I just wanted to give an update. I have been busy pursuing my latest and ongoing interests such as: butterfly gardening, Old-time fiddling and flying R.C. sailplanes. Hobbies keep me sane so I can put my best foot forward when I teach Canine Circus School. Curiosity is life!
Also I’ve also been coaching some really talented trainers and decoys in French Ringsport. That’s a dog training sport that I learned how to do back in 1995 and got pretty good at. I don’t compete anymore, but it’s always an honor to pass on the knowledge I have accumulated on the subject.
As usual our private lessons have been a real blessing, getting to know people and their dogs is very grounding and when it has been a few generations of dogs we become like family. Anyway that’s me, now for you.
If you came here looking to sign up for Canine Circus School click here, but also watch the video below to get a sense of what the class is like. Remember, we have four levels and oftentimes the dogs you see in the videos are more advanced. Don’t let that scare you, in our Circus 1 class we start from the beginning.
Watch a video of Canine Circus School
Watch a video filmed over many private lessons.
Here is a video I put together from clips of Borte, Phil and Heather over a few years of private lessons. This is a fraction of the stuff we have done, of course we started with the basics and moved up to more complicated things. Along the way we worked through all the normal behavior issues that come along with raising a dog in a big city. If you are interested in private lessons send us an email.
When Heather and Phil first got Borte, her breeder referred them to Canine Circus School for private lessons. Why? Because a long time ago that same breeder took a chance on me.
She sold me a Malinois puppy when I was 20 and when I saw her again years later, that pup was French and Mondioring 3 (which are difficult titles to earn.) The breeder was Cheryl Carlson of Cher Car Shepherds. I was proud to see that connection come full circle. I remember Cheryl telling me as I sat in her office in Lansing, Michigan after I got my first instruction as a French Ring decoy. “Ya know Francis, when you’re 40 years old and you have been training dogs for 20 years it will all pay off.” It turns out that Cheryl was right and I’ve been fortunate to work with great people and their dogs in the Bay Area and beyond.
Watch a video of me training my dog.
If you would like to see me training my dog, watch the video below. It’s a demonstration of my dog (Schwartz) always bringing the biggest coin back first. So he is discriminating visually by size. You can see that I change the order of the coins to see if he is running a pattern or actually thinking about it.
This was just a weird thing I was curious to try. I had never seen it done before, although I have done many scent discriminations and perhaps inadvertently trained a visual discrimination, but I have never set out to do it. Again curiosity is life! Anyway I hope to see you in a class or around the town.
When the Arts collide.
We were thrilled when The Oakland Museum of California asked Canine Circus School to a be a part of the Roy de Forest retrospective, Of Dogs and Other People: The Art of Roy de Forest. This exhibition is full of magical worlds swirling with fantastical scenes set in landscapes of colorful motifs and whimsical animals most of which are dogs. Lots and lots of glorious dogs. OMCA incorporated listening stations with interpretations of the work from different points of view; ranging from a horticulturist to ten year old sword swallower to a professional dog trainer.
Of course this is where our very own Francis Metcalf enters into the picture. Many may know Francis as the MasterofHounds and the Ring Leader at Canine Circus School. But Francis is also an artist and a musician. Francis was given a scholarship to study at The School of the Arts Institute of Chicago where he spent most of his time in the basement of The Art Museum of Chicago, sculpting and ticking endless hours away absorbed in the sound labs. In his off time he played bass in a group made up of fellow art students. Little did the fine folks at OMCA know that Francis and Roy de Forest have more than just a lifelong love of dogs in common, but also an insatiable love of art and the magical worlds where art and dogs intersect.
(pictured below lower left: Francis Metcalf in the OMCA studio, recording his POV of Roy de Forest’s painting, Country Dog Gentlemen pictured below upper right: Francis with Chomsky balancing a ball on her head and Balzac sitting pretty.) Also the Canine Circus School logos were drawn by Francis.
The painting below is by Roy de Forest, entitled Country Dog Gentlemen,1972. This is the the piece that Francis recorded his point of view.
We are proud to be a part of this first full career retrospective of Roy de Forest. We hope you can go and let yourself get lost in the magical world he created through his magnificent canvases. The exhibition Of Dogs and Other People: The Art of Roy de Forest is at OMCA now through August 20, 2017.
Likewise, we hope you can join us at Canine Circus School: The Art School for Dogs at some point in the near future.
When I was a kid in the 1970’s my parents brought me to Washington Square park in Manhattan. There were people playing music, juggling, walking on tightropes, playing chess, riding unicycles, and just hanging out.
It made a big impression on me. Adults were doing fun things, not just kids stuff though, they were doing activities that took great skill. After I grew up and went back to New York in the 1990’s, I discovered that scene was replaced with guys with coiffed hair and tailored suits. Where were the beatnik banjo players, where were the Frisbee players, where was the magic?
The big cities are always magical places, the land where large urban populations grow is blessed with advantages such as protected harbors and connected trade routes. These areas soon give rise to winding market places and cobbled plazas where interesting things from around the world mingle with the thoughts of a well traveled citizenry. Like plants and animals, magic comes and goes based on the health of the environment. Once the environment that shaped an organism disappears that creature goes with it. I’m afraid magic has become scared and is hiding from us, nervous of the hum of industry and distracted by the glimmer of technology.
Because of this, certain people and animals have felt the urge to journey back to retrieve the magic we have lost along the way. You might be one who has felt the call. Often the first sign is that a beautiful thing has entered your life and captivated you. If it’s an old violin that your great grandmother once played then there are places to learn what that fiddle has to teach you, but if it is a dog that has captivated your heart then Canine Circus School is here to guide you.
Canine Circus School is located just seven miles from San Francisco in the East Bay. Like many of the best secrets we are hidden in plain sight. Once you enter our gates you will find a place that evokes a feeling of possibility, a place that suspends time just long enough to catch a glimpse of another reality. We built our school with the thought that the environment affects the learning process. Joseph Campbell’s, A Hero’s Journey is one of the inspirations for our landscape design. Campbell tells of the secret framework behind all great stories: first we feel a call to adventure, then we experience a refusal to follow that call, but our second thoughts fade away and we proceed with the adventure. Along the journey we pass guardians, meet teachers, confront our shadow self and finally return to the normal world with a new sense of power and knowledge. We have tried to manifest this sequence into our landscape design that leads to the ring.
Don’t worry we don’t discuss airy fairy stuff with you, the inspiration of the Hero’s Journey will reveal itself to those interested. The interpretation is up to you to indulge in or not, but one thing is for sure this postage stamp of land is built on truly magical soil nestled between the beautiful cities of San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland. An adventure awaits you behind our gates that will bring you closer to another species. Along the journey we will train you to amaze your friends and neighbors. By doing this you will help to repopulate the world with magic and make your dog smarter, healthier, and better adapted to the urban environment.
We hope you can join us. Here’s our current class schedule.