Olate Dogs

by Martha Michael

If you’re amazed when people can get their dogs to simply sit, lie down and roll over, you’ve got a treat ahead of you at the College of the Canyons Performing Arts Center. The winning participants from Season 7 of “America’s Got Talent,” the Olate Dogs, will take the stage on May 19 – with two performances: at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Bringing multiple generations of circus experience, the Olate family performs a variety show including high-energy dog tricks, human acrobatics, comedy sketches, and music from emcee Nicholas Olate. In fact, it’s entertainment by a family for the family.

The four performers include Richard and Rebecca Olate, their son Nicholas, and his wife Yasmin, whose lives have largely been spent traveling with circuses. And in an interesting twist you might expect from acrobats, Nicholas and Yasmin met the same way his parents did: while working for the Royal Hanneford Circus – 24 years later.

If your first thoughts go to the notorious reputation of circuses for their treatment of animals, there’s no cause for concern. This family of 10 dogs literally play onstage. The Olates don’t train their dogs with food, but positive reinforcement and lots of time developing loving, personal relationships with them, according to Nicholas Olate.

“Honestly, I think the circus is better without big, exotic animals,” he said. “I grew up around elephants and tigers – it’s like being at the zoo. But at the same time, those are big animals and they need a really big space. They need big grass fields.”
Nicholas also believes it keeps other circus members from getting lazy.

“Performers have to do a better act, step it up,” he said. “If people miss the elephants, in my opinion, it’s probably because their acts weren’t that good. If you’re entertained, you don’t miss things.”

Most of the Olate family’s dogs are obtained through rescues and from shelters. Some have been pets that family members brought to them, or other individuals who could no longer care for them.

They are all poodle mixes, preferred by Richard Olate, who began performing with dogs in his native country of Peru with his brother, Jose.

“They’re easy to train because they’re agile and light-framed,” Nicholas Olate said.

And because poodles are hypoallergenic, it’s best for VIP ticketholders who get to meet the dogs after performances, he added.

For audience members who see the Olate Dogs anywhere from a 25,000-seat arena to the PAC in Valencia, it’s more than just a dog act. The show includes bounce juggling, unicycling and much more.

The Olate Dogs will perform on Saturday, May 19 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. at the COC Performing Arts Center, located at 26455 Rockwell Canyon Road in Santa Clarita. For tickets, visit http://www3.canyons.edu/Offices/PIO/CanyonsPAC/olate.html.