Dog Training with a Circus Twist

by Mary Haight on February 26, 2012

Or is it circus tricks with a dog training twist? According to a dog training circus tricksreport from Kelly Gorman Dunbar, dogs have more fun learning circus tricks. It’s a far more relaxed environment – there are no prizes for the perfect trick. Once you take the weight of the world off the shoulders of a dog parent in a group training session, removing that need for a perfect response or winning something, people can learn to relax, enjoy the process and get to know their dogs better.

Kelly spoke with Francis Metcalf for Animal Cafe. He is owner of Friends of the Family dog training academy, and has been training dogs since before the internet.

Metcalf learned how to train dogs the old fashioned way, through observation of other trainers and emulating what he saw. When he noticed an ad for a french ring sport trial in the early 90s, he had to look into it. He describes it as track and field for dogs with martial arts mixed in. It was off leash and off collar and lasted 45 minutes to an hour – that’s a lot of concentrated effort for dogs. He packed his bags for France, studied the finer points of french ring sport for a year and won many events with the Malinois he worked with.

Kelly points out that while circus tricks are entertainment for people, this gives dogs the mental stimulation they need and a  richer experience of life – something we all want to give our dogs. Metcalf returned to the States and introduced the art of circus dog training at beginner and advanced levels in classes in San Francisco.

None of what Metcalf does interferes with any other training the dog is taking, rather it enhances it by building confidence.  He started this class because he wanted to expose pet dog owners to working dog techniques that build the confidence dogs need to interact with their environment, be curious, and get physically stronger for balance.  It’s like yoga and pilates – a kind of mind/body training for dogs.

This is not just for perfect dogs either – any dog can take at least the initial circus trick class and benefit greatly from it. Metcalf trains tough dogs, older dogs, blind dogs and puppies that need focus, relating that any dog can benefit from being in control of their own body.  Take a trip over to Animal Cafe for this special and interesting look into circus trick dog training. Enjoy!


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