Ever imagined waltzing or twirling to a beat with your furry friend? It’s not just a fantasy! If you’re like me, there has been a time or two (or a thousand) when you’ve picked up your dog’s front paws to do a little dance. But there’s a whole exciting world of trainers, dog lovers, and performances that takes this to a whole new level: Canine freestyle, also known as dog dancing. Dive into this article to explore the world of canine freestyle and discover how you can teach your dog to dance.
So, lace up those dancing shoes and get ready to groove with your four-legged friend!
What Is Canine Freestyle?
Canine freestyle is a unique and captivating dog sport that combines the art of dance with the discipline of obedience training. Also known as “dog dancing” or “heelwork to music”, the activity involves a handler and their canine partner performing a choreographed routine set to music.
The routines encompass a wide range of movements, from basic obedience commands like sits, stays, and heelwork to more complex tricks, spins, jumps, and intricate footwork. The essence of canine freestyle lies in the seamless coordination and bond between the handler and their dog. It showcases the beauty of their partnership through synchronized movements and expressive gestures. The creative and imaginative sport also displays the intelligence and agility of the dogs.
Canine freestyle celebrates the joy and mutual enjoyment of working together as a team. It has gained popularity as a form of entertainment in competitions, performances, and public demonstrations worldwide. Check out this video of an amazing freestyle routine from the Crufts 2022 dog show to get an idea of what it’s all about.
Is Dog Dancing a Real Sport?
Yes, dog dancing is a real sport. Canine freestyle has gained significant recognition and popularity among dog enthusiasts worldwide. You can find events and competitions dedicated to the sport, and it’s been showcased at large dog shows like Crufts.
It’s a real sport because dog dancing combines elements of obedience training, agility, choreography, and musicality. It requires a high level of skill, precision, and teamwork between the handler and the dog, and a lot of training and practice. For the dog, the sport is good for building muscle tone and keeping it active and happy.
Pro Tip: Listen to dog training podcasts for tips and inspiration on teaching your pup new things.
Dog Dancing Championships
If you’re interested in getting involved in the sport or watching it, there are several competitions and dog dancing championships. You can also do a search on YouTube to start watching performances from the past. Here are some of the most well-known championships.
The FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale) has a dog dancing championship. You can find the guidelines for their competitions and the schedule of shows on their website.
Crufts has incorporated heelwork to music as part of their dog show. The UK-based kennel club organizes the event every March. It typically brings in over 20,000 dogs and upwards of 150,000 visitors and owners from around the world. In addition to Crufts’ main annual championship, they also host competitions throughout the year.
The Open European HTM and Freestyle Championship is hosted in a different European country each year. With a goal of promoting the sport of canine freestyle and advocating for positive training methods, it allows for dogs with or without pedigree to participate.
Dancing Dogs On Television Too
You can find dancing dogs in different kinds of competitions too. For example, they often appear on TV reality show competitions like America’s Got Talent or Britain’s Got Talent. Check out this adorable audition by a 12-year-old and her pups on America’s Got Talent.
What Is the History of Canine Freestyle Training?
The history of canine freestyle training dates back to the late 1980s when the sport began to emerge as a creative form of dog training and entertainment in Canada. It can be credited to several pioneers who helped establish and popularize it. One of the key figures in its development is Carolyn Scott, a professional dog trainer, who is often referred to as the “mother of canine freestyle.”
In the 1990s, Carolyn and her dog Rookie began entering competitions, captivating the audience and sparking interest in this unique activity in the U.S. Their presence ushered in canine freestyle as a distinct sport, which soon spread across the globe. In fact, this YouTube video of their performance has millions of views.
Jose and Carrie, the Golden Retriever, are another dancing duo that has popularized the sport of canine freestyle in recent years. They appeared on season 11 of America’s Got Talent and won over the hearts of millions. Watch their audition here.
How Do You Teach Your Dog Canine Freestyle?
You’ve heard us say this multiple times in our training-focused articles, but we’ll say it again. Teaching your dog any trick requires patience, positive reinforcement, consistency, and more patience! This applies to canine freestyle training as well. In addition, a strong bond is needed between you and your pup for the dog dancing to work.
To teach your dog heelwork to music, first make sure your pet has a solid foundation in basic obedience commands like sit, stay, heel, and recall. These will form the building blocks of your routine.
Reward your dog with treats, praise, and affection when they perform a trick or move correctly. Positive reinforcement encourages them to associate freestyle training with fun and rewards. Also, observe your pup’s natural movements so you can incorporate them into a routine. For example, if your dog does a cute spin or jumps playfully, find ways to include those natural behaviors in the choreography.
Once your dog has basic obedience commands down, select a piece of music that suits you and your pup’s personality and energy level. The music sets the tone for the routine and can inspire movements that match the rhythm and mood. Then, break down the routine into small, manageable segments. Teach each segment separately and gradually piece them together as your dog becomes more comfortable with the movements. Remember to start simple before trying more complex and difficult choreography to avoid frustration.
Practice smooth transitions between movements to create a seamless and polished performance. Also, remember to keep the training sessions enjoyable for both you and your dog. Freestyle is all about having fun, celebrating your partnership, and expressing creativity. In addition, be sure to continue fostering a strong bond with your dog by spending quality time together outside of training. This will enhance communication and cooperation during training.
Remember that every canine is unique, and their abilities and comfort levels may vary. You can adjust the routine and movements to suit your dog’s individual strengths and preferences.
Pro Tip: Guess what? You can teach an old dog new tricks!
Where Can You Find Canine Freestyle Classes?
You can find canine freestyle classes in person. While they might not be readily available in your city, start with an online search to find options nearby. Or take an online class. For example, It’s Magic with Ray and Magic offer Zoom training courses.
Suggested Reading: Learn how to use AI to get tips for training your dog in canine freestyle.
Is Dog Dancing Good for Dogs?
Yes, dog dancing can be good for dogs. It provides a mentally stimulating activity that engages their minds and keeps them intellectually sharp. Learning and practicing choreographed movements and tricks help keep their brains active and can prevent boredom. It also fosters a strong bond between the dog and its owner. Plus, many dogs seem to love it! For example, Carolyn Scott frequently mentioned how Rookie would sometimes spontaneously add in new moves out of excitement during a dance.
As far as the physical aspect is concerned, it serves as a low-impact exercise that promotes flexibility, balance, coordination, and strength. Most of the time the controlled movements and graceful steps are gentle on a dog’s joints. Regular physical activity can improve dogs’ agility and overall fitness, contributing positively to their overall health.
However, always consider the individual dog’s age, fitness level, and physical condition before introducing dog dancing. For example, if your dog has chronic health issues such as arthritis, consult with your vet before starting canine freestyle training.
Try Some Canine Freestyle Tricks With Your Pup
So, do you think your dog can dance now? Try some canine freestyle tricks and see if your pup likes it and has the ability to show some moves! It can be a fantastic way to bond with your dog, have fun, and find a community of other dog dancers.
Have you tried dancing with your dog? Share your experience in the comments below.
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