January 23, 2014

Pooch Power! Wildly popular stunt dog show at Gallo Center

Show created by Stockton native and French Camp resident Chris Perondi features rescue dogs doing tricks and stunts has proven wildly popular and garnered national attention. The Stunt Dog Experience comes to the Gallo Center for the Arts for four shows this week.

Every dog has its day, but if you’re a Stunt Dog, you’ve got at least four.

The scheduled two-show appearance of the traveling production Stunt Dog Experience has added not one but two new dates due to public demand. Three of the shows have sold out and the final new addition had some 150 tickets left as of earlier this week.

The wild popularity of the show took Gallo Center Chief Executive Officer Lynn Dickerson and staff by surprise. The two originally booked performances sold out two months in advance. Last month, a third show was added; earlier this month, a fourth.

The success of the show is a testament to the vision and passion of its creator, Stockton native and French Camp resident Chris Perondi. Well, that and a team of some very good dogs.

Perondi and his pack of pooches do an array of tricks and stunts – from catching Frisbees to jumping rope and navigating obstacles. Perondi hadn’t considered turning his puppy love into a profession until 1996, when a dog named Pepper changed his world. He adopted the border collie and soon began playing ball and Frisbee with him in the park.

“He was a spitfire,” Perondi said. “I like to say the dog taught me everything I know. He was a natural. It made it easy for me.”

The pair were so good that they entered Frisbee competitions and took first place their second time out (they took a not-too-shabby second at their first try). That led to training more dogs and starting a Frisbee dog club in Stockton in 1998.

A year later, Perdoni took a chance and let his life go to the dogs full time. He quit his job as an information technology specialist in Lodi and went on the road with his dog act with a stage show offer in Long Island. From there, the appearances grew and grew, and since then, the show has been featured on “Ellen,” “Oprah” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

Besides giving the audience an action-packed performance, Perondi and his trainers espouse the importance of pet adoption, rescue and spaying and neutering. All of the dozen-plus dogs in his shows have been rescued from shelters and pounds across the country. One of his latest additions, a pup named Stormy who is still in training, comes from Wags and Whiskers Rescue in Modesto.

“Every single one of the dogs has been adopted,” Perondi said. “Pure-breed dogs are no smarter than a mixed-blood dog. We look for dogs that are friendly and playful; dogs that are focused. You can train any dog, you really can – doesn’t matter age, breed and size. But can a dog do it in front of an audience? That takes a special dog.”

Perondi’s Stunt Dog Productions Inc. has two teams of special dogs that perform across the country. They do more than a dozen of the full Stunt Dog Experience shows a year in performance halls, plus more than 400 of the shorter outdoor Extreme Canine shows. Perondi serves as emcee and trainer on stage for all the Stunt Dog Experience shows. He also appears with other trainers and handlers, including his wife, in various productions.

Starting in May, Perondi and company will have their own headlining show on the Branson, Mo., strip. They will perform one show a day from May into August. But for now, he is excited for the Gallo show and a chance to perform close to his French Camp home.

“It’s awesome, we’re very honored to perform close to home,” he said. “I’ve been on the road, New York, Florida, but it is always great to come home and do stuff for your family and friends.”

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