Back in 2000, canine musical freestyle did not exist in the Northwest, but that didn’t stop professional dog trainer, Julie Flanery, from pursuing this sport that had her at hello. Julie convinced five students taking her “Tricks and Obedience” class to help create a canine musical freestyle club, and Dogs Gone Dancin’ (DGD) was formed.
Julie and the five co-founders were the first in the Northwest to sponsor and compete in canine musical freestyle competitions. To this day, all six co-founders remain active DGD members–indeed, they are the very lifeblood of our club which is over sixty members strong and growing.
DGD is committed to making canine musical freestyle events available to all who wish to participate. We invite senior or disabled humans and dogs to compete in specially created categories alongside the standard Rally-FrEe Musical Freestyle and WCFO titling categories. Therefore, every dog, regardless of age or athletic ability, can earn placements and titles.
In addition to our bi-annual titling events, DGD hosts freestyle workshops, fun meets and demonstrations in which everyone is welcome to participate. Our demos have been particularly well received at nursing homes, hospitals, libraries and fund-raising events for humane societies and rescue groups.
Some (not us) call it doggy dancing, but that conjures images of cartoon dogs boogieing solo, which is not what happens. What actually happens is that freestyle dogs perform alongside their humans as a team, with the human partner cueing the canine partner to perform a sequence of trained behaviors (tricks) that have been choreographed to music.
We begin with basic obedience behaviors our dogs might already know, such as “heel” and “come.” We then teach our dogs foundation freestyle behaviors such as right-side heeling, spinning, and weaving between our legs. A dozen or so solidly trained behaviors is all it takes to choreograph a beginners’ routine.
We continually add to our dogs’ repertoire of behaviors, for the more behaviors our dogs know, the more expressive our routines can become. The worldwide vocabulary of freestyle behaviors continues to expand as well, as freestylers create and integrate novel behaviors in their routines. It seems there is no limit to freestyle creativity!
Most importantly, our bond with our canine partners strengthens the more we “dance” with them. Because we use positive training methods, our dogs look forward to working with us and will even “think up” new behaviors themselves.
Begin by working with a professional dog trainer who uses clicker training or other positive methods. By using only positive training methods, your bond with your dog will deepen, your dog’s attention skills will improve, and your own training skills will advance; these are the key components of a successful freestyle routine.