November 30, 2023

3 Ways the Production of Marley & Me Kept Its Animal Actors Happy


Animal consultants, such as the Humane Society, are brought into the production process for films where live animals will be used. Marley and Me (2008), which tells the story of an energetic and willful dog, used several dozen dogs—including 22 Labrador retrievers as the titular ‘Marley’—during its filming process. Every moment of filming with the dogs was both carefully supervised to ensure no harm would come to the animals. The following are three ways that the film’s producers made sure that their animal stars were kept safe and happy on set.

The dogs were given proper introductions
Dogs will typically behave differently–and sometimes nervously–around people or other dogs that they have not met before. The producers of the film, in accordance with the animal consultants they hired to overview the production, made sure that every person involved in filming (from the actors down to the sound crew) was properly introduced to every dog used in the scene. This was to make sure that the dog felt secure on set and did not become nervous. Any time more than one dog was going to be near one another, such as the obedience training scene or during scenes where “Marleys” would need to be switched out, the dogs were given time to become comfortable with each other before cameras rolled.

Baby food was used to encourage licking
There are many scenes in the film where both the young and adult Marley lick things—including people, furniture, and other objects. Baby food that was approved as safe for dogs by the animal consultation team was put on the people and objects prior to filming these shots in order to get the dogs to lick on cue.

Puppies were given special care
Puppies can be fragile, and it’s important that they are not made to do anything that could be physically exhausting or strenuous to their bodies. The puppies used in Marley & Me were treated gently to make sure that they did not hurt themselves or become exhausted. For example, the scene where Marley runs down the beach was actually filmed piece by piece, with multiple puppies each running a short length of the beach. This was done in order to prevent a single puppy from becoming exhausted by having to run down the entire length of the beach.

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