Hollywood hounds bone up on skills

LOS ANGELES | 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,” Miss Van Wye said.

Miss 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. Miss 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,” Miss 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, Miss 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.

Miss 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 shepherd 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,” Mr. Bordelon said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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