the seesaw and into the air. Several trainers were near the dogs, cueing much of this behavior and action, with one trainer releasing a dog and another trainer calling the dog to come. Georgia's bone was a special lightweight bone she was accustomed to carrying. The dogs were well-rehearsed and comfortable with the running and with each other. For the shot in which Georgia runs on the scaffolding, which was low to the ground, a trainer cued the dog to come to a mark. For the shot in which Henry knocks down the doors to the simulator room, the dog was cued to put its feet up on the door, which an off-screen crew member made fall over. No other dogs were on the set when the door fell down. Then Henry was removed and off-screen crew members controlled a rigged monofilament line to knock down the other doors. Georgia was accustomed to running the obstacle course. The seesaw action was filmed in separate shots. A trainer placed Georgia onto the seesaw. Then Georgia was replaced with a stunt double (a stuffed prop) while Henry's trainer cued him to jump on the seesaw. When Henry jumped, a crew member on a ladder yanked the fake Georgia through the air. As the chaos continues into the kitchen, dogs are in mixers and pots, knocking over rice bags and walking on the counter. The trainers placed the dogs in the bowls, in pots and on counters and cued them to knock over items. This scene was well-choreographed and no items were dangerous.

The shelter scenes were filmed at a county animal shelter. The dogs that were actually sheltered there were removed from their kennels, which were disinfected and inspected before bringing in the trained dogs. Trainers hid in cages whenever possible to cue the dogs to look in certain directions. For shots in which a shelter employee walks a dog using a catch pole, the actor was rehearsed on the proper use of the tool, and the dog was familiar with it. A shelter employee carries Friday and tosses him into a kennel. The actor was handed the dog right before filming began and gently tossed the dog to the trainer, who was hiding inside the padded cage. The yelp was a sound effect added in later.

To achieve the scene in which the kids and Friday run through the shelter opening the cages and releasing the dogs, the actors opened the cage doors and hidden trainers cued the dogs to run and bark. Cameras were strategically placed around the area to capture certain angles.

Andi and Bruce open the front doors of the shelter, free all the animals and bring them back to the hotel. Once the dogs are released, they chase Andi and Bruce as they drive down the street in the van. Andi and Bruce open the doors and they stay propped open. This sequence was filmed in separate shots. Trainers released dogs from puppy pens while other trainers called the dogs to come. As the dogs chase the mobile dog van down the street, some are on the sidewalk where people are walking, and some run through a street fair. Dogs were kept at a safe distance from the moving vehicle, which drove at very a slow speed. All the people in the scene were very aware of where the dogs were at all times.

During the end credits, we see the new and improved hotel for dogs. We see dogs at a spa (under hair dryers), at a puppy adoption, on a purse-shaped pulley lift going upstairs and in a recycling bin. Trainers cued these actions, most of which were mild. For spa dogs, cucumbers and towels were placed on them right before filming began, and a crew member controlled the compressed air that came out of the dryers. For the recycler, a trainer held a new trash can on its side, cued the dog to get in and then lifted the can upright, placing shredded paper inside. For the pulley lift, the large prop purses were attached to a conveyer belt constructed and operated by crew members.

Miscellaneous Animals

The pet store scene was filmed in a real pet store. Some of the animals shown were from the actual pet store and others were trained movie animals. Trainers stood just off-camera, used hand signals and verbal cues and held bait sticks and toys to get the dogs to achieve certain behaviors (such as a border collie running in circles in a cage and a bulldog chewing a bone in another cage). For the Pomeranian's bath, the tub was filmed with warm water and nontoxic dog shampoo was used. The dog and actress were accustomed to the grooming techniques.