The first season of Disney Channel’s Dog with a Blog mixed wacky hijinks with genuine emotion as step-siblings Tyler (Blake Michael), Avery (G. Hannelius), and Chloe (Francesca Capaldi) coped with the antics of their talking dog, Stan, and clueless parents, Ellen (Beth Littleford) and Bennett (Regan Burns). When the show returns for its second season on September 20, expect even more of the same as the two oldest siblings enter their teenage years.
On a recent visit to the set, I had a chance to pet the show’s furry star–a sweet, easygoing husky-shepherd-retriever mix named Mick–and speak with the cast about what’s coming up for their characters in season two. Though the show may revolve around a talking dog, we’ll still see the kinds of storylines you might find on any family sitcom.
Friday’s season premiere, titled “Too Short,” will deal with the kids going back to school and all the pressures that go along with it. The title is a dual reference to the separate dilemmas Tyler and Avery face in the episode. For Tyler, it’s the anxiety of a new haircut.
“He has to get his hair cut really short because he’s not getting good grades,” Michael says. “That’s his dad’s punishment. So he has to get his hair cut. And he’s very insecure about showing the school, walking into school with this new haircut. I actually got my hair cut. I went up to the writers before we started shooting the season, when they were in the writing stages, and I said to them, ‘Hey guys, you want to maybe change up my hair for this season?’ And they said, ‘That’s a great idea. You know what? We should incorporate that into the season premiere.'”
Meanwhile, Hannelius identifies with Avery’s concerns as she enters eighth grade, and thinks other girls will too. “I think it’s great because a lot of girls will be able to relate to that and the problems she faces,” she says. “She’s insecure because everyone else has had their growth spurt and she’s still pretty small, which I can relate to. And she faces boy problems. There’s actually going to be a love interest incorporated in a bunch of the episodes, which is going to be fun.”
As the kids grow up, the parents will face a new set of challenges as well.
“Season one was a little more in the house and dealing with things like homework and lying or acting up,” Burns says. “Now we’re suddenly dealing with boyfriends and girlfriends and curfews. So that kind of, for me as the character Bennett, takes it to a different level. We went from getting frustrated with our kids to wanted to strangle them. So I don’t think we’ve really changed this season so much as the stakes have been raised on our parenting.”
Will Ellen and Bennet be up to the task? Burns speculates: “When you can live in a house with a talking animal for a good year and a half now and still not catch on, maybe we’re not the sharpest tools in the shed.”
There’s no indication that the parents will find out about their talking pet anytime soon. So far, the only grownup to know about Stan’s special talent is Grandma James, but Burns hints that there may be someone else in on the secret at some point this season.
“There’s always the possibility in season two that we’re filming right now that someone else may learn the secret,” he says. “I think personally I would like to maybe see that happen some day on the show. But I think for now it’s still kind of a neat aspect for the kids to only have. And it obviously sets up the story quite a bit because there’s a lot of hiding and making sure we don’t find out. If we all knew he talked we’d all sit around going, ‘Well Stan, what do you think we should do?'”
But just because the parents don’t know Stan can talk it doesn’t mean they won’t be having any conversations with him. Littleford teased a scene coming up in the Halloween episode in which Ellen and Stan share a touching moment.
“I’m talking to someone, I don’t know it’s Stan,” Littleford says. “He’s in costume. It’s Halloween, so he’s in costume and I think it’s a neighbor or something, some guy I don’t really know. It’s a perfect way to have an incredibly meaningful conversation about how Ellen got hurt when she was little. She had a dog who ran away. It’s a very heartfelt monologue and a sweet interaction. And by the end of the episode Stan’s snuggling with her on the couch.”
As always, those little heartfelt moments will be tempered with some outrageous physical comedy. Both Burns and Littleford expressed their willingness to tackle any gag the writers can throw at them.
“I suffer for my art, but gladly,” Littleford says. “I’m just like, ‘Keep writing it.’ I’m not going to complain because I want them to keep writing it. Keep throwing yogurt at my face. Keep throwing water. Keep drenching me. In the second season I get a bouquet delivered that starts with a tiny stream of water and becomes a bigger stream and then a water balloon explodes on me. Ellen just gets it, the pie in the face. It’s always the pie in the face, counterbalanced with real, grounded emotional moments.”
Burns is just as eager for the big, comedic stuff. “There’s nothing they can ask me to do that I won’t. They’re like, ‘Bennett gets set on fire.’ All right.”
Even the youngest member of the cast has had some tricky stunts to perform. Capaldi says that her favorite, and most difficult, scene to film so far was the one where she got to tango with Stan for a talent show. “It was just a process, because, I mean, you’re tangoing with a dog. He’s a really well-trained dog, but he’s still a dog.”
Michael admits that working with a dog can require patience, but there are benefits too. “I love coming to set every day and seeing his energy,” he says. “I feed off of his energy. He’s so friendly. And just seeing him over there, he’s awesome. He’s great to work with.”
Even if Mick can’t talk or type in real life, he’s still an impressive animal. My favorite part of the day was when he wandered over to me while I was doing interviews on the set used for the local park. He settled in at my feet, content to hang out and be part of the conversation. No trace of a diva attitude at all. But then the show is only in its second season; he’s still got time.
The second season premiere of Dog with a Blog airs September 20 on Disney Channel at 8:30 p.m. PT/ET.