They perform backflips, jump high to catch Frisbees, walk on barrels and achieve other feats all to the sound of enthusiastic applause.
“If you love dogs, you’ll love this show,” trainer Chris Perondi, 43, told the News-Press recently by phone from Tampa. The Florida State Fair there is one of the stops for his show starring talented rescue dogs.
“Chris Perondi’s Stunt Dog Experience” features a couple dozen or so of his troupe’s 40 canines. They do everything from dancing to jumping rope and competing in obstacle courses.
The dogs will perform at 3 and 7 p.m. March 9 at the Clark Center for the Performing Arts, 487 Fair Oaks Ave., Arroyo Grande.
“We get comments like, ‘It was amazing’ and ‘The best dog show I’ve ever seen,’ ” said Mr. Perondi, who presents breeds varying from the Australian cattle dog and border collie mixes to Jack Russell terriers.
“We’ve got a couple dogs who do handstands in the palms of our hands.
“There are a lot of cool moves. There’s one dog who does the moonwalk in the show as we play Michael Jackson’s music,” said Mr. Perondi, who calls French Camp in San Joaquin County his home when he isn’t on the road.
His stunt dogs have performed across the U.S. and Canada and have appeared on TV programs such as Montecito celebs Oprah Winfrey’s and Ellen DeGeneres’ talk shows.
Mr. Perondi, a Stockton native, explained how he began his 20-year career in show business.
He was working in information technology for Triad Systems during the 1990s in Livermore in Alameda County when he heard about a nearby Frisbee contest.
He entered his dog, Pepper, an Australian cattle dog and border collie mix.
“He was amazing, and I was hooked,” said Mr. Perondi, who started calling his pet Extreme Pepper.The inspired pet owner began his “Extreme Canine Stunt Dog Show” on a part-time basis in 1999 with Extreme Pepper and three other dogs.
“It was dogs catching Frisbees and doing tricks,” Mr. Perondi said. “I did expos, fairs, pet events. I was doing school assemblies. I even did a couple birthday parties.”
The dog show proved so successful that he quit his IT job and made the program his full-time occupation in 2001. He added more stunts and dogs and hired trainers, who have provided additional canines.
Twelve of the dogs are the personal pets of Mr. Perondi and his wife, Suhey Perondi, who also goes on stage with the canines.
“We use positive training techniques, so they’re not being forced to do anything. They’re doing it because they love and enjoy it,” Mr. Perondi said.
He explained the dogs are rewarded with treats, toys, love and applause.
“They run faster, they jump higher, they’re more excited when performing in front of an audience,” Mr. Perondi said.
All of the dogs are rescues from shelters.
Mr. Perondi uses the show to promote the need to spay and neuter dogs and cats and adopt them from shelters.
“There are so many people who think to have a great dog, you have to go to a breeder,” Mr. Perondi said. “That’s absolutely not the case.”
He treats the dogs in his show like the stars they are. They get proper introductions on stage.
Flashy Ferrari, a border collie and Australian cattle dog mix from Kansas City, Mo., loves performing.
“She’s like the Michael Jordan of Frisbee-catching dogs,” Mr. Perondi said. “I have a picture of her jumping higher than my RV. She has perfect landings. She lands like a cat.”
Now 12 years old, Flashy Ferrari, during her prime, jumped 68 inches from the floor and over a bar, Mr. Perondi said. That’s a tie with High-Flying Harley, a Belgian Malinois or shepherd variety from Modesto, for the best high jump in the show’s history.
They’re among the highest-jumping dogs in the world. The highest jump over a bar, at 75 inches, is held by a greyhound, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Although retired from the high jump, Flashy Ferrari continues to catch Frisbees in the show, as do other canines.
Vinnie Valentino, an Australian shepherd and border collie mix from St. Paul, Minn., leaps for them in a black light routine.
In another act, Vinnie catches a Frisbee while jumping up and off the back of Mr. Perondi, who’s squatting.
Vinnie continues to fly above kids from the audience as they kneel with their hands and knees on stage. Diggy the Dog, the show’s mysteriously human-size mascot, joins them in the pose.
Mr. Perondi and his fellow trainers work with the dogs to find their niche.
He explained those who don’t like to jump high do some other feat or trick. Crazy Confetti, a Jack Russell-terrier mix from Woodland, near Sacramento, enjoys riding her skateboard.
Spitfire Spinelli, a husky-cattle dog mix from Nashville, and Action Jackson, a Jack Russell terrier mix from Los Angeles, love to stand on their front paws.
Part of the show involves challenges during which half of the audience roots for the red team and the other half for the blue. The canines wear red and blue vests for easy identification.
The competition includes a timed obstacle course.
The dogs weave through a dozen poles, jump through a hoop and above hurdles, run through a tunnel and bounce off a box to catch a ball, Mr. Perondi explained. “They then race back over the hurdles, through the tunnel, then finally run down the middle to catch a flying disc.”
Mr. Perondi said the typical time is 9 to 11 seconds, maybe 15 seconds on a larger stage.
“It would take a human 45 seconds to do it!”
<B>IF YOU GO</B>
Rescue canines will perform during “Chris Perondi’s Stunt Dog Experience” at 3 and 7 p.m. March 9 at the Clark Center for the Performing Arts, 487 Fair Oaks Ave., Arroyo Grande.
Tickets cost $20 to $35. To purchase, call the Clark Center at 489-9444 or go to clarkcenter.org.
Mr. Perondi uses the show to promote the need to adopt dogs from shelters. In that spirit, the Clark Center is partnering with the Woods Humane Society (www.woodshumanesociety.org). Weather permitting, adoptable dogs from the San Luis Obispo shelter will be at the Clark Center.
For more information, go to www.stuntdogshow.com.