The Dancer and The Dog Trainer - 6 Hairy Legs
The Dancer and The Dog Trainer
6 Hairy Legs
By Suzanne Kalafian
The Dog Trainer
What an unlikely pair people say! Maybe they are right. But, some of the most unlikely happenings lead to the greatest discoveries.
My name is Suzanne and you guessed it, I am a Dog Trainer. I know some of you may think that it’s easy to be a Dog Trainer. What I can tell you is that when you are dealing with a different species there is a lot to learn and it is fascinating to boot. I jumped in with two feet, wanting to know it all. Here I am 20 some years later working with a Choreographer/Dancer in an unlikely business endeavor we call 6 Hairy Legs. Bringing together two species through the connection of (to use a cliché) Mind, Body and Soul add Love and you have 6 Hairy Legs. Sometimes, only four legs are hairy, but no judgment!
The field of Dog Training varies greatly and within this field, there are special places where the magic happens. That is what 6 Hairy Legs is all about. This is a place where two worlds collide and something magical happens.
My business partner is so unlike me. Sabatino is a very intelligent man who is well versed in many subjects. He earned a Masters in Fine arts. Additionally, he is a Certified Pilates Instructor who is educated in body mechanics. In his past, Sabatino taught dance at colleges, universities, and dance studios. Currently, he dances and choreographs for his own dance company in Ohio. Also, he engages in consultant work with individuals and dance companies. And then there is me, The Dog Trainer. Talk about different!
The entertaining story of how we met and how 6 Hairy Legs came to be is a story for another day.
This narrative will delve into the beautiful connection that Dance, people, and dogs can share. The love, the bond, and the communication that form and what is learned through dance is amazing. This integration can be used every day to make your relationship stronger and more agreeable to both you and your dog.
It is the view of 6 Hairy Legs that having a dog is a two-way street. It is not a master/slave relationship. Yet, we do have a responsibility to teach our dogs what it means and how to live in the human world. At the same time, we should learn how to listen to them as well.
Dogs are amazing creatures! Many people say they love unconditionally; I am not so sure of that … but they do give their love and forgive more freely than humans. They have expectations, fears, joys and anxieties too. Therefore, we should be open to and aware of what they are saying. They are not always being disobedient when they do not do what we wish. Sometimes, they are speaking to us and we are not listening. How can you tell what your dog wants or how he feels about something? Dogs communicate through body language. A swish of a tail or a twitch of an ear, the look in their eyes may not mean much to you but they ARE communicating and they wonder why we are not listening. We teach them our language. Therefore, I think we should try to learn some of theirs. If you have ever visited a foreign country, it is only fair to try to speak a little of their language.
One of the beautiful aspects of dance is that it transcends species. We speak with our bodies. One could say a dog is dancing through life, using an unspoken language.
You can connect with them, by getting their attention, talking to them, looking lovingly and encouragingly and then move or “dance” for 30 seconds, an improvisation you could say. Do this 2 times a day for 4 days. Have fun, laugh, enjoy. Imitate your dog’s movements or see if your dog will follow your hand in a circle or your foot. At the end of 4 days, your dog will be asking to dance with you. They will be more aware of you and you of them; they will have more attention to your movements and you of theirs. Notice what startles them, what excites them, and what they do to interact with you. Your dog will start enjoying this new form of communication, moving with you and you with them. You will experience more of what their bodies are telling you. It is the beauty of silent communication; we have to be more observant. Take a break right now and give it a try. It may not happen the first time, they will have no idea what is happening. But keep it up. Let them figure it out, let them see you, and enjoy the interaction.
I do not come from a dance background, as a matter a fact, I am not even that good at dancing. I have a very good dance teacher as well as business partner (lucky me) and I am learning. Through dance I am learning to be better for myself and my dog. I am learning from my dog and he is learning from me. It is a very different way to communicate and it is a wonderfully mutual way of getting to know each other. It does not matter the age, breed or sex of your dog. It does not matter the age, sex or physical ability of the person. We can dance in many ways, sitting, standing, moving arms, legs, head, hips, shoulders… Be creative find out how your body works, see what your dog likes and what they shy away from. Watch how your dog moves, can you imitate that? This exercise can be so fun and so rewarding. Start off with slower movements, not jerky harsh movement and move into what you and your dog are comfortable with. The goal is for you and your dog to stay connected.
6 Hairy legs has taken this a step further. We teach you wonderful ways of moving and we have formed a way of dance with your dog that helps you connect on a deeper level. Feel the heartbeat within and become one. This is done through people education, dog education and education together.
I have participated in (with my dogs) and taught (others and their dogs) many different sports over the years from regular obedience, Nose Work, Agility, Treibball, Canine Condition, Parkour, Tricks and Canine Freestyle (which is dancing with your dog). The sport that came the closest to the intimate connection that Dance brings is Treibball. This sport taught me how to pay attention to my dog's body language, how to keep them engaged with me while they were 50 or more feet away and how to tell what they wanted out there to make our overall time (score) better. Treibball taught us to work together to figure out the best possible way to play the game with equal input. Knowing what a glance from my dog in a certain direction meant, he understanding before he made a decision to check with me to see if it was the best decision, helped us together play the best game ever. It was an amazing display of deep communication. Even Canine Freestyle did not touch the experience of Treibball. Putting that experience and marrying it with Dance has caused a truly new and wonderful canine/person connection.
Some people would ask what the difference is between Canine Freestyle and 6 Hairy Legs Dance method. We at 6 Hairy Legs believe that the physicality and movement of the person is as important as the movement of the dog. The 6 Hairy Legs Method is a built on the principles of wellness for both people and dogs. We believe that the human body is an instrument that needs to stay tuned in order to be healthy and resilient. It is not only a form of communication but a way to keep both people and dogs strong, flexible and in motion. It is a way to keep our minds and our dog’s minds continually learning and developing. If we stay active and healthy together, we will all live more fulfilling lives.
By using Modern Dance Techniques for people and teaching dogs some simple movements, together with body language, instincts and communication, we can make a dance that has movement and stillness, action and reaction, and enjoy a new and fulfilling language.
The unlikely coming together of a Dancer and a Dog Trainer has led to a great discovery.