Canine Freestyle also known as doggie dancing began developing recently in the early 1990s when several dog trainers from around the world started practicing their obedience routines and heelwork to music. With music playing in the background, it was natural to want to do the doggie boogie and start choreographing their movements to fit the music.
At first it was simply heelwork to music in which the dog and handler move as one with the dog close to the handler’s side as they walk around the ring performing some basic obedience moves. Mary Rae from England, and Carolyn Scott from the United States were two of the first more famous dog trainers to start performing their heelwork to music. Today heelwork to music is still a category of doggie dancing.
From there people started getting more creative and began borrowing ideas and movements from dressage. Movement became more free and creative. Handlers began moving with their dogs in lateral, diagonal, circular and backward movements. Trainers opened up their heelwork to include five positions, the right heel, left heel, front heel, follow position and middle heel where the dog is between your legs. People found canine freestyle to be a liberating space where anything could go unlike the strict obedience, rally and agility areas where certain moves were expected at certain spots at certain times. Canine Freestyle training develops a more balanced, agile and happy dog than other dog sports. In fact having a happy dog that has a good connection with the handler is one of the requirements and judging aspects of the sport. Doggie Dancing is the sport where tails wag.
Agility movements were introduced as people developed a wide variety of creative jumping tricks such as jumping through your arms, jumping over your back, rebounding off your waist. People also started having their dogs weave through their legs. First forward then backward, while crawling and even doing figure eights. Weaving became a foundational move in canine freestyle.
Carolyn Scott and Rookie, her golden retriever, awed the audiences with their very musical style of dancing together. Their most popular routine being performed to Grease. Then other trainers started telling stories and being comedic or dramatic with their routines. Attila and Fly will always be remembered for their Charlie Chapman routine and their Gladiator routine. Both are quite classics.
Canine Freestyle is such an awesome sport because any dog of any age any breed and even handicapped dogs can participate and compete. This sport allows dog and handlers to choose movements and songs that suit them with no strict requirements of what you must do. You can easily train in the comfort of your own home, yard or park. No special equipment is needed. There is no special need to train in a class. Although training with others always helps with overcoming distractions and helping you to develop ideas better. People of all ages can enjoy this sport from young children to elderly people in wheelchairs, or walkers. It is great exercise for the dog and handler but easy to do with whatever physical limitations one might have.
Whether you are training to dance for your friends and show off all the cool tricks and moves you know, or volunteering at a nursing home or entertaining people at a park. You can take your show to the road and compete in a variety of different competitive organizations or just enjoy performing your dance routines. Doggie Dancing is the fun dog sport to train.