Why the ‘Gunther’s Millions’ Filmmakers Preferred Shooting with the Fake Gunther(s)

It turns out the "world's wealthiest pet," as German Shepherd Gunther VI has been branded by Netflix, is not the world's most camera-friendly dog.
"Gunther's Millions" on Netflix
"Gunther's Millions" on Netflix
Courtesy of Netflix

The story behind new Netflix docuseries “Gunther’s Millions” is dog-gone crazy.

German Shepherd Gunther VI is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, a fortune originated among humans, left to a pooch, and passed down through the canine’s (very blue) bloodline. Along the way, Gunther, via his enigmatic owner Maurizio Mian, purchased Madonna’s Miami mansion, sponsored a sexy pop-music group, and sat-and-stayed through a batch of truly bizarre social experiments.

The four-part docuseries from NOBO Productions premiered on Wednesday, but Gunther’s story has actually been in the press for three decades. It was in the cultural zeitgeist before social media existed, so there is still plenty to talk about in 2023. And that hit a particularly sweet spot for documentarian Aurelien Leturgie and Emilie Dumay.

“It’s always great when it’s a story that’s been in the media but then there’s a lot more to it that’s never been explored,” executive producer Dumay told IndieWire. The treasure-trove of archival footage threw Dumay and Leturgie, a bone, helping them easily identify who would become their interview subjects.

And boy did those interviewees have some stories to tell. “Gunther’s Millions” is a wild tail tale, and in many ways a tall one. While not everything turns out to be as Mian has presented them to the world, “the money is very real,” Leturgie, who also directed the docuseries, told IndieWire. “Gunther has a great lifestyle, Gunther lives in a beautiful mansion.”

In the same breath, Leturgie added, “There are definitely things that didn’t line up.”

That becomes the real meat of “Gunther’s Millions” — beyond Gunther’s gold-flaked steak dinners, that is. Leturgie and Dumay originally set out to chronicle the story behind the world’s richest dog. What they found were a lot of lies, several Gunthers, some animal abuse, tons of sex, probable financial crimes, and more.

“We believe that we’ve uncovered a lot of the truth, especially about the Countess, the son of the Countess, the reality about a lot of the money movement,” Dumay said. “There’s always going to be Maurizio’s fantasy and Maurizio will always have an eccentric vision of the world.”

He sure will.

"Gunther's Millions" on Netflix
“Gunther’s Millions” on NetflixCourtesy of Netflix

If the whole Countess thing piqued your interest, good, that’s exactly why these types of interviews are made available. But know that we are purposely writing this story with enough vagueness so as to not spoil what was reality and what was Mian’s fantasy.

Beyond the cash, a fortune legitimately started off of an osteoporosis-medication discovery, another thing that we can tell you is definitely true: “There’s a real Gunther,” Leturgie said. Like, one, single, official Gunther.

Gunther VI lives in Italy, as shown, and was the dog the Netflix docuseries filmed with when there. He was not the “Gunther” you see beyond Italy, however — that was a dog-double.

“They’re very protective of him and it’s not necessarily a good thing to travel 12 hours with Gunther,” Leturgie said.

While Leturgie and Dumay filmed with the real boy in Italy, there is also a decoy Gunther there “for appearances when Gunther is not able to attend, or they think it is not appropriate for him to do so,” the filmmakers told us later via email. And he’s not the only one.

Leturgie and Dumay discovered that Mian was duping them with a lookalike German Shepherd in Miami and in the Bahamas, just like he did with the news media — and prior Gunther iterations — back in the day. (In Episode 4, a scene depicted in the trailer, Mian tells Leturgie, “The dogs were cloned.” There is no further evidence presented for — or against — that scientifically-bold claim.)

The lookalikes, let’s call them, have their own handlers to help pull off the facade, Leturgie and Dumay explained. “The U.S. decoy’s name is Heiko but he also responds to the name ‘Gunther’ because he is trained for it,” they said.

Professional as this whole operation may be, it wasn’t enough to fool the filmmakers after all of those hours spent with the doggo(s). Heiko turned out to be a little too well-trained, Leturgie said.

“The [doubles] sometimes behave a little better than the real Gunther. The real Gunther is a little shy,” Leturgie said. “When we were filming in other parts of the world, we became suspicious of… this is not the same dog.”

“Gunther’s Millions,” starring all of the Gunthers, is currently available on Netflix.

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