Stunt Dogs go from shelters to stardom

By Wade Vonasek, Staff writer

Dog lovers in Milwaukee are in for a treat in April when Chris Perondi’s Stunt Dog Experience — a touring show of canines rescued from pounds and shelters — comes to town to entertain audiences of all ages with tricks, stunts and more.

Perondi has put on more than 8,000 live shows since 1999, with the production evolving into one of the largest touring animal acts in the world.

The Stunt Dog Experience has been featured on a wide array of television programs, including the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Ellen DeGeneres Show, Oprah Winfrey Show, Queen Latifah Show, and many more. The dogs also have been showcased on Animal Planet numerous times.

Perondi’s company, Stunt Dog Productions, is a family-owned business led by Perondi and wife Suhey, along with the couples’ son Anthony. Perondi’s parents, Lon and Donna, also are part of the business, working with costume design, prop creation, advertising and caring for the retired dogs while the rest of the Perondi clan is on tour.

There are two full-time traveling teams, both performing the same shows written and created by Chris Perondi. Trainer Abby Cline from Fargo, North Dakota, leads the Perondi’s second team. Her dogs have been with the company since 2009.

From hobby to family business

Perondi started training his first dog in 1996 as a hobby, attending pet expos and dog sports competitions.

“I got hooked pretty quickly and started competing my dog in the sport of dog Frisbee,” Perondi says. “We won first place at our second competition and then I started training even more cool tricks and stunts to my dog. Most of my early training techniques were self-taught using principles and methods I learned from books and videos.”

Each dog in the production gets individual and team training.

“On average, when we aren’t out doing shows, I typically will spend an hour or two training and exercising our 11 dogs, five days a week,” says Perondi.

All the dogs are trained with positive training methods, such as using a clicker and toy motivation. Perondi works with each dog’s individual ability, athleticism and intelligence, placing the canine in segments where it will most excel.

The Perondi family strongly advocates for pet adoption, and all their canine performers are rescues or adopted from a pound. They share this mission during every show, and support and promote rescue organizations across the country, including the Lucy Pet Foundation and A Place to Bark.

The Milwaukee shows are being sponsored by AWARE — the Alliance of Wisconsin Animal Rehoming Efforts.

Taking the show on the road

The Stunt Dog Experience is scripted and choreographed to music. Comedy, acting and audience interaction are part of the show, in addition to the stunts and tricks.

One of the most popular attractions is the “Golden Bone Showdown” — a series of challenges that test intelligence, speed, accuracy and leaping ability — that takes place during each show.

“We typically will have six challenges spread throughout the show: high jumping, disc catching, trick showdown, ball launching, weave pole barrel racing, and our famous Stunt Dog Triathlon, which showcases the three most popular dog sports (agility, flyball and flying disc) in one fast-paced time race,” Perondi says. “The audience is split into two teams at the start of the show and they cheer on their team of dogs throughout the whole experience.

“We enjoy traveling with our dogs very much,” says Perondi. “We get to meet many great people and see awesome sights that we would have never been able to see. The dogs also enjoy traveling. They get super excited when they see us packing up to go and can’t wait to get in the truck or van to hit the road.”

ON STAGE

Chris Perondi’s Stunt Dog Experience comes to the Wilson Theater at Vogel Hall at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts for two shows April 22 — at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $35 and available at the Marcus Center Box Office in person at 929 N. Water St., by phone at 414-273-7206, or online at marcuscenter.org or ticketmaster.com. For more information, visit stuntdogshow.com.