Recently, Polar starred in a YouTube video for the comedy YouTube channel, Ministry of Funny.
The concept was for Polar to appear like he was a constructor worker driving the golf cart, which was actually a self-driving vehicle developed jointly by NUS and MIT. Polar would be dressed in a construction hat, and a checkered collar accessory for his role. All he needed to do would be to sit behind the wheel of the golf cart as it made its way towards the actor, and unsuspecting students.
As you can see in the video, Polar appears to be completely relaxed on the vehicle. Behind his chill demeanor, however, was a lot of frantic prep work on our end to ensure that he didn’t become a jittery mess during the shoot. As much as it was Polar’s first time, it was our first time as well. Here are some things we learnt from our experience on the shoot, in case your fur kid ever gets a chance to star in a video too!
1) Ask questions, and know your dog’s limitations
Ask the producer questions. Find out what exactly is required of your dog before the shoot. Your dog might be able to do tricks with you at home, but will he be able to reproduce the same behavior in a new and unfamiliar environment? Thankfully, in this case, the producers didn’t require Polar to have his hands on the steering wheel, but if they did, we probably would have had to reject the gig. Polar is OK being in moving vehicles, but balancing on his hind legs while clinging onto the steering wheel would be a bit much. Don’t stress out your dog by forcing them to do something they obviously don’t like.
2) Get a professional to help
We also had Elayne, our regular boarder from Dogs On Board, on hand to help Polar ease into his starring role. Elayne is very familiar with Polar’s temperament, so she would have been able to spot if Polar got overly stressed or anxious.
3) Arrive early
Arrive earlier than the call time so that you can let your furkid get accustomed to the new environment, the cast and crew, and in our case, the vehicle and props.
4) Bring treats. Lots of treats.
We got Polar to sit in the vehicle even when we weren’t filming – the idea was to get him so used to being in the vehicle that he wouldn’t bat an eyelid even when it started moving without a human driver. And we encouraged him to jump onto the cart seat by rewarding him with his favorite turkey liver treat whenever he did so.
5) Bring all your dog paraphernalia
Leash, harness, water bowl, poo bags, canvas sheet, cushions, favourite toy – your dog might have to rest in places that aren’t accustomed to having pets lying around, so you’ll have to make him as comfortable as possible. Polar was resting in a garage with the occasional moving vehicle, so we had to ensure he was leashed at all times while waiting.
6) Ensure your dog’s safety
Polar’s safety was our top priority. Understanding that he needed to be in a moving vehicle by himself, we got a harness to secure him at his seat. If humans have to wear seat belts when in a car, so did Polar!
7) Ask for a break whenever you can
Unlike human actors, dogs can’t communicate when they’re tired or thirsty. Make sure to sneak a water break or toilet break for your dog whenever you can – we brought water to Polar at every opportunity that we got, and stopped the production for about 15 min for Polar to take a walk around the block.
8) Have fun
As stressful as it was for us fur parents, it was fun seeing the reactions of delight when people saw Polar “driving” the vehicle. Polar also got a lot of TLC from passers-by, which he always enjoys. All in all, it was a positive experience for Polar and us, and we’ll be much more prepared in case we ever get another chance to star in a video!