By Tim Falk
Published: 07/29/2021, edited: 07/29/2021
Looking for a sport that you and your dog can do together? You might like to try musical canine freestyle.
And before you ask, no, the “freestyle” in the name doesn’t mean you’ll be swimming with your dog. Instead, musical canine freestyle is better known as doggy dancing — that’s right, a sport that lets you bust a move with your pup!
But how does musical canine freestyle work, what are the rules, and what do dogs love about this unique canine sport? Let’s take a closer look.
How does dancing with your dog work? Essentially, this sport is all about obedience tricks set to music.
For a more formal explanation, the World Canine Freestyle Organization defines canine freestyle as “a choreographed musical program performed by handlers and their dogs.” And while it’s undoubtedly a lot of fun, the aim is to perform a “creative, innovative and original dance, using music and intricate movements to showcase teamwork, artistry, costuming, athleticism and style in interpreting the theme of the music.”
Watch a musical canine freestyle performance in action, and you’ll see a lot of tail wagging and a dog and their handler dancing together in perfect harmony. There’s a huge range of tricks that can be worked into a routine, including everything from a dog weaving between their handler’s legs to channeling their inner Michael Jackson and performing a canine moonwalk!
Throw in some colorful and creative costumes, a catchy tune, and maybe even a few props, and it’s easy to see why this unique sport can be a whole lot of fun.
It’s worth pointing out that musical canine freestyle is sometimes referred to by a host of other names. These include musical freestyle, canine freestyle, freestyle dance, and the simpler moniker of dog dancing.
This is the first style of doggy dancing that many dog sports enthusiasts come across, but there’s also another variety known as freestyle heeling or heelwork to music. In this style of dancing, the focus is on getting your dog to stay in the heel position while you perform a choreographed routine to music.
First and foremost, the number-one thing dogs love about canine freestyle is getting to spend lots of quality time with their humans. This sport offers a wonderful way for you and your pup to strengthen the bond you share, which will also offer a range of benefits in other areas of your life together. Doggy dancing is all about teamwork, so the better you and your pup are at working together, the more impressive your routines will be.
The sport also offers excellent mental stimulation for your dog. Regular brain workouts are essential to help your dog stay happy and healthy, so working some doggy dancing training into your pup’s daily routine can only be a big plus.
Then there’s the fact that some dogs, particularly those with a working breed background, love being given a job to do. So if your dog is always eager to please and willing to tackle any task, this could be the perfect sport for them.
Finally, there’s the exercise factor. While doggy dancing certainly isn’t as fast-paced or frenetic as some other canine sports, it still helps your dog stay active and raise your heart rate, which can only be a good thing.
So, what do you need to do to teach your Chihuahua to cha cha? Like a lot of other sports, musical canine freestyle starts with teaching your dog some basic obedience skills.
Teaching your pup essentials like sit, stay, heel, and come when called will not only give them important life skills, it’ll also teach them how to focus on you at all times. Heeling is a particularly important skill as it teaches your dog how to work in tandem with you and adapt to your movements.
Once your pup has mastered the basics, you can move on to teaching them some more advanced tricks. There's a huge list of tricks you can work on, including:
Now it’s time to pick a piece of music you like and put together a trick routine to match. Of course, it’s not necessarily just about performing as many tricks as possible in time with the music, but also about telling a story.
The music and routine you choose should also be suited to your dog’s size and skills so that you’re not asking them to do something they’re physically not capable of. You’ll obviously need to be performing your own dance moves in tandem with your dog, so try to find a composition that works well for both of you.
Training a full canine freestyle routine takes plenty of time and patience. Start by teaching your dog all the tricks in the dance routine, and then work on performing them in the correct sequence. A rewards-based approach will produce the best results, and it’ll likely take a lot of repetition before your pup can nail the routine from start to finish.
As you’d expect, the whole process can take a lot of time, so don’t expect instant results. The good news is that the hard work can be extremely rewarding. Watching an experienced dog and handler perform a doggy dancing routine is a thing of beauty — not to mention an amazing achievement — but the best part of all is that the longer it takes, the more time you get to spend with your dog.
So if you’re bored with obedience, or if you’re just looking for a fun and unique sport to try with your dog, give musical canine freestyle a try. As anyone who has experienced this sport will tell you, it can be quite addictive!
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