By: Agostino Di Maria
Nov 18th 2009
The audience watched in awe as members of the SuperDogs team proved that these are no ordinary animals at the 87th annual Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.
The Superdogs team, in their 33rd year, created a buzz at the Direct Energy Centre on Thursday with their stellar performances and comic routines which left children wondering how their dogs can mimic the actions they witnessed.
“I really really loved it,” said Ryann, a spectator to the show. “I would love to train my dog like that, but I don’t think it will happen.”
Both bleachers were filled to capacity, which left some spectators finding space on the red carpet to witness the event. The center arena, highlighted in blue carpet, held all the equipment for the show such as tunnel tubes, hoops, and platforms to display the animals. A large inflated Super Dog was erected as an entrance way for the animals as they entered the arena for their performances.
According to their official site, they have been the highlight at international events such as Calgary Stampede, the National Horse Show in New York and America’s Family Pet Show in Los Angeles.
Though the team focuses on putting on the best show possible, they also attempt to convey messages to the audience about their relationship with animals. Ashley Stirling, a Toronto native and a newer member of the SuperDog’s team along with her Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever “Teague” highlighted the importance of this message.
“The performance does draw people out, but really [we] want to convey the importance of just having fun with your dog,” she explained. “We all endorse positive training methods so we reward our dogs as opposed to punishing for bad behaviour; any dog can be a Super Dog.”
Stirling, who is in her fourth month with the team, has some training tips for owners who hope to have stronger relationships with their pets.
“Just have fun,” she said. “Keep it short, don’t focus on long training sessions and do your best to keep it brief.”
The statement that any dog can be a SuperDog describes “Kenzie”, the half husky, half poodle and shih tzu, who was found by his owner Kevin Hodgins while travelling in Jean Marie River, in the Northwest Territories.
“My wife and I were up there last summer and we stopped for gas and this little pup hopped in the van and would not get out,” he explained.
(Listen to the interview with Kevin Hodgins here.)
That likely spared the dog his life as the annual dog cull in the Northwest Territories was only a week away.
“I guess he was smart enough to read about the dog cull so as soon as he saw Ontario licence plates he figured it was far from where he was so he hopped in,” said Hodgins jokingly.
Hodgins, a Toronto native who is in his third month with the team, was surprised by Kenzie’s calm attitude before and during performances, given his history as a wild dog.
“If anything I am nervous, he is very chill,” he said. “He runs around looking for gum or treats on the floor and he is completely fine with loud noises and the atmosphere in the arena during the performances.”
Hodgins was quick to point out, however, that a reputable training program is necessary in order for animals to mimic the moves during the show.
“Get a dog and have it go through a progressive training course with a good track record,” he explains.