Duffie and Betsy - the dogs you may have seen on TV
- Credit: Emily Rothery
Whether it’s in a television advert, or on a visit to a nursing home, Duffie and Betsy are always the centre of attention.
Duffie, a ten-year-old Working Bearded Collie, certainly knows how to win hearts and is an old hand when it comes to delighting audiences. Chris Mancini, Duffie's owner, says Duffie's first taste of stardom was with a foreign company advertising a robot hoover. Since then he has done many promotions and adverts for dog food, air fresheners, Barclays bank and the Dogs Trust, to name but a few.
But this cute canine's biggest claim to fame came when he was chosen to star in EastEnders. Chris laughs: 'Basically they wanted a dog to supposedly mate with Lady Di, the EastEnders bulldog. We submitted a photo, they liked Duffie and he stayed for almost a year, ending in him being run over. I couldn't watch that episode!'
Chris adds: 'It all began with Taggie, a Bearded Collie, Border Collie cross. She is sadly no longer with us but her first foray into the world of advertising was such a success that she soon went on to get more work.
Her first taste of filming was an advert for Dyson. Because it's unusual to get a wrap so quickly I got a handshake from the producer which apparently is a rare thing.
'I got to know Kay Weston who runs a company called Animal Ambassadors that finds animals for whatever is required, and my dogs have been featuring in the media since then. Apparently, producers are always looking for scruffy dogs and because my dogs are agility-trained we have had a good variety of work over the years.'
Chris, who lives in Ulverston, currently has two dogs, Duffie and Betsy. And it's obvious that what Duffie might lack in elegance he more than makes up for in charm and enthusiasm.
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'Dogs need to have a sound temperament and be able to cope with new situations to do this job. When on shoot in distracting environments I reward them with high quality treats which are a great motivator. Sometimes we even get our own dressing rooms, but makeovers usually consist of making the dog look dirtier! Duffie really does earn his keep. He was a delinquent when I got him at 10 months. He is still playful and noisy, but he loves to learn and loves to please.
'Betsy, my six-year-old Bearded-Border collie cross, was a failed sheepdog but has found her niche in the world of advertising. She's a character and will stare intently at you with her different coloured eyes - one blue and one green'.
Both dogs are clearly tuned into Chris's body language and respond eagerly to calm instructions which are delivered with obvious affection and often a spark of humour. In fact, when the time comes to take their photographs, they slip quickly into work mode and it is easy to see how good they are at their jobs.
Although modest about her achievements Chris sets the bar high when training dogs. She has been awarded membership of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and has studied to be an instructor for the association. 'I tutor on courses where people come to learn to be dog trainers or they may go on to become members themselves. When the students work with Duffie I sometimes feel he trains them!
'My dogs join me each year at Crufts on the APDT stand, which is there to promote kind, fair, effective training. We sell dog training aids, we do demonstrations with our own dogs and we talk to lots of people about training challenges they may have and where to find a local trainer for them.'
Chris also volunteers as a trainer and assessor for Dog Assistance in Disability, an organisation that changes lives through teaching disabled owners how to train their assistance dogs.
She runs weekly Puppy Pals Cumbria classes in Ulverston too where Duffie helps and owners come with their puppies to learn how to teach dogs effectively. Duffie also has an impressive repertoire of tricks which he puts to good use on their visits to the nearby St Mary's Hospice and Cartmel Grange nursing home.
Duffie may be cutting back on his skateboarding antics now he is getting older but can still show off a few skills such as handstands, playing basketball and netball or barking on command. The two dogs also love to exercise on their trampoline at home.
'We don't get as much work through the agency now since we moved up to the Lake District from London three years ago,' Chris adds. 'But we love being here enjoying everything this area has to offer, from the friendly people to the outdoor spaces the dogs enjoy so much.'