Joel Silverman has trained animals for Hollywood films, TV, amusement parks, and he now devotes his forty plus years of professional experience to helping thousands of pet owners train their dogs. In 2017 he launched a series of dog trainer certification courses.
Joel is best known as the host of one Animal Planet's first TV shows, Good Dog U, which ran from 1999 to 2009. He also hosted the nationally syndicated TV series What Color is Your Dog? which ran from 2011 to 2014. More recently, he was seen in a national commercial for Chase Bank with his dog Duchess that aired nearly 4,000 times.
Very few animal trainers have had a chance to work on both sides of the camera, so Joel looks at his life as a true blessing, so he wanted to share this very extensive bio page with you!
Below, you will see a chronological look at Joel's very unique career as a show performer, Hollywood dog trainer, TV show host, and teacher.
This picture is really where it all started, as you see Joel Silverman in the mid-1970's training his family's dog named Shadow. When they first adopted her, she was extremely afraid and nervous, so Joel and his family took the time to develop a great relationship and trust with this dog. Not only did Shadow become a loving member of the family, but became Joel's first dog he trained. That relationship and trust is still something Joel talks about in all his books and on TV, and is his secret to his success.
In the early 1970's, Joel's parents would take he and his family to San Diego every summer for vacations. While there, they would go to Sea World and watch the marine mammal shows. He developed a fascination with marine mammals. He eventually got hired to pick up trash in the summers, and when he graduated from high school, moved down there, and picked up trash full-time. After a few years of being persistent, he was hired as a trainer. To take a look at more of pictures of Joel training dolphins, check out the dolphin photo galleries.
Although Joel started off training birds. then sea lions, otters, and dolphins, he will tell you that there is no question that his experience training killer whales was one of his greatest memories. To this day, there are a number of training techniques that Joel uses every day that he attributes to his experience working with killer whales. Check out pictures of him training killer whales.
MARINE MAMMALS (1980-1987)
MARINE MAMMALS (1980-1987)
This was taken at about 9;30 in the morning when Joel first completed the behavior. Joel would stand on stage and give the whale a cue. The whale would take off and swim to the corner of the pool and do a bow. At that time Joel would dive in and swim down 33 feet to the bottom of the pool. The whale would meet Joel there, slow down, get in a vertical position, and let him stand on her pectoral flippers, and hold on to her nose. She would then excel at a fast rate of speed, breaking the surface shooting Joel off.
"TRIPLE BOW" - WINNER OF I.M.A.T.A. BEHAVIOR OF THE YEAR AWARD 1986
From 1985-1987, Joel worked for a company that contracted marine mammal shows to a number of the Six Flags theme parks. He spent a summer doing the dolphin and sea lion show at Magic Mountain in Valencia, California, and then got the opportunity to put a new show in at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California.
Joel trained this behavior on two dolphins named Happy and Soda. They would push Joel with their noses (rostrums) around the pool, and each one would have a nose on the bottom of Joel's foot. Joel would take a breath of air and the dolphins would push him to the bottom. He would arc back and then arch his back so that he was vertical. The dolphins would then thrust him upward at a fast rate of speed out of the water. This was presented at the I.M.A.T.A. Conference in 1986, and Joel won the Behavior of the Year Award.
EMPTY NEST (1988-1992)
From 1988-1992, Joel had the chance to train Dreyfuss on the TV series Empty Nest. As a Hollywood dog trainer, the idea of having a 9-5 job is normally unheard of. But Joel worked on this show, filming 188 tapings, and as he says, it was one of the best four year periods of his life. It really was like a "family" working with the cast and crew, and the way everyone treated the dog so great.
We wanted to just say a few words about this great man. Richard died of cancer in around 2000, but Joel will always remember him as one of kindest people he knew. He was the star of this TV series, but he was so much more than a great actor. He really was the leader, every day in a very quiet way. Each day he would come work, Richard would always make a point to say hi to Bear and Joel. He won an Emmy Award for his work on SOAP, and then on for his work on EMPTY NEST. When he accepted his Emmy award for EMPTY NEST, he thanked both Joel and "Bear". That was something that he did not have to do, and few actors would do it. It shows you the type of person he was.
