Can Pudsey pick the next top dog It's TV's daftest talent show yet, with BGT's superpooch as a judge. So which model mutt has the bow-wow factor
08:45 GMT, 31 August 2012
Judges: Ashleigh Butler and Pudsey will be deciding who is the next doggy superstar
Not so long ago, anyone who suggested a TV talent search just for dogs would have been regarded as, well, barking mad.
But with Ashleigh Butler and Pudsey winning Britain’s Got Talent, and other dog acts featuring strongly in past series, a TV hunt is now on to find our coolest canine to model on the, er, dogwalk.
The ITV2 show, which starts on Wednesday, follows the same principles as its human counterpart, Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model (but without the catfights, hopefully), and is looking for a dog with the bow-wow factor. The new Cindy Pawford or Claudia Sniffer perhaps.
And who will be helping to choose the winner Why, Ashleigh and Pudsey, who find themselves on the judging panel for the first time.
Says Ashleigh: ‘It’s exciting, and pretty daunting, to find ourselves on the opposite side — judging, rather than being judged. We know what contestants are going through, because we were in their position ourselves, and it was scary.’
As Pudsey famously said when Ashleigh asked him how he was feeling while awaiting the BGT judges’ verdict on him: ‘Ruff.’
So what sort of judges are Ashleigh and Pudsey likely to be ‘Even when it’s a no, I want to make sure I am giving the dog and its owner some positive feedback. It’s just a shame that somebody has to be sent walkies every week in the show.’
As the six-part series progresses, the 22 chosen pooches graduate to paw camp, where they are tested for their suitability as models through a series of dog-eat-dog assignments, from photoshoots to tests of their poise and behaviour.
Of course, it’s not just looks that will crown the winner: character and star quality will need to shine through, too.
‘We are looking for the relationship between dog and owner,’ says Ashleigh. ‘It would be great to see them being as close as me and Pudsey. I want to see the owner putting the dog first, and making sure their pet is happy.’
So how is Pudsey getting on with all those other dogs ‘He is totally at ease. He loves every dog, so there was never going to be a problem. What did surprise me was that all the other dogs are absolutely brilliant, too, and get on well with each other.’
Going for gold: Competitors Bow, left, and Sparky, right, are both in the running for Top Dog spot
Ashleigh and Pudsey have been helping with the training. ‘It’s been great fun,’ says Ashleigh. ‘I haven’t done my own classes for quite a while, because we’ve been so busy since we won BGT, so it’s good to go back and do that.’
The contest will really hot up when it reaches the final challenges for the last six dogs left in the competition, with each animal getting to make its own advert for a mobile phone company.
The winner will land a contract for an advertising campaign.
The other judges are Hollywood dog agent Addison Witt, X Factor graduate and I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! winner Stacey Solomon, and Chanel model Lilah Parsons.
How are they all getting on
‘There are some disagreements,’ says Ashleigh. ‘And some of our deliberations do go on for rather a long time.’
Apart from poise, they say they’re looking for entertainment skills, and the series will include a piano-playing dog, a gigantic dog being given a piggy back, and there is even a royal visit.
‘There are some brilliant personalities,’ says Ashleigh.
So which dogs are the ones to watch There are three hotly-tipped contenders for the title.
The dog to watch: Daisy, a three-year-old Lhasa apso, is one of the prettiest contenders
Bow, a three-year-old black toy poodle, is owned by 19-year-old local government administrator Chelsey Dudfield-Robinson and has already done some modelling for Diva Dogs in Chelmsford, Essex.
‘She is very pampered,’ says Chelsey. ‘She loves cuddles, and is constantly tapping me to get me to play with her. She’s a real member of the family.
‘She gets groomed once a month — a full poodle cut with pompoms — and she wears perfume.
‘Bow did really well at the London auditions. She did lots of sitting and staying.
‘To be honest, I thought we’d be sent straight home because she doesn’t do tricks, but they felt she was a good model.
‘She loves having her picture taken. As soon as there’s a photographer and a flash, she gives them a doggy smile and puts her paws in the air.
‘When they wanted her to be a diva dog, she held her head up and lifted one paw.
‘I’d never taught her that — it just came naturally to her to be a diva.
‘The whole experience is just brilliant. Bow’s now much friendlier to strangers. She used to be terrified of other dogs, but she’s made friends with Scarlett the rottweiler and she also likes Lucky the chihuahua.
‘She’s so fussy with food. At home, she gets chicken cooked freshly every day, or mince. She doesn’t like any dog biscuits, so it’s difficult to train her with food.
