Got a naughty hound you want to drop off at the stately home where they filmed Channel 4’s The Dog Academy? Or maybe you’re a TV professional who’s curious to know more about the location and how they rigged it with dozens of secret cameras? Whatever your reason for Googling where The Dog Academy was filmed, you can be sure that you’ll get all the info you’re looking here (spoiler: because we provided the location).
Welcome to the ‘world’ of the dog academy
The Dog Academy was never going to be like other TV shows. At best, you might call it a compelling blend of Super Nanny and Big Brother – with dogs! But it wasn’t supposed to be like anything we’d ever seen before with it being funded by a pot of money specifically designed “to stimulate the creation of original new formats from UK-based indies”, according to C4.
As Executive Producer, Adam Chapman, revealed in an article for industry news platform, Broadcast Now, the series is what’s known as a ‘fixed rig production’, which involved rigging the filming location with 40 remote cameras, a 360-degree training pen and remote monitoring rooms where the series’ trainers could watch their new students. But they had to get it right if they were to capture both the dogs’ behaviour and the emotional impact this was having on their owners.
Chapman told Broadcast Now, the ‘world’ they created “needed to feel as immersive as possible for our cast. Fail to create a workplace that wouldn’t exist in the real world, and the rig wouldn’t come alive. A “bad” constructed rig feels like a film set, and self-conscious, artificial content ensues. The secret is to make the hand of the producer almost entirely invisible.”
Finding a location for The Dog Academy
Of course, before any rigging could take place, a filming location had to be found. It was in November 2021 when we first received an enquiry from Five Mile Films, the independent production company that made The Dog Academy (and its Bafta-nominated predecessor, The Dog House). With the show still being in the very early stages of development, the brief was pretty wide, but there were a few specifications that shaped the options we provided:
- A large house with lots of different spaces – boarding schools, manor houses… There would need to be grounds. It should be beautiful to look at.
- Rural location – could be based anywhere in the UK but preferred places would be: Midlands, Manchester, Derbyshire, Bristol, Nottinghamshire.
- The inside should be traditional but simple – not too ‘luxury’.
With numerous stately homes and country houses in our location library, in all the required geographical areas, we were able to give the show’s production coordinator plenty of options (several times over!). Whilst it’s not unusual for us to take a brief and whittle down the location options to just a handful for clients producing quick turnaround ad or digital marketing campaigns, TV location scouts working on longer-term projects often ask for ‘lots’ of options.
A stately home in Shropshire
Quite a lot of recces later, the decision was taken: Five Mile Films would shoot The Dog Academy for C4 at location 2793, a stately home in Shropshire. Chosen for its size, character and courtyard (better known to The Dog Academy viewers as the dog training area), the show’s cast and crew effectively moved in for an entire 6 weeks during summer 2022 (when this happens, our location partners are provided with an alternative place to stay).
Once on-site, the show’s art department set about transforming the house and grounds into the dog training centre we’ve since seen on our screens. Rather serendipitously, this process resulted in the location owner getting something she’d been thinking about for a while, with the art team laying Astroturf over the courtyard and fencing it in to create a small arena for the dogs to train in.
As we know, the set was also ‘dressed’ with dozens of small cameras. Initially, the show’s producers had hoped to monitor these on screens set up in the estate’s stables, but with not enough room for the large number of screens needed, Portakabins were put on site instead. And it’s thanks to this setup that viewers are able to observe such powerful stories as the ferocious cockapoo driving a wedge between his owners and the 11-year-old Chihuahua with an attitude problem, that were featured in episode one.
The Dog Academy is on C4 at 8pm every Thursday until 18th May, and you can catch up on missed episodes with C4 On Demand.