How are rock stars and performing dogs alike? They’re both undeniably charismatic, but if you take either one home, you’re asking for trouble, Scott Houghton says.
He would know (about the dogs, anyway) — Houghton is the owner of the eight canine stars who make up the “Mutts Gone Nuts” comedy show.
“Many of the dogs we have are too wacky for a regular household,” says Houghton, who has trained the dogs to jump rope, walk a tightwire and act mischievously — on cue. (You can catch the show Saturday during the Atlas Intersections Festival.)
Take Chico, a crowd favorite who balances on barrels and jumps through hoops. When Houghton and his wife, Joan, adopted the Chihuahua mix in 2004, Chico had already been adopted and returned to a West Virginia shelter four times. The Houghtons quickly found out why.
“Chico was a marker,” Houghton says. “He peed on everything.”
The solution? His wife tethered the dog to her waist. For four weeks, if Chico lifted his leg indoors, Joan scolded him, took him outside, and then praised him lavishly for peeing in the grass.
Housebreaking Chico wasn’t easy, but it was worth the trouble. Now he’s the well-trained star of the Houghtons’ show and the top dog around their 3-acre Damascus, Md., farm.
“He sleeps on our bed every night,” Houghton says.
Chico’s co-stars also hail from shelters, which gives the Houghtons an opening to encourage audiences to adopt dogs instead of going to a breeder. Just be sure to pick one out that fits your lifestyle.
“Our dogs are all pretty high-energy, but shelters are full of plenty of great, easygoing dogs as well,” Houghton says.
Meet the Stars
Go ahead and ogle these high-maintenance celebradogs who star in “Mutts Gone Nuts.”
Breed: Chihuahua/corgi mix
Tricks: hoop jumping, barrel rolling
Rock-star alter-ego: Billy Joel
If Chico were an rocker, he’d be an upbeat entertainer with a bit of a dark side. “He’s a funny little happy guy on stage, but at home he’s a loner,” Houghton says. “He doesn’t want to hang out with the pack or go outside and sit in the sun.”
Breed: papillon/border collie mix
Tricks: Frisbee, dance
Rock-star alter-ego: Taylor Swift
Like the country-crossover ingenue, Allie is precociously clever and eager to please, Houghton says. “She’s a rising star,” he adds. “We have to give her a lot of attention and praise.”
Breed: American Eskimo
Tricks: jumps rope, steals things from human performers
Rock-star alter-ego: Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers
Fritz, like Kiedis, is a good-looking guy with puppy-like energy despite his relatively advanced age. “He excels in being naughty,” Houghton says.
Breed: border collie
Tricks: Frisbee, running backward
Rock-star alter-ego: Alan Jackson
A consummate professional and occasional workaholic, Rusty won first place in a national frisbee-dog championship in 2012. Also wholesome and hardworking, country singer Jackson’s most recent Grammy was in 2011
Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE; Sat., 1:30 p.m., $15; 202-399-7993.
The Atlas Intersections Festival
“Mutts Gone Nuts” is one of more than 100 shows that make up the Atlas Intersections Festival, which runs Friday, through March 8 at Atlas Performing Arts Center. Highlights include:
Composer Liza Figueroa Kravinsky has enlisted hip-hop drummers to provide new classical music with D.C.’s homegrown, booty-shaking beat. Feb. 21, 8 p.m., $22.
“Navgathi — New Directions”
The Maryland-based Jayamangala dance company will use traditional Indian dance and gesture to tell modern tales of survival and resilience. Feb. 22 , 2 p.m., $22.
“Vox Ukulele Cello: Outside the Box”
The lighthearted ukulele and soulful cello make mismatched music together in this performance by Victoria Vox and cellist Katie Chambers. Feb. 28, 9:30 p.m., $20.
“Watch Me Bounce”
Dissonance Dance Theater performs classical ballet to Afro-Cuban jazz sounds. March 1, 9:30 p.m. and March 2, 2:30 p.m., $33.
How did the rabbit lose his antlers? Gala Hispanic Theater will answer that and other lesser-asked questions in a puppet-driven, bilingual performance of Mayan folk tales. March 1, 10 a.m., and March 8, 1 p.m., $8.