Francis Metcalf’s Canine Circus School

Call or text: 510 289 7718


Obedience – Trick Training – Behavior Problems – 28 years experience

Specializing in: Shy Dogs, Small Dogs, Puppy Training, Basic Obedience, Off Leash Obedience, Aggression, Bull Breeds, Belgian Malinois, Ringsport Coaching, Trainer Education

In person private lessons – Tele training – Group classes – Seminars

Francis and Balzac

Francis Metcalf is an innovative trainer who uses his breadth of knowledge and creativity to get the most out of any dog.  His unique approach deconstructs training so that it’s easily learned by both dogs and people.  Francis has won national level competitions in French Ringsport with his Belgian Malinois and has certified as a decoy in both French and Mondio Ring. His American Bulldog, Gubby, was the first of his breed to compete in Mondio Ringsport, a project motivated by Metcalf’s love of Bullbreeds. Francis’s 28 years of experience have led him to develop a unique method for the evaluation and education of dogs from diverse genetic backgrounds and temperaments.  The Metcalf Method was born from his desire to bring the nuances of great training to all dogs and handlers.


The Circus is Hibernating: New Classes Starting in 2013.

If you have been wondering where we have been, well it got cold a and rainy and we started to hibernate.  After an extremely productive year we fell into a deep sleep. Now we are stretching and yawning and waking up to prepare for a new year filled with new classes. We had such a great 2012 thanks to a lovely article about us that ran on the first page of the sunday SF Chronicle early edition and the front page of the home and garden section.

The exposure from the article introduced us to lots of great people, many of them as freaky as us. Some of our most dedicated students were worried that the little Canine Circus School hidden in the heart of the East Bay would cease to be the underground cool thing for those in the know.  They thought because of the article the secret was out.  We had a good run but instead of selling out we went into hibernation thereby ensuring the secret coolness of the Canine Circus School for generations to come.   Or so the legend goes.  Even though the circus is hibernating we are still doing private lessons.  If you want to arrange a time to sit down and learn some new tricks or work on a behavior problem, let us know we are never too sleepy to help.  Call us at 415- 779-6550.


New Classes starting in 2013 stay tuned for the schedule. Until then here are a few tricks for you to work on when the weather is cold.


Canine Intuition, Earned not Learned

Intuition in training on a street corner in Oakland with a blind Akita

If you have lived in California for a while, you might have forgotten about the California glow.  The best place to see it is after a trip, at the airport, waiting by your gate.  I know the SF bound gate immediately, everyone is a shade hipper from the babies to the grandparents.  I usually balance a ball on my head, and when asked, I simply whisper “I worship the Orb” and everyone is quietly respectful.  The people of California have a glow, it twinkles when they adjust their posture, do breathing exercises or peer out from hip eyewear.  Even the cops in California are hipper.  Recently, Hayward Police K9 Handler, Loring Cox had this to say about us:

“Francis is one of the most dog intuitive people we know. If you need dog training, are interested in protection sports, or just want to have more to do with your dog give him a call. Check out his blog and see what they have going down in Emeryville!”

Dutch Police Dog, Albert was the forefather of modern Police k9

Only in the Bay Area would your local Police k9 unit appreciate your intuition!  Thanks Hayward!  And I appreciate the personal dedication of the Bay Area Police K9 handlers that take it upon themselves to study dog training. Officers like Loring Cox of Hayward who has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things k9, or Colin Jones of Alameda PD who recently certified as a French Ring Decoy.  These are just two of the many Bay Area Police K9 Handlers that go to great lengths to learn their craft.

Here is a video demonstration of my Intuitive abilities & hard work!  The Decoy is Andrew Ramsey, the dog is Balzac of the infamous Contes d’Hoffmann Kennel.  He is 1 year and 7 months old.

Note to Balzac Fans:  I will be continuing my series on his training shortly.  I got bogged down in the details of describing some difficult to express concepts.  Instead of writing a novel, I wanted to get back in the swing by posting Balzac’s latest training video, he is now a year and seven months.  I will fill you in on his prior development and current training as we go.

Balzac Des Contes d'Hoffmann

Intuitive as hell

As for intuition, if it means competency gained by years of practice, then sure I’m intuitive.  I would be very skeptical of anybody who claimed to have intuition not derived from years of practice, but rather by some outside force.

Bad Energy

Many people in California are into “energy”.  Like good energy and bad energy. Often I hear people talking about their dog reading peoples energy and responding by acting a certain way.  It doesn’t work that way.  If you blind yourself with superstition you will just use it as crutch to support your own bias.  If you are talking about the energy created by perception, then we might agree.

Chomsky demonstrates energy generated from perception. Stare at the quarter. Do you feel the energy?

Dogs respond differently to different people based on how we move, where we look and how we respond to them. As a decoy, this becomes very clear. Decoy’s manipulate the dogs behavior by responding with actions that trigger drive states brought on by movement patterns. Tools in the decoys bag are: Eye Line, Menace, Flinch, Startle, Flee, and Charge, all stereotypical movements that can trigger the dog to respond in certain predictable ways.  These same decoy techniques can be triggered by people who have no idea they are triggering them.  These very people may be pure of heart and deed, or not, they just act in a way that triggers the dog.  I have seen many dogs with a hypersensitivity in their temperament be labeled as “Intuitive” or able to “read energy”  It’s not true they are responding to body language.

