Method to the Madness. Training Concepts Behind Canine Circus Class.

Out of the Box

Like many trainers I learned Heel Position on the left side.  I practiced on the left side for at least ten years. I raised dogs from pups to their last days that heeled only on the left.  When I tried to do the right side heel I felt clumsy. I had been hobbled by a tradition, and that didn’t sit right with me. Traditions should set you free, not keep you locked in a box. That is why I began teaching all behaviors by practicing them on the left and right sides.  I call this the Symmetrical Foundation. When Circus Class students learn this way they become more coordinated, and better trainers from the start.

I wanted to add to the tradition, not be limited by it. So I studied and compared exercises from all the dog training traditions. I noticed patterns, and came up with ways to categorize behaviors that allowed me to use them more like paints on a palette and less like a list of obedience exercises that are never questioned.

One way to break down the endless list of behaviors you could teach your dog, I call: Macro Medium and Micro.  

Macro Motion: Directed Sends and Recalls. Coming when called. Going to place. These behaviors require the dog to be highly motivated and to retain that motivation.

Medium Motion: encompasses most basic obedience commands such as: Sit, Down, and Stand in addition to many classic parlor tricks like Sit Pretty and Spin. These movements require great control.

Micro Motion: small gestures such as pawing , waiving, cocking the head, or holding an object in the mouth. Many of these are Service Dog behaviors requiring precise timing best facilitated with a clicker.

I had trained Medium behaviors such as sit, down, and heel position for too long. Again I was hobbled by a tradition.  When I busted out of the mold and began training in the new categories (Micro and Macro) my training flourished. Results were noticeable and heads turned!

Many Circus school exercises are composed of these three movement groups.  A typical routine will require the handler to show control of the dog in each category.  For instance the dog is sent to a place box (Macro Motion) The dog is then asked to spin in a circle (Medium Motion) Finally the dog is asked to use his paw to ring a bell (Micro Motion) Every class we come up with variations on the Macro Medium and Micro frame work.

You can think of it like a filmmakers shot list or frames in a story board or comic strip. Most scenes start with an establishing shot, this is the equivalent of our Macro Motion. As the scene progresses the filmmaker requires greater level of detail to tell the story. When the camera zooms in on a subject the Medium behaviors are worked. The close up shot high lights the Micro Motion.

So the Macro Motions establish the scene, the Medium Motions introduce the characters, and Micro Motions add details that support the story.

Lets put that in the live performance context.  The dog goes to his pedestal (Macro), the dog bows to the audience (Medium) and then waves goodbye (Micro)  Compare that to obedience exercises and you will find that most traditional obedience is built around chains of Medium Motion behaviors. By using the Macro Medium and Micro concept to create our behavior chains, Circus Class students learn to train behaviors that recruit the dogs whole body down to isolating very small gestures.

Macro, Medium Micro, has really helped me come up with new creative stuff on a daily basis.  It’s just an easy way to create a new routine that works all of your training skills. Give it a try or sign up for one of our classes!

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