Dog Sports: Canine Musical Freestyle
My male Kaiser doing a Freestyle Move
You probably never imagined that man's best friend could be also man's best dancing partner. If you are not a skilled dancer, don't be bashful: the attention will likely mostly be focused on your canine companion while choreography will do the rest. Turns, pivots, circles, serpentines and spirals are some of the most common freestyle moves that will be granted to turn heads and have people asking for an autograph -- this time from your dog.
The following is just a basic step by step guide on how to get started in this amazing sport. My dogs have already participated in several events and they had a blast! However, keep in mind that this is an advanced form of obedience. Your dog will have to be trained to stick to your side off-leash in front of crowds and around other dogs in the ring. To excel, your dog will need to be very fluent in both basic and advanced commands.
My dogs taking a group bow with me.
Steps to Get Started in Canine Musical Freestyle
- Polish your dog's obedience training by enrolling your dog in advanced obedience classes to provide a good foundation so your dog can reach his maximum training potential. The training is well worth the effort; indeed, you’ll be surprised at the wonderful bond you will develop with your canine companion as you work on heeling, fronts, finishes and recalls.
- Start teaching your dog several moves commonly seen in a Freestyle performance. These are elements you will not typically learn in the obedience ring. Arm yourself with tasty treats and train your dog to back up in a straight line, pivot in place, spin, walk between your legs and do side steps. Teach each move separately making sure you praise lavishly and reward for all successful performances. Make sure your dog is fluent in each movement. I always like to start and end my performances with my dogs taking a bow; the judges like it. To read more about how I train this and some insider secrets and strategies I use in my personalized Freestyle classes: read my article:" How to Train your Dog to Take a Bow"
- Choose the music for your performance. Once your dog has learned a variety of moves, you want to select a piece of music that matches the natural movements of your dancing partner. Is your dog light-footed and moves quite swiftly? Do you want a music that outlines your dog's grace and beauty? Close your eyes and imagine what kind of music best complements your dog. From classical to contemporary, jazz to folk, you really have an endless variety to choose from.
- Choreograph the order of moves you want your dog to perform. Start with the last move and have your dog perform it a few times making sure you reinforce it. Next, add the second to the last move followed by the last move and reinforce. Continue by adding the third to the last move, followed by the second to last move and finally the last move making sure you always reinforce at the end. Keep adding more and more moves until you have finished the sequence. This training method is known as "back chaining".
- Practice as if your were performing while making sure both you and your dog are thoroughly fluent and familiar with the rhythms, moves and patterns of your music. Have an observant friend come and offer you honest feedback. Recording your performance may be a great way to pinpoint your strength and weaknesses.
Some Tips to Help You Started
- To further polish your skills, enroll in Freestyle classes or purchase training videos.
- Make sure you take advantage of the entire space of your ring.
- Overall, your performance should express joy in training with your dog and a strong bond.
- The ultimate goal is to demonstrate your dog’s beauty and athleticism, not to perform tricks or acrobatics at the pace of music.
- Make sure you make good use of the ring and its space. Don't restrict your performance to only one sections.
- The judges want to see your dog trotting happily besides you.
- Avoid having your dog wear anything that interferes with his natural movements.
- Remember that the attention should be on your dog so downscale your costumes and avoid making exaggerated movements that can be distracting.
Petra and I practicing for our first Freestyle event in 2009 ( we were quite clumsy back then!)
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