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.
Check out this fun video we made after finishing a set of 8 private lessons with Leslie and her Pit Bull Levi. What an awesome team, I am lucky to have such great students.
Levi the Pit Bull relaxing between takes
If dog training was high school then we are the art room set. Other trainers can be the jocks, honor students, or the popular clique. I’m always happiest in creative mode, and I love working with people who are interested in exploring the creative side of dog training. If you are interested in this sort of thing come join the fun by attending our Canine Circus School, or doing some private lessons.
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.