Fake magic banished/ true magic found

I hope this doesn’t take the magic out of it for anybody.  For me, it adds magic. Knowing that I can make a dog feel more confident by how I respond to his actions. Knowing that  with just the right movement I can tap into ancient predatory instincts.  Watching how my eye-line informs of my intentions.  With this in mind,  I accept the title of Dog Intuitive, bestowed on me by the Hayward K9 Unit.  I am honored and if nothing else it will stoke my California glow!

Nothing creates intuition like the school of hard knocks.  This is a glimpse into a training session with the Hayward PD.

Canine Circus School- Way Cuter than the Easter Bunny

We had tons of fun Trick dogging at Saint Roch’s this Easter Sunday.  Norma put out bowls of candy and mint water to appease the forest nymphs, and I drilled our canine recruits on the finer points of barrel racing.  The class was both a rite of spring and a rite of passage for our fledgling circus stars.  Spit flew, and tempers flared as our pack of canine misfits vied for top pedestal.  Thanks to our level-headed handlers, the show went on.

When a minor snag leads to a major breakthrough, you are on the right path.  By the end of class every handler had developed more trust in their dog and every dog more confidence in their handler.  It was just in time because we had a visit from a San Francisco writer and impressario team looking to book a troupe of educated hellhounds for an event at Mint Plaza in SF.

Check out this slide show of Circus Class Session Two with special guest Bubba The Eyeless Akita on Piano!


Tim & Winnie Jo go toe-to-toe at Canine Circus School.

After the Tsunami-12 Questions for a Japanese Dog Trainer

As the news of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami drift out of the headlines, I decided to check in with a Trainer friend in Japan to see how the disaster was impacting her day-to-day life.

I met Yuki Baba 5 years ago when she was volunteering at the San Francisco SPCA Hearing Dog Program where I worked as a trainer.  For the last year and six months Yuki has operated her Dog Training business in Chiba Japan.

1. What were you doing at the time of the earth quake and tsunami?
Having lunch with a dog trainer who works in Kanagawa. We were at a restaurant in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, but we didn’t quite realize that it was that horrible of a disaster.
All the trains stopped, and I was stuck at the Ikebukuro station for 8 hours….I didn’t realize the tsunami had killed so many people until I got home the next day.

If you are not directly affected by tsunami or radiation, try to have similar life as before.
Spend money for yourself or family

Continue reading

Puncture Wounds and Behavior Problems

Yesterday, while breaking up a scrap between two large dogs, I noticed blood running down my wrist.  The bite wasn’t bad at all, but even a minor bite can (and WILL) get infected. As a dog trainer, you will get bitten one of these days.  With most minor wounds, if you practice the self-care procedures listed below, expect a quick recovery.  If your face is hanging off, go to the emergency room!

Your initial concerns after getting bit:

  1. Make sure all dogs are safe, then worry about yourself.  (A little bleeding is good to help cleanse the wound.)
  2. Put pressure on the wound and elevate.  Bruising and swelling cause most of the pain in a dog bite.
  3. After you stop the bleeding, use ice to keep the swelling down.


The above three steps are well-known. Now here comes the true Dog Man wisdom.  Healing a dog bite is like healing a behavior problem, you should do it from the inside out.

Most have heard the expression “Band-Aid solution,” which is a solution that only addresses the surface issues, and leaves deeper trauma hidden where it can fester. When we work with behavior problems, we should make every attempt to heal the problem from its cause.  Not just stopping the behavior but also working at neutralizing what causes the problem. For example, if a dog is snapping at people because it is fearful, no good will be done when you correct the behavior unless you are running a confidence building routine concurrently.

To work from the inside out with a behavior problem means to find what triggers the problem, and begin to neutralize that trigger. (Most likely a set of triggers since associations usually come in packages.)

So, always work from the inside out with puncture wounds and behavior problems.

Working from the inside out.

The Bay Area Dog Trainers low-cost recipe to help heal dog bites on your hands or feet:

  1. Wash the wound with soap and water.
  2. Run hot tap water into a large bowl.  Make the water as hot as you can stand it (and hotter!), squirt an ample amount of dish soap on your hand and in the water.
  3. Soak your hand until it turns pruney (15 minutes will usually do it).
  4. Rinse and repeat at least twice a day, but 4x per day is better.
  5. Cover the wound as best you can.  I use a bit of sterile gauze and Duct or Masking tape.  (you want the wound to stay pruney for a few days.)

In order to heal the wound from the inside out you should keep the surface from drying up and scabbing over.  That is what the hot soapy water 4 times a day will do.  I have recovered from many minor puncture wounds using this technique.

More on getting to the root of behavior problems in later articles

Check out this video featuring a song by Bay Area musician Mokai Blue.  The video itself is a tribute to the friends, family, clients, trainers, artists, and dog’s that make Saint Roch’s possible.