A Day in the Life of a Dog Trainer to the Stars

Renowned pet expert and certified professional dog trainer Russell Hartstein is one of less than 200 certified dog behavior consultants in the world.  With his 25 years of experience, he is sought out by celebrities and others who want the best expert care for their pets. He has trained the dogs of celebrities in the worlds of sports, entertainment and music.

Hartstein training multiple dogs at one time in Miami.  Image source: Russell Hartstein
Hartstein training multiple dogs at one time in Miami. Image source: Russell Hartstein

How did you get started working with celebrities and their dogs?

RH: I grew up in Manhattan and many of my friends were actors, celebrities, artists, CEO’s, visionaries and entrepreneurs. They are all go-getters who are successful and are celebrities in their own right, whether they are on the big screen or not.

Do you get referred to other celebrities often?

RH: Yes, I do. Once you find yourself traveling in high-end circles, it just happens. My clients become my friends and happy clients, whether they are celebrities or not, become evangelists for you. Word-of-mouth works better than any other type of advertising.

Who are some of the celebrities you’ve worked with?

RH: Some of the celebrities I’ve worked with include supermodel and actress Naomi Campbell, actress Gabrielle Anwar and film star and comedian Steve Guttenburg, amongst many others.

Russell Hartstein and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine. Image source: Russell Hartstein
Russell Hartstein and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine. Image source: Russell Hartstein

What is the main difference you have found between training a celebrity’s dog and a regular person’s dog?

RH: When you work with celebrities, a great deal of emphasis is placed on privacy and trust and I am often required to sign confidentiality agreements.  While all people may prefer attributes like confidentiality and trust, celebrities and other high profile families have higher expectations. Most of all, they want to be treated with care, consideration and most of all as unique individuals with specific needs that may go beyond an average family.

Do the celebrities’ expectations differ from a regular person’s when it comes to getting their dog trained?

RH: Yes, in some respects. The average family may want me to train their dog to ride in a car, but they don’t need me to train their dog not to be afraid of an airplane hangar, or how to ride in a private plane or yacht. So their lifestyles are quite different than the needs of other people.

We all know stars have hectic schedules. What are some crazy things you have had to do to keep appointments with them?  (any odd hours, odd locations, etc)?

RH: All of the above!  They have my work schedule and personal phone number they quickly become part of the family, so it’s not unreasonable for them to call me at all hours of the day and arrange any scenario possible. This can range from their wiring money through DBA accounts to my dealing through estate managers to referring to my clients by pseudonyms when I meet them at hotels.

What’s the weirdest thing a celebrity has asked you to train their dog to do?

RH: Weird is all relative. No request is weird, just different in my experience. However, the first few times I trained a dog to go up the stairs to a private plane was interesting. It’s also fun working with dogs on yachts and conditioning them to swim in pools on yachts.

Whether I work with a dog on South Beach’s Lincoln Road, New York City’s Times Square, London’s Hyde Park or in Tiergarten Park in Berlin, they all offer new stimuli that the dog hasn’t experienced. The more a client travels, the more different and novel things a dog is exposed to and so I may need to work with them in those environments.

Do you have a favorite celebrity dog? Who and why?

RH: No, from homeless dogs to celebrity dogs I love them all! They are all precious sentient beings that I love with all my heart.

Any funny stories related to working with a celebrity?

RH: Certainly working your way through the multitudes of security details and dealing with large staffs of 10 people plus is a challenge.  For one celebrity I had to train over 15 staff members, estate managers, chefs, masseuses, butlers, drivers, security, and body guards and teach them all about caring for the dogs, potty training and all of the obedience do’s and don’ts for just their one dog and one puppy. It was a large class with a menagerie of eclectic people present. It was quite a scene.

Have you trained any dogs to work on set with actors?

RH: I was offered a job in Brazil training dogs for an award-winning movie, but we couldn’t work it out because they needed me that week and I had a full schedule of clients. But I am looking forward to doing this in the future.


Want to follow Harstein as he trains the dogs of the stars? Follow him on Facebook and keep up with all of his adventures.


About the Author

Based in Wilsonville, Ore., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and a member of the Dog Writers Association of America. She is the founder of A Fairytail House. In her spare time, she trains and competes in a variety of performance events with her Shetland Sheepdogs and caters to her two rescue kitties. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.




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