Quebec dog trainer wows on America's Got Talent with border collie flips and tricks
25-year-old from Thetford Mines says training her border collies helped boost her confidence
A 25-year-old dog trainer from Thetford Mines, Que. has vaulted to fame with an appearance on the weekly competition show American's Got Talent.
Alexandra Côté and her two border collies, Tesla and Louka, earned oohs and aahs by doing somersaults, handstands and an in-sync dance with their owner, even leaping more than 1.5 metres in the air, skipping rope.
The trio received a standing ovation from all four judges, led by Simon Cowell, on the weekly competition show America's Got Talent.
The fetching pups also elicited excited comments from the show judges, including actor Sofia Vergara clapping and saying of high-stepping Tesla "she's dancing!"
Côté has almost 7,000 followers on Instagram, where she shares photos and videos of her pooches perfecting tricks, flying for frisbees, and exploring the beauty of rural Quebec.
Early this year, she received a direct message on the social media platform, asking whether she'd considered trying out for America's Got Talent.
"Oh my god, it was so surprising, I didn't believe it," Côté said. "Honestly we didn't think they'd choose me."
Côté said she was a shy kid, but when she got her first dog, Gizmo, when she was 14, she found purpose in training him, and started to come out of her shell.
Gizmo died when he was eight, and Côté credits him with having helped her find her vocation.
In her America's Got Talent audition video, the trainer tears up talking about her childhood dog and all that he's helped her accomplish.
Now, with two-year-old Tesla and six-year-old Louka, Côté spends about 15 minutes, several times a week, teaching them new tricks.
She said — especially because she started training them as puppies — she doesn't want them to burn out or lose interest, so she keeps her sessions to bite-sized lessons.
On television, and in front of an audience, Côté said her dogs never wavered, and stayed focused on their training and tricks.
"That pushed me to be better, it gave me confidence," she said of her beloved border collies.
The audition was taped in April, and Côté said getting her dogs to Los Angeles, Calif., from Thetford Mines during a global pandemic was a feat in and of itself.
She had to get several COVID-19 tests, fly to New York City while Tesla and Louka were transported over the land border, quarantine for a week, and then fly to the West Coast to do the show.
Despite the complicated logistics, Côté said her dogs weren't bothered, and didn't seem to share any of her stress.
"I was so nervous," she said, calling America's Got Talent the "biggest show on the planet."
On the show, Tesla did most of the heavy lifting during the performance, Côté opting to keep Louka as a surprise guest, who made an appearance toward the end, holding a skipping rope in his mouth for his sister to jump.
Louka stayed on stage for the grand finale, hopping, skipping, flipping, dancing and dazzling the crowd for a non-stop routine set to music.
Côté's audition video now has almost a million views, and after impressing the judges, the dog trainer and her pooches are moving on to the next stage of the competition.
They could eventually participate in the live show next month.
Côté said if she and her pets win the $1-million grand prize, she hopes to build a dog training centre geared toward the winter months, possibly in Thetford Mines, or maybe in Quebec City.
"It was a dream," she said of her chance to show off her talented dogs, and in the process possibly win the funds for her training centre.
In the meantime, the Quebecer is working on building her business, and said she's already started receiving a flood of messages from people who want her to train their dog.
As for Tesla and Louka, Côté said they haven't been spoiled by fame.
"They just want to stay with me and play with me, they are so happy," she laughed.