A group of aspiring canine performers and their owners congregated at the Auckland Town Hall this morning to audition for the part of Sandy the dog in the local production of Annie.

Organisers were looking for one "hero dog" and an understudy for the five-week show, which will kick off at Auckland's Civic Theatre on June 13.

Contenders had to be medium-sized, sport a shaggy coat and - of course - be sandy-coloured.

The rest would be down to personality and behaviour.


Experienced dog trainer Maria Alomajan would be keeping an eye out for the dog's "comfort level" as they faced a series of tests to make sure they responded well to children, were comfortable wearing costumes and didn't freak out over loud noises.

The winner would have to run on command and keep quiet during songs so good behaviour was a must.

Everything going to plan, the successful candidate would receive a "generous payday".

Associate director Jonny Bowles said he arrived in New Zealand after an international tour with the Sound of Music.

"I wasn't a dog expert when I got here, but I am now."

The crew had recently come from Wellington where they had cast Rambles the labradoodle for the capital's production.

Today's turnout included some "fabulous talent", so it was likely they would have a winner of similar calibre today, he said.

Dog owner Nigel Shanks said his 22-month old wheaten terrier Sparrow hadn't acted before his "big debut".

"I was walking [the dog] down Ponsonby Rd the other day and someone called out 'Sandy, Sandy'."

Mr Shanks didn't have high expectations for Sparrow, but thought it was a good chance to have some fun and mingle with other dogs and owners.