Circus and other performing Poodles today (other than film)

Irina Markova and her performing dogs. Irina Markova and her seven performing Poodles (all sizes) perform in the 2007-8 season with The Big Apple Circus (see Welcome to the Big Apple Circus). As of 13 January 2008, you can admire this act on You Tube (Conan-JAN8) Irina Markova and her performing dogs.

"The Clowning Canines of Paul Castano" Cookie and Ruiliz, two brilliantly successful--very funny!--and happy!--small, white Poodles, worked with the clown Paul Castano, a graduate of the Columbian Circus School, in the Hometown Edition of Ringling Bros., & Barnum & Bailey circus, Hamilton, Ontario, 21 November 2004. See Special Collector's Edition [programme], Ringling Bros., & Barnum & Bailey Hometown Edition, pp. 21-22 for photographs and a description of Castano and his dogs.

Posnas Pudel Parade. Jani and Joshchi Posna of Berlin, Germany have (August 2004) a troupe of trained Poodles which they present thus: "Our nine young, playful poodles would like to enchant you with their prowess and beauty in a fast-moving, lighthearted show.

"Now in its second generation, the Posna family guarantees the highest quality of training and presentation.

"Everything that Joschi Posna has learnt in the course of his life as an artiste, which since his early childhood has taken him all over the world, is brilliantly combined here with the fresh ideas of young Jana Posna, a graduate of the Potsdam-Babelsberg College of Film and Television.

"Posna's Poodles are just as much at home in the circus ring or amusement park as on the variety stage, in the theatre, at gala shows and on camera. Wherever they appear they make a great impression with their variety of sizes and colours and their extraordinarily beautiful coiffures. Their instinct for play enables them to perform stunning and comical tricks. Our show lasts for between 10 and 20 minutes, as required. We need a stage area of at least 6 by 4 metres.

"It goes without saying that we work in accordance with the German animal welfare laws. But more than that, we love our dogs and live with them and for them every single day."

The Grimaldis, the famous British clowns Kenneth and Audrey Austin, were killed in a car crash in Florida aged 87 and 81 respectively (obituary, National [Canadian] Post, Friday, July 16, 1999, p. A15, credited to The Daily Telegraph). In the late 1960s, they developed a stronger circus act "with a clever Poodle named 'Twinkle,' the success of which allowed them to continue performing even as octogenarians." They were survived by their toy Poodle, Lucky, who was rescued "from the ensuing conflagration only lightly singed."

That diminutive Montrealer, [click forward to images to find] Grisou, is caniche savant of clown/magician Danzy of Les Productions Imagination (founded in 1994 by Danys Hamel; tel.: 514-895-MAGI; e-mail:

Dominique Davis, in her article "Circus Dogs" (American Kennel Club Gazette, November 1992, pp. 62-6) describes joyful Poodles performing in "the Greatest Show on Earth" (Ringling Brothers, and Barnum & Bailey Circus) in April 1992. Erik Adams, Poodle-troup trainer (and performer, with his wife and daughter) "is a third-generation circus man." His grandfather trained bears, and his father worked with bears, chimps, and dogs. Erik specialized in dogs; in 1992, had been working with Poodles for 10 years--20 minutes a day, twice a day; his act involved seven Poodles, two Standards and five Toys, ranging in age from two-and-one-half to eight years; all male. "I get my dogs from breeders," Erik explained, "when they're about one year old....They have to have nice conformation to do the work, and they have to look at me while I'm talking." Photos include one of Erik Adams balancing a Toy Poodle on a tall platform on his head (p. 63); Jessica Adams, Erik's daughter, riding along behind while a white SP pedals a tricycle (p. 64); and (also p. 64) Bones, Toy Poodle ("one of the best dogs I've ever had"), doing the (front; single) pawstand on Erik Adams' right palm.

The author concludes: "...animal rights groups are targeting places where animals are subjected to inhumane treatment for the sole purpose of providing entertainment to people....Watching Bones perch precariously on Erik's hand while he practically holds the tiny dog there with his eyes and his voice, both of them tuned into each other's signals, it's easy to see that the dog wouldn't--couldn't--be there if it didn't want to be. No tricks. No magic. Corny and conventional as it sounds, it's pure puppy love. On both sides. No wonder it works, and that it makes so many children of all ages feel they're watching the Greatest Show on Earth."

The Moscow Circus contains an all-female Poodle act for which two varieties are bred and trained by "the Kolpensky family of dog trainers." When this circus toured Australia in 1994, quarantine regulations precluded bringing the dog, so clubs were asked to find suitable candidates for training. "Breeders answered the call," wrote Judy McMahon of Sidney South, NSW. Some breeders sold dogs outright; others made lease arrangements. "In all, seven Standard Poodles and two Miniature Poodles, all males (and all but one entire), went into training, with a minimum of six Poodles being in work at each stage of the nine-month tour... The tricks they performed were mostly basic: jumping over arms, twirling on hind legs, crawling, skipping rope, rolling bandboxes, etc. However the speed of the action and all the spotlights and spangles made the act quite spectacular. Each dog had its own star turn, the most exciting being the brown Mini who circled the perimeter of the ring on his forepaws. A conga line of Poodles walking on hind legs with their forepaws on the backs of the dogs preceding them was the cutest of the group tricks. Another good trick consisted of the Minis circling the ring while leap-frogging each other all the way. We were promised care would be immaculate in every respect and this proved to be the well, owners had the opportunity to see their dogs at regional perfomances and ensure...[well-being]. Dogs were returned in super condition--and with new skills which, in the words of one owner, are guaranteed to make her a laughing stock when she tries to get her dog back in the ring!" ("Family Poodles Tour With Circus", Versatility in Poodles, Inc. Bulletin newsletter (December, 1994), and quoted at length in "Poodles", Dogs in Canada, September 1995, p. 54.)


