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Doggy Dancing (Canine Freestyle)

Updated on August 24, 2011

The Art Of Doggy Dancing

Doggy dancing, more correctly known as canine freestyle, is a rapidly expanding competitive and fun event that combines obedience work, agility training and teamwork between an owner and their dog. To top it all off it is set to music and includes props, really amazing choreography and even a bit of glitz and glamour. The sport or art, depending on your perspective, has really gained popularity since its start in the late 1990's thanks to video sites and demonstrations on televisions shows including a recent performance on Britain's Got Talent by a young lady called Kate and her dog Gin - who got through to the final with their heart-warming routine.

Kate and Gin on the Britain's Got Talent First Audition 2008 - Dancing to the James Bond Theme (although the routine evolveed for the final, the audition is bet

The Basics Of Canine Freestyle

Generally canine freestyle competitions and events are seen as a step up or a much more advanced level of obedience training combined with teamwork and choreography. Many people equate canine freestyle to equine dressage, where grace, movement and elegance are combined with athletic ability, precision and obedience work.

Of course the challenge all comes in since the dog is completely off-leash for the performance, with the handler rarely making any type of physical contact or verbal commands to the dog. Rather the dog is cued by body movements and hand signals, plus by keeping direct eye contact with the handler to watch for signs of upcoming commands.

In doggy dancing the handler and the dog develop a routine, typically to a piece of music that has a good beat that the dog can move to. Basic obedience moves such as heeling, sitting, rolling over, walking on the hind legs and moving the front legs in time with the human's movements are all included in most routines. Additional options include sidestepping, weaving through the owner's legs as he or she walks or dances, spinning in circles, jumping over props or virtually any other movement you can think of. Tricks can be included in musical freestyle but are not allowed in all classes of doggy dancing.

Kath Hardman and Spice (UK Crufts Canine Freestyle Championship Winners)


There are two different major international organizations that manage and host different types of doggy dancing or canine freestyle events. While the two groups share many similarities there are also some distinct differences. In addition two these two groups there is also Canine Freestyle Great Britain as well as the Pawperfect K9 Freestyle Club in Japan.

Canine Freestyle Federation – this international organization stresses the interaction between the dog, the music and the handler. In Canine Freestyle Federation competitions the dog will actually complete movements to the beat of the music, plus the dog and the owner will both be involved in simple and complicated movements and patterns during the performance. While the handler is not required to actually "dance" they are also not prohibited from doing so in the competition if it enhances the overall performance of the team. The handler will select their own music and any type of musical genre can be used during the events and competitions.

World Canine Freestyle Organization – like the CFF, this international organization works to promote the sport or art of doggy dancing. They are a bit different than the Canine Freestyle Federation in that costumes, dance moves and advanced and unique types of moves are all included within routines. Showmanship, overall visual impact of the performance as well as the level of difficulty of the artistic and obedience types of moves in the competition all have different values when it comes to scoring. This organization also provides different levels of competition including different types of routines. Heelwork to music is a very close type of routine where the owner and dog are almost in contact with each other the whole routine.

There are many different people and groups that have all influenced the sport of canine freestyle, however exactly where it first started depends on whom you talk to. There are trainers in Canada, Europe, England and the USA that all claim to have the first true routine, however it is generally agreed that several different trainers were all working on the same general concept, most starting in the late 1980's and early 1990's. The first canine freestyle association, known as Musical Canine Sports International, was started in 1991 in British Columbia, Canada. There are now clubs or organization in many countries and areas around the world.

Dogs - Who Can Compete?

Any dog can compete in canine freestyle regardless of size, breed, registration or lack thereof. Some of the best canine freestyle dogs are just good old dogs that have a natural ability to respond to their owners. While there breeds that are more commonly seen on the dance floor, virtually any breed could compete, but often Collies tend to dominate because of their trainability. The most commonly seen breeds or mixed breeds include:

  • Golden Retrievers
  • Border Collies
  • Poodles
  • Australian Cattle Dogs
  • Mixed Breed Dogs

Any age of person can compete and many organizations and events have competitions based on experience as well as children's and adult level events.

Benefits Of Doggy Dancing

Even if you never want to compete but just are intrigued by the sport, there are definite benefits for both the dog and the handler. The teamwork and bonding that occurs during training is really spectacular since it all focuses on positive rewards and learning how to understand and effectively command your dog.

Both the dog and the person also get lots of exercise and spend quality time together. Many people and their pets attend workshops and classes just for the fun of it, not because they plan to enter into events. If you do want to compete check into the various websites for full information and a list of classes and events in your area:

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    • profile image

      Adedeji 4 years ago

      I would just like to leave a coment on the arctile about wether dogs become jealous.I have a 3 year old staffordshire bull terrier which I rescueday as a puppy.A year ago I rescued a kitten and I have never seen a dogs become so jealous in all my years off owning dogs.I was wondering if its a breed thing or wether its just and insecurity thing with my dogs, has anyone any suggestions as to help with this strange problem.He's not at all agressive to the cat but I worry that its may be having a negative affect on him.Any sugestions welcome.I love them both from the bottom off my heart.Concerned animal lover.

    • yamanote profile image

      yamanote 8 years ago from UK/Spain

      i guess this is not suitable for all breeds, dachsunds would have a hard time

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Loved Kate and Gin last year. Did you see this years BGT offering with the tap dancing dog? Well almost :) Lovely fun hub for us dog lovers

    • profile image

      söve 8 years ago

      I saw this on a King of The Hill söve episode but did not realize that it was söve for real. That is actually pretty söve cool. The dogs are having such söve a good time and being söve with your pet is good for the owners too.

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

      I saw this on TV a while back. Thought it interesting. Then saw it on Adult Swim a few nights ago.

    • BirteEdwards profile image

      BirteEdwards 8 years ago

      I am not much for animal training, but dogs have been associated for so long with us humans that I find it acceptable, and some of the dances are just amazing

    • profile image

      Erick Smart 8 years ago

      I saw this on a King of The Hill episode but did not realize that it was for real. That is actually pretty cool. The dogs are having such a good time and being with your pet is good for the owners too.

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 8 years ago from London

      I have never come across this, and laughed like a drain. Thanks!