On the Spot: Jenny Vidbel

September 26, 2013

She’s a dog person. And a horse person. And a capybara person. As the animal trainer and presenter for the Big Apple Circus, Jenny Vidbel is responsible for all of the one-ring show’s “nonhuman performers,” the majority (nine) of which are dogs. The third-generation circus performer will roll into the Dulles Town Center parking lot when the full circus sets up its tents on Thursday.

What’s your offstage relationship like with the dogs?
The dogs are the ones I can’t hand over to someone else to take care of. They’re the most difficult because of their personalities; you have to know whom to separate, who’s going to try to take off for a run.

How can I get my dog to do cool stuff?
You can’t look at it like, “How do I train a dog?” A lot of my dogs are rescues and you don’t know what they’ve seen in life, and you treat them accordingly. I have one dog in particular — she is very afraid of people, but she really loves to perform. So, my solution with her was she just runs in, does her trick and leaves.

Is there any fighting for the spotlight among the dogs?
The little dogs are always the divas. They’re always the ones that want to be in charge and show off. I’ve got a miniature poodle and he knows he’s the star. I’ve got a little fox terrier who knows she’s the star. Sometimes there’s conflict.

Dulles Town Center, 21100 Dulles Town Circle, Dulles, Va.; through Oct. 14, $25-$80; bigapplecircus.org.
Kristen Page-Kirby covers film, arts and events for Express.
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