The average theater goer watching the movie, Because of Winn-Dixie in 2005 believed that the part of “Winn Dixie” was played by a mutt. “Dog people,” especially fanciers, however, knew better and were able to identify the dog as a Berger Picard. At the time, though, the Berger Picard was quite rare in the United States, so rare that producers had to go to France to find dogs to play the part because none were available in the United States.
Even savvy dog people, however, may not have realized that the dog who played Winn-Dixie in the film wasn’t one dog, but three. Animal trainer, Mark Forbes, had five Picards to work with because backup dogs help the movie production process, but of the five, three were used in the movie. The two principal dogs were “Scott” and “Lyco,” and one of the “stunt dogs,” “Tasha” was the dog who jumped over the flour.
Why were purebred dogs used to play a mutt?
Because producers needed several dogs that looked alike so they could all play the single role of a mixed breed dog. Purebred dogs offer that kind of uniformity.
Why a Berger Picard?
Because director, Wayne Wang, thought they looked similar to the depiction of Winn-Dixie on the book’s cover, and thus would seem familiar to those who’d read the book.
The movie producers wanted to ensure that the dogs would like the young actress who played “Opal,” Anna Sophia Robb, so she was brought in early to get to know them (giving them treats helped). By the time shooting started, they were all friends.
Winn Dixie was not the only movie credit the Berger Picard has. The breed has appeared in the Animal Planet show, “Treehouse Masters,” the movies, “Daniel and the Superdogs,” “Herr Bello,” or “Are We Done Yet?” and in commercials for J. Crew, Verizon, and the Geico commercial below:
Insert movie scene image found on Pinterest and happily credited upon receipt of information