Trainer: Pudsey will help to chose the winner out of 22 pooches in paw camp
‘But for one of the tasks on the show, they were given raw lamb treats and she loved those. She’s a fresh food snob.
‘A lot of dogs will perform tasks for food but she’s so pampered she won’t do that. She’ll do what’s asked of her, but she’ll stop when she’s had enough. Lilah is Bow’s and my favourite judge because she’s a Chanel model, and I would love Bow to be a Chanel dog.
‘Bow is very loyal to me and will do anything I ask, but of course if she’s to be a dog model she must do what other people ask.
‘We did some training with Ashleigh and Pudsey. Bow doesn’t know how to dance, although she’s getting better at taking commands. She’s surprised me at how much she can do, and how clever she is.
‘Of course I’d like her to win and get more work from this, but she’s brought so much happiness and love into my home, she has already done enough.’
Five-year-old Sparky, a collie-Jack Russell cross owned by bartender Abigail Erdman from Edinburgh, had a very sad start in life.
‘In his first home, they didn’t take him outside and they encouraged children not to be nice to him,’ says Abigail. ‘Someone stepped in and contacted a rescue centre.’
The next family who got him kept him for four months then said he was too much for them. He had been thrown out of dog training classes and was apparently uncontrollable.
‘That’s when I got him,’ Abigail continues. ‘I fell in love with him the moment I saw him.
‘I didn’t really have much experience with dogs, but I trained him from scratch myself.
In the beginning: Ashleigh and Pudsey during their first performance on Britain's Got Talent on April 7
‘When we first met, he was very barky, chasey and jumpy. I picked him up and the rescue centre gave me his stuff, which was a pillow he’d been using as a dog bed, his food bowls and his lead.
‘He didn’t have any toys and he didn’t know what they were.
‘It took him a while to play, but now he’s obsessed with tennis balls. He’s had to learn to have fun.
‘We came down to the auditions of Top Dog Model by train, which Sparky loved. The judges asked me a few questions about him and where I got him from, and he posed for three different pictures.
‘He does one trick where he can hide his face behind his paw to look cute. I trained him to do this by putting a hair band over his nose, then when he went to knock it off I told him he was a good boy and gave him a treat.
‘The competition is making me and Sparky grow even closer. It’s definitely a bonding experience.
‘I feel he’s actually not much of a model, but he’s a good actor. He’s very clever and doesn’t mind doing the same things over and over again.
‘He’s also very precise; he doesn’t like to be wrong. I’m hoping that even if he doesn’t win Top Dog Model, he might get some TV or film work out of it.’
Daisy, a three-year-old Lhasa apso, owned by Lisa Garner, is one of the prettiest dogs in the contest.
Lisa, 33, was training to be a dog groomer when she first came across the breed and found them to be extremely affectionate.
Her asthma meant she had to give up the grooming, but now she has a dog boutique, selling diamant collars and harnesses, clothes and co-ordinated hairclips.
High-flier: Ashleigh and Pudsey in action near their home in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire
‘I had a special T-shirt made for her which said “Pick Me Daisy, Top Dog Model” for the audition in Manchester.
‘She’s a very photogenic dog and very well behaved, although she’s also an attention seeker. No one forgets Daisy.
‘For the next audition she had a pink crystal collar and a pink crown hair bow.
‘Stacey was our biggest fan, even though she normally likes big dogs.
‘Daisy looked great in all the pictures, but I have to say that when we did the dogwalk, she did not excel.
‘She doesn’t like to be on a lead. She was meant to follow me down the runway, but she didn’t. She just stayed there.
‘She’s a very peaceful kind of dog. She doesn’t want to sit beside the person, she wants to sit on the person. She can be quite stubborn at times, so we have to work on conquering that.
‘Also, she’s competing with dogs that have done agility training and tricks — but all she’s ever done is look cute in clothes.
‘She’s meeting lots of dogs and Daisy can be quite funny. She’s never been interested in any other dogs, male or female — she just likes humans — but she really likes Pudsey. She must know that he’s a star.
‘A lot of the dogs in the competition are very food-orientated, but I’m afraid Daisy isn’t. She’s people and attention-orientated.
‘On the show, she’s loving the attention and loving being groomed. As soon as you get the hairdryer out, she comes running up.
‘Of course we want Daisy to win because she photographs well and looks cute. I’m hoping that will make up for the things she can’t do.
‘It’s been a really bonding experience for us. I’m so proud of her.’
Top Dog Model, Wednesday September 5, ITV2, 8pm.