From Spastic to Directed: Dog Dancing

If you have a hyper dog like I do, who leads you on his own walk when you try to lead him with his leash, you might want to check out Canine Freestyle Dancing, a relatively new craze to hit dogville.

The dance instruction is a choreographed performance with music illustrating the training and relationship of a dog and handler team.

I’ve seen this in action on late night talk shows where the dog would move to the beat of the music while “dancing” with his owner/trainer.

The Canine Freestyle Federation (CFF) is an international organization dedicated to defining and developing the sport of Canine Freestyle and providing the structure necessary to offer competitions and demos. CFF is a not-for-profit organization ran by volunteers and is in no way associated with any other canine freestyle group.

There are various levels to the dance, conforming to the movements of the dog and illustrating to the audience the bond between animal and person.

Competition levels total four as well as an interpretation class offered for exhibit only.

Level I develops interesting combos of required movements with directional changes and full use of performance space with the dog on-lead. The performance lasts an hour and requires right and/or left side heel work, frontwork, pace changes, turns and/or pivots, and circles, serpentines, or spirals. Distance work involves dog and handler being separated by a minimum of six feet.

Level II is the same as Level I with one exception – the dog is off-lead.

Level III encompasses developing increasingly complex combinations of movements with greater emphasis on the choreography and training of the dog. Dance movements include both right and left side heelwork, frontwork, pace changes, turns and/or pivots, circles, serpentines or spirals, backing, and lateral work right and/or left.

Level IV develops a well-organized artistic presentation of the fully trained, balanced, and supple canine athlete and the dog is off-lead. The dance lasts an hour and 15 minutes and includes paces of slow, normal, and fast, turns and pivots, and lateral work right.

Optional movements such as stepping in place, weaving, rollover, crawling, jumping, or spinning may be added at any level

Freestyle is open to all dogs over six months of age, purebred or mixed heritage.

The quality of skills and choreography of exhibitors has improved over the last few years according to the website.

Exhibiting teams must receive a combined judge’s score of 65 or better at one competition. Once a title has been awarded the canine must move up to the next level.

Classes and guilds are scattered throughout the country from Pennsylvania to Virginia, D.C., Maryland, Florida, South Dakota, and California among others.

There are people like Kay who teaches obedience training and competes with her terriers in the AKC Breed Ring, in Freestyle, and in Obedience.

Training some dogs for the dance can involve using other objects such as a bed or chair temporarily to teach a certain step to the canine called Backing.

For more information, access canine-freestyle.org on the net.

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