IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Class teaches dogs to play dead, Hollywood-style

Does your dog pine for the big screen? A new class offers dramatic lessons for aspiring dogs ready for their close-up.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Dogs don't just roll over and play dead in Hollywood. It takes a good trainer and lots of practice.

In Jaime Van Wye's Hollywood Tricks class, dogs learn to throw themselves on the ground and die dramatically. Olive, a 5-year-old English shepherd, goes to the ground when she hears the command "Bang, bang," but keeps her head up until she hears a third bang, said owner Sherry Marks.

When Laura Milton forms her hand into a gun her Rottweiler, Mojo, will roll over with his feet up in the air and his paws hanging limp.

Successful graduates of the class can also fetch beer from the fridge, take your socks off, grab a cell phone when it rings or help collect the laundry.

"In L.A., everybody wants their dogs to be in the movies, you know how it is," Van Wye said.

Van Wye is founder of the Zoom Room, a "social petworking" club she now is franchising. The center's three branches — in the Los Angeles area and Austin, Texas — offer group classes, private classes, birthday parties, "bark mitzvahs," meet-ups and other activities.

The tricks series is made for Hollywood, though. Van Wye, the daughter of NBA Hall of Famer Gail Goodrich, first had a boarding kennel that catered to customers like Tom Cruise, Kelly Clarkson and Tyra Banks. Then she and her husband opened the Zoom Room and came up with Hollywood Tricks to set her center apart.

Her own dog, a Komodor named Clyde Orange, has been in a movie or two ("Marmaduke" and the yet-to-be-released "Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2"). His specialty is taking her socks off, and they've got a spot to show off that trick on Jay Leno's "Tonight" show.

"He's like a celebrity," Van Wye said.

The Zoom Room teaches 78 different behaviors. In addition to standard hoops and hurdles, dogs learn to skateboard, walk a plank and play basketball. That last trick has nothing to do with her father, Van Wye said. It was designed around one of her students who liked to jump.

Classes don't teach barking or growling because those can be too hard to turn off. And so far, there has been no call for a dance class.

Milton, a magazine art director, said she decided against a Hollywood career for Mojo, but what Mojo got was better — friends and fans.

"A lot of people are intimidated by Rotts. When he does his little repertoire of tricks, the fear is gone," she said.

Mark Bordelon, a 44-year-old educator, enrolled his German sheperd Zola in an agility class because she was so shy and fearful. In the tricks class, it took her just five tries to balance a bone on her nose.

"Even dogs need self-actualization," Bordelon said.