Chris Perondi, aka “The Stunt Dog Guy,” has coached his dogs to jump off of his back 10 to 12 feet into the air to snag a flying Frisbee.
Perondi’s dogs, most of them herding and terrier breeds, can spring over a 60-inch bar, hurdling objects triple their size. That’s a feat, by scale, that Olympic high jumpers wouldn’t have even a sniff at.
“Dogs are very athletic animals,” said Perondi, who brings his talented canines to the Performing Arts Center in San Luis Obispo on April 30. “In order to catch their prey, they have to jump high. They naturally have that drive.”
In Perondi’s live show, “The Stunt Dog Experience,” the animals leap over his shoulders, dance, and zigzag their way through a pole slalom, in dizzying displays that show off their speed and grace.
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A former information technology worker from Stockton, Perondi started a Frisbee dog club in his hometown. That led to news stories about the club and subsequent invitations to perform at expos, school assemblies and fairs.
His big break came when the San Francisco 49ers anointed his dog Extreme Pepper the team’s mascot for the 1999 and 2000 seasons.
“We were at every home game and performed on the sidelines,” said Perondi, a lifelong dog lover who performs with his wife, Suhey. “We did pre-game shows and some halftime shows. It didn’t pay a lot. But it got our name out there.”
It was around that time that Perondi decided to quit his tech job and make a go at stunt dogging full-time.
Dogs are very athletic animals. In order to catch their prey, they have to jump high. They have that drive.
Chris Perondi, aka The Stunt Dog guy
Since 1999, Perondi and his athletic animals have performed more than 3,500 shows. Perondi and his wife travel around the country in a 43-foot, fifth-wheel recreational vehicle trailer, typically bringing along about 20 dogs.
He and his dogs perform at venues including college campuses, wildlife parks, theme parks, sporting events and fairs and expos.
Before one such appearance on “The Queen Latifah Show,” a tall woman in sweatpants crouched down to greet one of Perondi’s dogs, he recalled.
“I had no clue who she was,” Perondi said. “Then she stood up and I looked at her and I realized, ‘This is Queen Latifah.’ She had just finished jogging and wasn’t done up at all.”
Perondi appreciates the celebrities who take time to meet and chat before the shows. Jay Leno was especially friendly, he said, spending time with the stunt dog crew beforehand and welcoming them with a snack cart.
The dogs are the stars. They put a smile on your face and make you happy and it doesn’t matter your age.
Chris Perondi, aka The Stunt Dog guy
Perondi’s performers come from rescue shelters. It typically takes between a year and a year-and-a-half to get them ready for showtime. They have to adjust to crowds, lights, noise and such alluring distractions as the smell of hot dogs.
One of Perondi’s dogs, a goldendoodle, grew fearful of performing toward the front of the stage.
“In order to get him to feel more comfortable, I took him into the stands area after a show,” Perondi said. “Nobody was there, but I did it just to put him at ease. My wife said, ‘Now he’s going to run into the stands during the show.’ ”
Sure enough, the dog decided to venture into the crowd during the performance, having familiarized himself with new territory.
“He went to say ‘Hi’ to everybody,” Perondi said. “They loved it.”
Perondi, who plans to feature 14 to 15 dogs in his April 30 performance, said that his live show educates audiences about dogs while encouraging them to adopt unwanted animals.
“We just love entertaining people,” Perondi said. “The dogs are the stars. They put a smile on your face and make you happy.”
The Stunt Dog Experience
4 p.m. April 30
Cohan Center, Cal Poly
$19.20 to $30
756-4849 or www.calpolyarts.org