BEAR - AKA "DREYFUSS" EMPTY NEST (1988-1992)
"I want to start off by telling you that although I trained Bear who played the part of Dreyfuss on the TV series Empty Nest, I was not the owner. He was owned by another person, but he lived with me those four years, and he certainly became a huge part of my life. Bear was a St. Bernard/ German Shepherd mix. One of the reasons that I wanted to dedicate this section to Bear, was to let you know why he was such a great dog in so many ways. As much as I would like to take credit for his work, the thing that made him great was his experience working on the set. When you have an animal working eight hours a day, five days a week, for four years, you set yourself up for a great working dog, and that is why he was so awesome. On Wednesdays we would get a new script, and we would block out the scenes Wednesday through Friday. Then on Monday we would come in and do a "run through" with cameras, and also the cast would be in wardrobe. You could see a bit of a difference in Bear's personality on Mondays as the cameras were brought in, in a good way. I am thinking he was probably feeding off my excitement and adrenaline. Then on Tuesdays it was a whole different story. We would come in at about 12:00 noon, and do a quick run-through. Once we were done, we would have some time off and we would do two tapings in front of live audiences at 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm. We would not finish the last show until about 10:00 pm, and on Wednesday we would start it all again. After we wrapped, a lot of times the cast and crew would go to the Sunset Grill, a bar next to Sunset-Gower Studios. Back in those days, they filmed a lot of TV series on Tuesday nights, and I remember seeing the cast and crew from Cheers there when we were there.
"The eyebrow thing" - For those of you who watched the show, you have seen Bear do this funny thing with his eyebrows. I have to tell you how that started. We were shooting the pilot, and I was working the dog with another trainer. We were both about 20 feet from the dog, and we were about 15 feet apart. We were filming in front of a live audience, and Bear was doing a behavior where he had to keep his head down. Someone had said something, and they cut to the dog. So the cameras picked him up with his head down, but he started looking at each of us keeping his head down. The audience went crazy laughing, and do we would do that a lot. As a matter of fact... in the script, they would write out, "Dreyfuss does the eyebrow thing".
Now that I told you about how Bear was from a training perspective, I want to tell you about his personality. He was such a friendly dog, and loved everyone. When I decided to move on after season four, saying goodbye Bear was one of the hardest things I ever had to do." - Joel Silverman
HOLLYWOOD DOG TRAINING PROGRAM VHS SET - 1990
While Joel was working on the TV series Empty Nest, he got the opportunity to help create and host his first of many dog training videos. When Empty Nest was being filmed, in between scenes, there would be wardrobe changes and Joel would work Bear for the live audiences. At one of the filmings, a group out of Provo, Utah approached Joel about helping create and host the dog training video. They filmed it in spring of 1989, and it aired as an infomercial in the early 1990s and sold nearly 300,000 units.
To this day, people still come up to Joel and ask him to sign the video, and thank him for the dog training information back then.
It was ironic that Joel was given the opportunity to host this video at that time. He attributes his performing in live shows in nearly every theme park in Southern California in the 70's and 80's as the reason he was so comfortable on camera in this first dog training video.
Joel went on to do several other dog training videos. In 2014 he completed his last dog training dvd series, and you can purchase that right here on our website!
"DUKE" THE DOG - 1993-2005
One of the greatest moments we all had was watching Duke's Nissan Superbowl commercial air, and see that it ranked #3 that year. It was the one where he hypnotizes his owner and picks up all the dogs. Here are just a few other more popular national commercials:
- Polaroid with Dog & Cat
- Budweiser - Locking Guy Outside
- Pizza Hut
One of the things that made Duke so special was his personality. There was a director that Joel used to work with in the 1990s and 2000s that would call Duke the "Cary Grant" of dogs. The reason he called him that was because of Duke's unique demeanor. He was the sweetest, calmest, and most mellow big dog we had ever seen. So everything he did on the set when the cameras were rolling, was that way! Whether Duke was on the set or at home kicking back, he just loved life, had that impact on everyone he met, and put a smile on their face. We miss you Duke!
HOLLYWOOD ANIMAL TRAINER - (1980-present)
Joel worked on a number of motion pictures throughout his career as a movie animal trainer, but the last one he worked on was a motion picture called A GOOD YEAR. This was a movie directed by Ridley Scott, and starred Russell Crowe. This was a comedy love story that took place in a small down in Southern France, and Joel trained a Jack Russell Terrier named Sunshine he had worked with for years prior, for the movie. Joel says it was one of the best movies he worked on because of Ridley Scott. The dog was only supposed to be in a few scenes, but Ridley Scott wrote the dog into a number more scenes than scripted.
In 1997, Joel was given the opportunity to do his first national commecial for IAMS. Although, Joel feeds Bil-Jac Dog Food, and has been since 1991, and still is a huge promoter, IAMS didn't seem to mind at all. Working on the national commercials and print ads took Joel to a number of countries such as Canada and New Zealand. Joel takes pride in being involved in the dog and cat training or coordination in most of the national IAMS commercials and print ads from 1997-2014. For more information on the TV shows and movie's Joel has worked on, check out his IMDb page.
TV SHOW HOST
CHASE BANK NATIONAL COMMERCIAL - 2014
There was a one year period of time where both Joel and Duchess were seen in not only the commercials, but also the banks. Joel taught Duchess to grab the receipt over a one-week period. They actually shot this in real time when the were actually filming as well. This picture was seen probably more than any other photo!