Martin Bach sits with his dog

Dog gone Hollywood

White Rock pooch, Tramp, makes his television debut in Christmas-themed commercial.

If you’ve watched television at all this month, you’ve likely seen London Drug’s latest Christmas commercial at least once or twice.

And if you’ve seen the 30-second ad – which has no speaking parts, and is quiet save for some background music – you’ve no doubt seen Tramp, a five-year-old terrier and resident of White Rock’s East Beach.

Tramp – who is part silky terrier, Yorkshire terrier, schnauzer and white husky – appears twice in the commercial, each time wearing reindeer antlers.

“It’s on all the time,” said Tramp’s owner, Martin Bach, of the pup’s first-ever television appearance.

While it is the dog’s first on-screen credit, Bach said Tramp has appeared in a handful of print advertisements, and if all continues to go well, will likely have more screen time in the New Year and beyond.

Tramp has currently been shortlisted for another commercial – “Which means it’s down to three dogs,” Bach said – and is also being considered for a television show, which is to be shot in the Lower Mainland.

While he may have a busy schedule moving forward, Bach said he’s not surprised Tramp is gaining popularity in the film industry.

He’s been a natural every since Bach – who trains dogs more as a hobby than as a vocation – started training him as a puppy.

Bach became interested in training dogs a number of years ago while living in Australia, where he worked as a professional photographer and actor, where he received plenty of commercial and voice-over work because, he said, “I sound like an American.”

It was while working in that industry that he became friends with a man who trained animals – cats and dogs, mostly – for television and film. As a lifelong animal lover – Bach grew up with dogs and other animals while growing up in South Surrey’s Elgin neighbourhood – he immediately took an interest.

“My buddy taught me for the better part of three years. I learned everything from him. So I don’t have any kind of official certificate as dog trainer, but I can train dogs,” Bach said.

One needn’t look further than Tramp for proof of that.

The scruffy tan-and-black coloured pooch has a mastery of all manner of commands, far beyond such basics as “sit” and “stay.” Depending on the hand signals Bach gives him, Tramp can do nearly anything that’s asked of him – he can even count.

When Bach says a number aloud – or shows Tramp that many fingers – the dog barks the appropriate number of times.

“Intelligence is obviously very important, and Tramp is very smart,” Bach said. “But I also learned that a dog that will make eye contact with you is very important. I can get him to do tricks just with my expression, or by blinking – things like that. Tramp can tell what direction I want him to go just by where my eyes look.”

His training, not to mention his calm demeanour, has served him well on set, Bach said.

“He’s so good on set. You can imagine all the stuff going on, all the distractions – people talking, directing, moving lights – but he stays so calm. He’s very well-behaved – just an all-star.”

Tramp is just as popular in his neighbourhood as he is in the film industry, and has made many friends along their East Beach walking routes.

“Anybody on East Beach knows him pretty well. I take him for a lot of walks and you get to know other people around here and he’s pretty popular.

“Everybody loves him.”

It is perhaps fitting, considering his skills in front of the camera, that Tramp is a fan of television himself. If the TV in his apartment is on, Bach said Tramp will often sit and stare at it, transfixed – often offering his own reviews in the form of barks or growls.

“The funny thing is, he doesn’t recognize himself. His commercial is on all the time, and he growls at himself,” Bach laughed.

“I say ‘Trampy, that’s you, buddy’ but I guess he’s not buying it.”

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