Phoenix is one handy dog, says owner Trisha Antonelli.
The 2-year-old Red Heeler/German Shepherd mix picks up trash.
He gathers recyclables.
He retrieves his PVC agility equipment and loads it into her car.
He doesn’t drive, though.
“But he thinks he can,” says the 31-year-old trainer.
Phoenix will be asked to do something simple yet significant on Nov. 19.
Community dog owners are invited to the Animal Network’s Canine Christmas Festival 2011 on the Bishop SPCA Animal Shelter grounds. There they will attempt to set a Guinness World Record for Most Dogs Doing Sit/Stay.
The record is 100.
They want 101 -- or more.
“We’re taking as many as want to participate,” said Animal Network president Laurie Crawford. “The next person will have to beat that record.”
The first 120 dogs will get bandanas that read: “I came. I sat. I stayed.”
Getting all of them to do so is another matter.
A trainer such as Antonelli makes a living getting dogs to obey.
She had Phoenix do everything but fly Monday morning.
But what about the casual dog owner?
The trainer says they should be able to practice sit/stay at home.
“You’ve got to take baby steps with dogs,” Antonelli said. “Start with a simple control command -- sit. Do it with a treat or a clicker. If you lift up their head, their bottom naturally wants to go to the ground. Or tap on their hind quarters and they’ll automatically sit.
“Then reward them with heavy petting and positive reinforcement. Get in their face and go ‘Good boy.’ Be their cheerleader.”
The stay part can be tricky.
Antonelli doesn’t say “stay,” but relies on body language.
“A lot of dogs will sit for you -- and as soon as you walk away they want to follow you,” she said. “Enforce the sit, don’t give up on the command. Say, ‘Look, it’s OK. I’m just backing away.’ You keep eye contact with them, gradually make more distance between them. Nine out of 10 times, your reassurance that you’re the control factor takes away all the anxiety, their wanting to leave and be right by your side.”
Crawford said if dog owners teach their dogs to sit/stay twice a day for five minutes, that should suffice for the big event on Nov. 19.
“It’s never too late,” she said.
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.