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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12 comments
Liz
Liz

Hhaha too funny! It's amazing what animals can do when trained. If I ever get a puppy, I want to teach him all sorts of stuff. :)

yorkshire terrier gifts
yorkshire terrier gifts

I agree, trick training can be fun for both the dog and the owner, just like agility, doggie dancing etc.. Also, the owner can work on their timing skills (especially if you use clicker training). Best wishes, Meriam @ Gifts for Yorkie Dog Lovers

Kristine
Kristine

I'd love to take a class like this with my dog! Trick training is one of my favourite things, often the sillier the better. It doesn't have to have a practical purpose but working together to learn funny little behaviours has been one of the ways my dog and I have bonded. That, and it tires her out. Which is also very important! ;-)

Pup Fan
Pup Fan

Very cool... sounds like fun! :) Bella doesn't have any circus tricks - perhaps we'll have to work on that.

Pamela
Pamela

Do many dogs seem to enjoy the stimulation of learning new things. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. People like to learn stuff too. Our sole circus trick is getting Honey to stand on her hind legs to the cue word "circus." Sounds like we need to increase our repertoire.

Jen
Jen

I've never heard of circus trick dog training classes (well, and I'm not in CA) but it sounds like a lot of fun! I know a lot of people won''t train "silly" tricks for their dogs, perhaps thinking that they're demeaning or something, but really, I think any king of learning can be a confidence builder for a dog. Is it demeaning for Elka (my Doberman) to know patty cake? I don't know if she thinks so. Plus, teaching her tricks with her paws can also progress to targeting with her paws, to do things like closing doors and turning lights off or on.

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