The first ever Positive Dog Training FLASH MOB!
Flash Mob: A group of people who appear from out of nowhere, to perform predetermined actions, designed to amuse and confuse surrounding people. The group performs these actions for a short amount of time before quickly dispersing. Flash mobs are often organized through email and/or newsgroup postings. (Source: www.UrbanDictionary.com.)
On Sunday January 16, 2001 just after 3:00 pm 14 dog/handler teams came together in the heart of downtown Seattle to form the first ever positive dog training flash mob! We’d seen Michael Jackson tributes and Glee reenactments, but never a dance celebrating the bond between dogs and their people, a bond that is strengthened and nurtured by positive reinforcement-based dog training.
Mary and Amanda met to choreograph the routine to “Walking the Dog” performed by Rufus Thomas. The idea was not to create an elaborate canine freestyle routine, but rather to demonstrate basic skills taught in most dog training classes. The final routine included nose targeting, shake, sit, down, stay, come, spin left and right and a trick of the handler’s choosing.
We spread the word via Facebook and several e-mail lists including Puget Sound Positive Trainers (PSPT). PSPT maintains a referral web site at www.seattledogtraining.com and also keeps in close contact via the Yahoo! group seattlepositive. Our flash mob mission was to spread the word re: positive dog training and Train Your Dog Month in general vs. promoting any one business or person.
Participants were instructed to practice on their own after watching an instructional video (see link below), then attend a practice session the night before.
On the day of the flash mob, dogs and handlers milled about in front of Westlake Center, a popular shopping area in downtown Seattle. Upon hearing the opening notes to “Walking the Dog,” we fell in line and performed our routine. Over 150 unsuspecting spectators looked on with some taking photos and recording videos with their cameras and cell phones.
Participants ranged from professional dog trainers to pet dog owners to agility and rally obedience competitors.
“My Boxer, Tucker, and I participated in your canine flash mob and had the greatest time. It was something we had never done before, but it was so much fun we can’t wait to do it again! It was a blast to show off happy, trained dogs and get a chance to talk to the appreciative spectators,” said Janey Wilcox of Auburn, WA.
Louisa Beal, DVM of Fircrest, WA also participated with her Belgian Tervuren, Paxil. “The Seattle flash mob event was a fun activity that generated a lot of interest from the crowd. But the best part for me was to be able to meet some of the positive trainers in my area. It is so important to cooperate and share with others in our profession. And the icing on the cake was that it was a blast!”
This event not only showcased basic training but also socialization; the urban environment was filled with sights and sounds and each of the dogs took it in stride. The flash mob demonstrated the true value of socialization and training and gave spectators an idea of what dogs and people can achieve when they work together in a cooperative and gentle way.
As soon as it was finished, participants wanted to know when we would do it again, and many people who were not able to participate this time wanted to be informed of future events. We have plans to coordinate a new routine to perform at Seattle Humane Society’s (www.seattlehumane.org) Walk for the Animals fundraiser in September. And Grisha Stewart, owner of Ahimsa Dog Training (www.doggiezen.com) in Seattle, has already scheduled a bi-monthly practice. “I’m inspired by the flash mob. I think it’d be fun to do this as an ongoing thing. I’m going to start a drill team at Ahimsa that’s open to any positive folks.”
We believe the first ever positive dog training flash mob is most definitely the Most Creative Community Event organized to promote National Train Your Dog Month and the importance of training and socialization! It was a big success in the community and we plan to build on this first attempt to continue to spread the word about the power of positive training.