In 1980, Herb Williams created the SUPERDOGS troupe; his concept was to (a) demonstrate the joy of owning a dog, and (b) allow dogs to entertain by running, jumping, and retrieving. In 1991, Williams teamed up with Chase, who is responsible for the brilliant choreography of SUPERDOGS shows in the '90s.

During the past 18 years, the SUPERDOGS show has grown--and grown in experience through performance before demanding audiences, such as at Calgary Stampede, Texas State Fair in Dallas, America's Pet Show in Los Angeles, and the Royal Horse Show in Toronto. SUPERDOGS now entertain over a million people annually.

The concept of SUPERDOGS is similar to that of a Nutcracker tour in which a tiny core of professionals draw a multitude of very competent amateur performers from local ballet schools. The SUPERDOGS are all family pets of over 400 amateur trainers who star in the many kinds of SUPERDOGS shows and productions. Of course, some SUPERDOGS are Poodles. To support SUPERDOGS, join the SUPERDOGS Fan Club, Techni-Cal, c/o Martin Pet Foods, PO Box 100, Elmira, ON, Canada, N3B 2Z5.

Entertainment on a smaller scale (even home-grown)

On a smaller scale, Chanda, a champagne-coloured Toy Poodle, was featured on a front page of The Spectator(now The Hamilton [Ontario] Spectator ) on 13/2/96, because she delighted local audiences, particularly the young and old, with her 86 intelligent tricks. A photograph showed her playing the piano, and she was described fetching a tissue if you sneeze, putting away her toys, untying a knot... Her owner and co-performer is Hamiltonian Sharon Robinson, a retired hair-dressing teacher and 1988 Mrs. Canada. By Monday, 2 August 1999 (The Toronto Star, pp. E5-6), Chanda-Leah had 503 tricks in her "doggie bag" which achievement made her a TV star, put her in the 1999 Guinness Book of Records and also the National Enquirer (July 1999). As of August 1999, Chanda and Sharon have done more than 500 shows in schools, churches, nursing homes, and hospitals.

"Howling at the Moon", Richardson News, Richardson, Texas, Thursday, 30 July 1998, pp. 1B; 9B. "Pouche, a 9-year-old silver Standard Poodle is partner in a musical duet with his master, Richard Berman, a 7-years member of the Richardson community band. The pair has been featured on several TV shows. Berman, who considers himself the Dr. Doolittle of Dallas, and has acted as a pet psychic for 10+ years." J.O'C., 5/8/98. Picture with article shows a "beautiful silver Standard Poodle with a blue bandanna around his neck, singing (howling) next to his owner, who is playing a cornet." J.O'C, 1/8/98.

"Doggy Duet": Lesley Andrew, a singer-actress from Stratford, Ontario, Canada, demonstrated an opera singing duet with her apricot Toy Poodle, Pumpkin, on Monday, 22 February 1999 at the Advantage Search for North America's Best Singing Pet in Los Angeles, California. Pumpkin was last year's national champion. The duet kicked off the 1999 search, which coincided with Grammy Awards week. Picture shows Pumpkin singing along heart and soul in Lesley Andrew's arms: her eyes sweetly shut, her nose pointed skywards, and her lips curved around the sound. The Hamilton [Ontario] Spectator, Tuesday, 23 February 1999, p. D3.

"Hospital pooch cuts schedule", article about apricot Toy Poodle, Bambi, who semi-retired after eight years of entertaining sick children at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, in Ann Arbour, Michigan. She sang, played piano, boxed, and danced--since 1991. Bambi's owner, Kathy Mounts of Plymouth, MI, was given Bambi by a woman who found her shivering in night rain on a five-lane highway. Bambi is Mounts' second performing Toy Poodle. Her first, Brandi, also sang and danced for sick kids; Brandi died in 1991 at age 18. Mounts started her non-profit volunteer work in 1977. The Detroit News, Sunday, 7 February 1999, Metro Section; story by Craig Garrett; photo by Daniel Mears.

If your Poodle, like Chanda and Pouche, is a natural performer in the old tradition, here's a pair of how-to videos: Dog Tricks, featuring Moore's "Mess of Mutts" with Stacy Moore and family. The salient characteristic of Moore's troupe is that dogs (no Poodles, alas!) and people are enjoying themselves enormously. Available from: Canine Training Systems, Ltd., 7550 West Radcliff, Littleton, CO, 80123. Tel.: (303) 973-2107. Also see a book (Poodle on the cover!) of the same name: Dog Tricks: teaching your dog to be useful, fun, and entertaining, by Arthur J. Haggerty and Carol Lea Benjamin (NY: Howell, 1978; 6th printing, 1988) ISBN: 0-87605-517-X.

The tailpiece for this section is a postcard, ca 1950, probably German.

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