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Posted on Tue, Apr 26, 2011 : 10:30 p.m.

Animal Planet's 'Dogs 101' films at Chelsea's Ugly Dog Distillery

By Jenn McKee


Ugly Dog vodka mascot Ruger keeps an eye on things from Ugly Dog Distillery during a taping of the Animal Planet's television show "Dogs 101," at the distillery outside of Chelsea on Tuesday afternoon.

Melanie Maxwell |

Thanks to aggressive (and now threatened) film incentives that the state has had in place in recent years, celebrity-spotting in Washtenaw County has become a bit of a pastime: George Clooney, Robert DeNiro, Hilary Swank, and, most recently, Jason Segel and Emily Blunt are among the stars that have made an appearance in our area.

But on Tuesday, a local German Wirehaired Pointer named Ruger — already the inspiration for the naming of Chelsea’s Ugly Dog Distillery (the breed’s nickname is “ugly dog”), and pictured on the vodka’s bottle label — claimed his share of the show business spotlight when a Royal Oak-based film production team spent the day filming footage of him for Animal Planet’s “Dogs 101” program.

Not that stardom had gone to Ruger's floppy-eared head by mid-afternoon. After being filmed in a room packed full of copper and steel distillery equipment (designed by Ugly Dog co-owner, and Ruger’s owner, Jon Dyer), the 8-year-old Pointer wandered into the merchandising area — stocked with glasses, T-shirts, and of course, bottles of Ugly Dog — wagging his tail and looking for new people to pet him, praise him, and fuss over him.

Wait — that behavior does sound a little diva-ish, doesn’t it?

Yet according to Dyer, Ruger had, by mid-afternoon, handled his day on camera (which began at 8 a.m.) remarkably well. Starting with some field work in the morning, Ruger did some simulated hunting; a “mock delivery” of Ugly Dog to the Inverness Inn, just down the road; and spent some time in different areas of the shop, where he can often be found these days.

“For a long time, he wasn’t (at the shop often), just because we were so busy here, working 16 hours a day, 7 days a week,” said Dyer, who, along with Ugly Dog co-owner Dewey Winkle, is about to celebrate a highly successful first year in business on North Territorial Road. “But lately, he’s been here. People like to see him when they come in. They ask where the ugly dog is. Everybody seems very happy when they actually see the dog that’s on the label.”

But how did Ruger make the jump from local fame to the national spotlight of “Dogs 101”? (The show highlights six different dog breeds in each episode, and discusses each one’s history, temperament, challenges, and grooming requirements.)

“They contacted me,” said Dyer. “We have a pretty good online presence. … I knew what the show was the minute they identified who they were and what they were doing. … But I had several people reminding me to make sure it wasn’t a joke.”

The call came only two weeks ago, and during that time, the shooting day was moved from April 30 to April 26; rain forecasts altered the order of the original schedule; and a white tent was erected in Ugly Dog’s parking lot at the last minute, to make sure that several other local pointer owners, who were expected to arrive for a late afternoon barbecue (and be part of the filming), wouldn’t get rained on.

“You just kind of have to roll with it,” Dyer said.

Dyer, who owns two pointers, noted that the appeals of the breed are numerous.

“I’ve been a staunch outdoorsman and hunter since I was old enough to carry a gun, and I’ve hunted with a lot of different breeds of dogs, and this dog for sure is the most versatile dog,” said Dyer. “Its coat withstands Michigan winters very well. … Its tough wiry dark hairs protect it from the heavy brush and briers and prickers very well. … And they’re pretty friendly. I like their nice, even temperament. And you can train them to hunt anything. They’re not just a bird dog.”

Plus, Ruger proved himself to be a disciplined, cooperative film star. “Actually, the dog has been great, doing the same thing over and over and over again,” said Dyer. “Particularly while doing the hunting thing. We had birds that are out in the field that aren’t going to cooperate with what we want to do, but the dog’s very intent on doing what he’s supposed to do, and trying to re-do that is not necessarily very easy.”

The “Dogs 101” episode featuring Ruger is expected to air in September or October on Animal Planet.

Dyer warns us, though, that “this whole day of shooting will probably boil down to three minutes worth of showtime. … But it’s national TV. I’ll take it.”

Jenn McKee is the entertainment digital journalist for Reach her at or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.



Wed, Apr 27, 2011 : 4:08 p.m.

Awh, no matter how "Ugly" he is I think Ruger is beautiful!