Do dog actors get paid? Tips and Tricks

5 Crystal the Capuchin Monkey: Earned $12,000 Per Episode

Crystal is definitely one of the top paid animal actors of all time. Crystal has been seen in a number of television roles and over 20 different films. You will likely recognize this monkey from films including Night at the Museum and The Hangover Part II. However, the most well-known role of this monkey was in the not-so-popular television series Animal Practice, and was paid a total of $12,000 for each episode, which equates to a total of $264,000 per season. This is not too bad for a monkey that was 20 years old at the time of Animal Practice filming. There was bad news for Crystal, however, when Animal Practice, the TV show, was canceled as a result of poor ratings.

Crystal the Monkey makes more than the average actor

Crystal the Monkey is one of the most prominent animal actors in modern Hollywood. The capuchins filmography is enough to make many human actors ask if shed share the contact information for her agent. Crystal got her start in 1997, playing — what else — a baby monkey in “George of the Jungle.” She has since gone on to have many prominent, recognizable roles: the drunk money in “Dr. Dolittle 2”, the drug dealing monkey in “The Hangover Part II,” Dexter in the “Night at the Museum” series, and a recurring role as Annies Boobs on “Community.”

Being such a prominent actor commands a big salary, even for an animal. On at least one occasion, Crystal got paid more than her human co-stars.

In 2012, Crystal co-starred in the short-lived NBC sitcom “Animal Practice.” Crystal was a big part of the shows marketing and ad push, far from just some no-name animal. Just before the show debuted, TV Guide released their annual list of the highest-paid TV stars. The fifth highest paid actor for a comedy series was Crystal, pulling in $12,000 per episode. The only performers paid more than here were Hollywood elite, stars of hit shows like “Two and a Half Men” and “Modern Family” — meaning that Crystals veteran co-stars like Justin Kirk, Bobby Lee, and Joanna García Swisher were paid less than a capuchin monkey.

In 2014, The Hollywood Reporter said that Crystal got $108,000 for her nine episodes of “Animal Practice,” more than double the $52,000 SAG-AFTRA cites as the industry average a human would receive. As such, theres a decent chance that Crystal has gotten paid more than at least a few co-stars on several occasions.

How much do movie dog trainers make?

Dog trainer’s wages for jobs in the movie industry or working with show does in cities like Los Angeles also vary a lot depending on multiple variables, but the number usually starts around $60,000 per year and goes up.

Comparison: Highest Paid Canine Movie Roles | How Much Do Dog Actors Get Paid?

When you watch television, or a movie, and see a monkey folding laundry, a dog leaping a bike, or a horse opening a gate, youre seeing the results of hours of work between the animal and an animal trainer. Its tempting to assume that the animal — or his owner — is earning big bucks because the animal is in a production, but usually this isnt the case. In fact, some animal actors and their trainers earn less than the owners spend, making animal acting more of a hobby.

Just like human actors, animal actors audition for roles, and when they land those roles, work under contract. The terms of each contract varies from production to production. For instance, a small local company shooting a commercial may pay not pay an animal actor anything at all if the company has a tight budget and the owner just wants to get his animal on film. An animal actor starring in a major Hollywood picture, however, can earn several hundred to several thousand a day. John Hall, staff writer for Animal Actors International, reports that animal actors working through AAI earn about $300 a day. It all depends on the budget the company has for the production and whether the owner is savvy enough to detail items like subsidiary rights and coverage of travel, food, water and general care.

Animal actors are no different from their human counterparts, in that they usually freelance, working from gig to gig. The more productions an animal actor does, the more money he earns for his owner. However, the problem is that the availability of productions fluctuates. Even when productions are available, there is no guarantee that the casting directors will select a particular animal for a role. Animals who are very unusual are even more restricted, because they do not appear in scripts as often, but rare animals may get more per production because of their scarcity.

Salaries for animal trainers are somewhat dependent on the fame of the animal who performs. In general, animal trainers who have a proven track record of succeeding with animals on large-budget productions are in high demand, and thus are able to negotiate higher pay than those who are just starting out. Production companies often agree to these higher rates because the success of the animal trainer and animal actor translates into the ability to produce a good final and marketable audio file, commercial, television program or film.

Animal trainers who own their animals and who audition the animals for roles, typically make the same amount overall as other animal trainers. The average salary for all animal trainers was $31,110 per year as of 2010, or just under $15 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The BLS reports that the annual compensation for animal trainers in the 10th percentile was $17,240, the equivalent of $8.29 per hour, as of 2010. The median salary was $26,580 per year, or $12.78 hourly. Trainers in the 90th percentile made $53,580 annually, which converts to $25.76 hourly.

Income for animal trainers and animal actors tends to be low, in part because animals have to cover many basic expenses, from leashes and cages to working permits. Trainers also have to take the animal to the vet regularly. In some instances, the cost of keeping the animal over time greatly exceeds the income the animal garners for the trainer.

Wanda Thibodeaux is a freelance writer and editor based in Eagan, Minn. She has been published in both print and Web publications and has written on everything from fly fishing to parenting. She currently works through her business website,, which functions globally and welcomes new clients.