Since Molly was 17 years old when I taught her this action, and since I had no plans to teach it to my other dogs, I did not see any reason to go to the effort of making a permanent apparatus; therefore I jerry-rigged the rope between a very stable bench (so she would have a landing to go towards) and attached the other end to the bumper of a pickup truck. I could then move the pickup forward until I had the rope *very* tight. If I had other suitable dogs to whom I was teaching this action, I would have made a special piece of equipment such as those used in professional dog acts (see bottom of page).
Most people I've talked to who teach this action begin by luring the dog across with food or a toy or they have the dog target their hand prompting him to move further and further across the ropes and do not actually physically support the dog. They allow the dog to find its own balance.
#3 When she was comfortable walking across with my help, I started again three foot from the landing -- only instead of holding her, I stood behind her and stablized the ropes. Again, I placed her further and further from the landing, still stablizing the ropes each time.
#4 The final step was starting her three feet from the platform without me holding the ropes and gradually putting her further back until she could walk the entire eight-foot length on her own .
Although I am showing this as an advanced trained action, I can't take a lot of credit for any special training skills since Molly seemed to have a natural talent for walking a tightrope. Molly is a rescue whom we adopted as a young adult in 1990 -- which means she was at least 17 years old when I trained her to walk the tightropes for this scene . . . and it took her only three days to learn it.
The most critical part of this action is having the correct apparatus before you ever put the dog on it. The rope or cable should be large enough in diameter to feel "safe" to the dog, about shoulder width apart, and held securely and taut enough to be relatively stable.
#1 In our dogs' obstacle course are two eight-foot long parallel 2"x 4" boards laid horizontally four inches apart on uprights that are three-feet high. All of the dogs are well practiced on this obstacle and this is likely the reason Molly felt confident when first asked to walk the tightropes.
Photos of a high-wire tightrope walking dog below are
Dawn and her Comedy Canines perform over 500 shows a year at the Comedy Barn located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. This is what Dawn's tightrope apparatus looks like.
This video clip is the "Dream Scene" from The Birthday Caper. I purchased a royalty-free CD of a magician's routine created by Oscar Munoz with music composed and performed by 2007 Grammy Award Winner Arthur Stead and created a scene to fit the words.