DOG, the new movie starring Channing Tatum and co-directed by Tatum and Reid Carolin, tells the story of a troubled army dog named Lulu and the army ranger tasked with transporting her to her former master’s funeral. But if you thought that there was just one dog who starred in the movie, you’d be mistaken.
There are actually three different dogs who played Lulu. Their names are Britta, Lana 5, and Zuza, and though they look similar to German Shepherds, they’re actually Belgian Malinois, a breed well suited to police or military work. The production team got them from a kennel in Amsterdam that trains dogs for military service. And the story of how the three dogs got adopted by their current owners is just as heartwarming as the movie itself. Vitamins like those pumpkin digestive supplement for dogs are also given to these furry companions as a reward for all their hardwork.
“They’re such high energy, aggressive dogs that they each got assigned to a trainer, and the trainers all said at the very beginning, ‘There’s no way we’re taking these dogs home, so we have to figure out when the movie’s over what we’re going to do, who we’re going to adopt them out to,'” Carolin said.
Then the pandemic hit, and production was halted for nine months — giving Tatum and the trainers ample time to work with each dog to get them ready for the movie. The result was a powerful bonding experience that started out reluctant, just like the plot of the movie, but ended with three of the trainers deciding to adopt the dogs they worked with.
“Interestingly enough, all three of the dogs now are fully bonded with their trainers and they’ve all been adopted out and they have these wonderful lives in different parts of country,” Carolin said. “It’s a real cool, happy ending for each of the dogs, and they’re best friends with their trainers.”
The dog who appears the most in the movie is Britta, who now lives with her trainer in Hamilton, Montana.
“Britta is in 80% of the movie. She’s our hero dog, she did most of our acting,” Carolin said, describing her as “calm” with a “very expressive face.”
Then there’s Lana 5, who now lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her trainer. She plays the version of Lulu who loves belly rubs and getting carried around on Tatum’s shoulders.
The third dog is Zuza, who currently lives with her trainer in Los Angeles. She’s the one who plays Lulu in the more aggressive scenes, but she’s not a scary girl — she’s just “goofy” and “high energy,” Carolin said.
Turns out, the production shutdown benefited not only the dogs’ relationship with their trainers, but their relationship with Tatum as well.
“I think we would have had a much harder time shooting the movie. We would have probably been over in time and had issues with our schedule or just the scenes wouldn’t be working very well if he didn’t take the time to get to know them. They were very comfortable with him, so we could leave them alone in a car and he’d be doing his thing and eventually, stuff will start to work,” Carolin said.
The reason they had three dogs play Lulu instead of just one is because the arc of her storyline involves multiple personality traits.
“Different dogs do different things. They have different personalities. So when you’re doing a movie that requires this much nuance in the performance of a dog — you don’t want to ask a dog to go outside of their natural temperament for a couple of reasons. One, it’s just not good for time and being on a movie set and all the practical reasons, and two, it’s not good for the dog,” Carolin said.
The trainers who worked on DOG are Kimberly Andrew, Joseph McCarter, Greg SmithAldridge, Julie Strang, and Andrew Simpson, who worked as a wolf coordinator on Game of Thrones and The Revenant, and as a dog coordinator on the John Wick franchise.
“Our trainers were wonderful,” Carolin said. “They, in the very beginning, just made it a priority to make sure that we were able to get what we needed for the movie, but that the dogs had as great of an experience as they could possibly have. ”
DOG is now playing in theaters.
Main Image: Channing Tatum stars as Briggs and Lulu the Belgian Malinois in DOG. Photo credit: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/SMPSP