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.
FM: Lets start with what circus school isn’t. Our primary focus is on tricks not manners. Our students don’t come to us to fulfill a basic dog training obligation, they come to learn creative dog training and immerse themselves in a creative dog training environment.
What is creative dog training?
FM: While creativity is essential in all types of training, we use the term creative dog training when the training itself is specially designed to tell a story by supporting a plot or designed to stimulate the viewers aesthetic senses. This can include everything from useful service dog behaviors, film animal training, stunts, and of course the classic parlor tricks.
What inspired you to start the Canine Circus School
FM: Have you ever wanted to enter a different world? To find a secret door that will transport you, to step through a garden gate only to find you are lost in the ruins of an old temple. Have you ever looked down at your dog and thought he would make a great companion for a journey like that? That’s what inspired me.
Tell me a little more about the inspiration behind Circus Class.
FM: As a dog trainer I wanted to create a class that I would want to take myself. I wanted it to concentrate on things I felt most people need work on, myself included. Alot of that is control around other dogs and the distractions you would find in a performance environment. I didn’t want a class that was boxed in with a set of rules, either the rules of a sport or a training philosophy. However I wanted to teach a set of behaviors I think are essential when developing an extraordinary dog. Confidence, adaptability and a willingness to try again are our guiding principles. Our goal is to make dogs that are the envy of your neighborhood, the coolest dog on the block.
What makes your class, Circus Class not obedience class?
FM: Circus is about spectacle. Obedience is about disappearing into the background. Each class we aim to make a spectacle, we do this by teaching the dogs how to interact with props. Obedience is important too, but confidence with the props and environment takes precedence.
Ok what differentiates Circus Class from a tricks class?
FM: The big difference between a Circus Class and a trick class is Circus Class requires dogs to work together and to “honor” on their pedestal while another dog performs a trick. We work up to this slowly in Circus 1.
What tricks do you teach?:
Our foundation exercises are designed so that any dog can benefit from them. As you progress you will be taught tricks that combine multiple behaviors to tell a story. For instance we teach all the classic tricks like: sit pretty, roll over, play dead, shake, spin etc. However to put these tricks together in an entertaining way is the ultimate goal.
So is it like Canine Freestyle, where people dance with their dogs?
No. We use a lot of the behaviors commonly associated with Freestyle, but we free the handler from being type cast as a dance partner. We coach the handler to present the dog like an extraordinary beast filled with skill and education, but not a dance number. I have a ton of respect for really good Freestylers, some truly amazing trainers. Circus is more about a rag-tag band of misfits coming together to make a canine spectacle. This creates an environment where so many interesting things are going on at once that a sense of wonder comes over the participants and spectators.
How long is the class?
Its six weeks, but basically is an ongoing class. Once a week for an hour on Sunday afternoons.
How much does it cost?
Two hundred and sixty buckaroos gets you 6 classes. To sign up click here.
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.
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.
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.
A full day of dog training starts with a hardy breakfast. There is nothing like fresh eggs and La Farine bread. On this day my father was visiting. He played fiddle at Saint Roch’s while I danced around a blind Akita named Bubba. Earlier this year my Dad recorded harmonica tracks for former Velvet Underground member Doug Yule. Check it out here. To watch our Rooster do a card trick click here
Last post I talked about healing behavior problems from the inside out. Yesterday I received an email from clients in Berkeley who were feeling the rewards of this approach to training.
We are so grateful that we found Francis Metcalf, the incredible dog trainer at Friends of the Family. Since we have been working with him, our magnificent Giant Schnauzer has made amazing progress. We only wish we had not waited until HH was almost five years old. Since we got him, from a top breeder, at seven months of age, HH has tended to lunge at people (never other dogs) and intimidate them, although he has never bitten anyone. We therefore have, over all these years, severely limited HH’s contact with other people, which has had a big impact on our lives.