Tag Archives: Kelly Dunbar

Circus Tricks for Dogs

Circus tricks for dogs with Francis MetcalfCircus tricks for dogs? Indeed! Recently I had the privilege of chatting with renaissance man and circus dog trainer extraordinaire, Francis Metcalf, of Friends of the Family Dog Training.

Francis is someone I’ve known for nearly 20 years now and I can honestly say he is a uniquely gifted man who always advocates for dogs. They love him. Adore him. Can’t get enough. When Francis walks into the room my dogs act like it’s Christmas morning; and it is, because he always gives them the gift of his full attention and works to make every interaction with dogs as positive and and fun as possible. I’ve not met anyone quite like him in dogs.

In this podcast, recorded in the cozy confines of his european-styled training clubhouse where we sat by a roaring fire and sipped wine, Francis and I first cover his early career and how he first got into dog training. We chat about his first dogs and his first Belgian Malinois, Turbeaux (a dog legends are made of), as well as his introduction to the fine sport of French ringsport.

In the second half of this conversation Francis talks about his circus class, a class that’s taken the San Francisco Bay Area by storm! Circus class teaches dogs to be confident and comfortable with their bodies while also teaches people to take the time to enjoy the process of dog training. The motto of the class is, “Try, try, try!” Rather than focusing on perfect performance, this class is all about learning to enjoy the process. Francis wants people and dogs to enjoy the ride! And because circus class is not about competition or life and death issues, people learn to relax when communicating with their dog. They learn how to be animated and fun to draw dogs out and build focus.

Circus class is also an excellent parallel class, meaning in doesn’t interfere with any other training your dog may be doing, but rather, the skills learned seem to enhance performance in other realms, be they basic manners or agility or nose work.

I had such a fun time creating this podcast, and I hope you have a blast listening to it too. Also, I hope it motivates people everywhere to get out there and teach their dogs some fun tricks.

Oh, one more thing… Francis is such an interesting character and has so very much to offer that my interview ran a bit long. I’m still learning how to audio edit and ran into some difficulties, so, while I did split this interview into two parts, it’s all in the same podcast. The first part of the interview introduces Francis to the Animal Cafe listening audience and is about 10 minutes long, I wanted listeners to really get a feel for the man himself before launching into his latest project… The fabulous circus classes that he offers to pet dogs to help make them the most interesting dog on their block.

If you’d like to learn more about Francis or his circus tricks for dogs classes please visit his website, Friends of the Family.

Happy listening!

Dog Training: Cues, Commands, Obedience, And Punishment

Dr. Roger AbrantesDog training is a form communication. We attach meaning to cues, signals, or commands to convey information to get our dogs to do what we’d like them to do. In this podcast Dr. Roger Abrantes and I discuss whether the words you use to describe dog training affect your relationship with your dog.

Dr. Abrantes is a dear friend of mine, a scientist, an expert in dog training, a blogger, and someone I very much admire. His experience and knowledge goes way beyond dog training. Roger’s formal education is that of an evolutionary biologist, however, as a well traveled citizen of the world who has lived in places such as Denmark, Portugal, Thailand, and Africa, he has also become a de facto expert in languages, and communication in general.

Words always come along with some sort of association. For example, when requesting a behavior from a dog, such as “high five” or “shake”, many people will tell you they are giving the dog a command. Dr. Abrantes explains that the word “command” has a militaristic connotation. A command is something that is issued and must be obeyed. No questions asked. Disobedience to a command in many cases must be severely punished. But is that really how you see your fun little request to shake your dog’s paw? Must she obey? Or, more accurately, are you simply requesting a friendly interaction with your best friend, or practicing a routine you learned in a dog training session? Is non-compliance truly a punishable offense? Shake is a friendly gesture after all.

Roger points out that before a command becomes a command it is a signal. A dog cannot obey a command he does not understand.

He believes that when we are interacting with, and communicating with our dogs it’s just like communicating with a friend or colleague. We generally don’t command each other but rather signal back and forth in a friendly and reciprocal fashion.

We also discussed whether other words commonly used as dog training vernacular, such as “obey”, should really have a place in describing the partnership that takes place between a human and a trained dog. Especially how often when people use the word “punishment” what they really mean is they are seeking “revenge”.

It was a fascinating conversation, and I hope you’ll tune in below and join in the conversation. Roger and I will be taking questions and entertaining your input in the comments section below.

If you’d like to hear more from Roger he can be found blogging away at both Dog Star Daily and his WordPress blog.

Nosework: Letting Your Dog Do What Comes Naturally

The nose knows

Nosework should really be called “noseplay.”

It’s said that every dog needs a job. And many talented canines are trained to use their senses of smell to perform such essential tasks as search and rescue and drug detection. But sometimes, like girls, dogs just wanna have fun.

And now there’s a way to oblige them, one that is sweeping the nation.

Nosework, the Sport

 Among her many pet-related endeavors  — including co-founder and executive editor of Dogstardaily.com, President of Open Paw, and newest member of the Animal Cafe team — Kelly Dunbar is also A Certified Nosework Instructor through the National Association of K-9 Scent Work (the url is FunNosework.com, incidentally.) In this week’s interview, Kelly explains the activity that has become a passion with her.

One reason that it’s so appealing is its inclusiveness. Unlike group competitions such as agility, nosework doesn’t involve other dogs or other humans besides the the handler, which means that shy dogs, reactive dogs… really, any pups that don’t feel happy with social interactions… can succeed in it. And there’s no second place or runner up in this sport; it’s just the dog improving upon earlier successes, getting better and better.

The Basic Framework of Nosework: Three Scents, Four Environments

Another beauty of nosework is that it can be done anywhere, from small urban apartments to open rural areas. It doesn’t involve much equipment, just Q-tips dipped in essential oils — birch, anise and clove, scents that the dog won’t encounter anywhere else — and a container of some sort, even a box. The other environments where searches are conducted are buildings, vehicles, and exterior areas.

Letting Go

Perhaps the most unusual thing about nosework is its contrast to standard canine sports that require the dog to live in our world and follow our rules. Here the dog is encouraged to follow his instincts, and do the driving.

“We’re always telling dogs not to explore,” Kelly explains. “Saying things like, ‘Get your nose out of that other dog’s butt, out of that person’s crotch…'” With nosework, dogs learn to feel comfortable doing what comes naturally.

Although treats are initially used to encourage the dogs, this is the antithesis of standard training in some ways. That is, the better behaved the dogs, the more used to following our lead, the more difficult it is for them at first.

In the beginning, it can also be difficult for some handlers, those who are, well, controlling.

As dogs gain confidence, however, the rewards for both partners are tough to match.

Listen to the interview. I dare you not to become an enthusiast, determined to try it with your canine playmate.