May I Have This Dance? An Introduction to Dog Dancing

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Can your dog dance? Even if you think you have two left feet, your dog might be ready to dance!

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Musical Freestyle, or Heelwork to Music as it is sometimes called, is a choreographed performance bringing together "obedience" skills and tricks. Arguably the most artistic of any dog sports, through shared choreography, dogs and handlers take to the dance floor and move in sync through their dancing routines.

There are many different sports and activities.) for you and your dog to do together. One of the great things about musical freestyle is its flexibility and accessibility. Unlike some other dog sports like Agility that are higher impact, with musical freestyle the routines don't have to involve any kind of athleticism. This makes dancing with dogs ideal for young puppies who are still developing as well as dogs who are older, or who have recovered from injuries. Similarly, although handlers are dancing alongside their dogs, dog owners don't need to be great dancers or athletes to get involved.

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May I have this dance?

Ready to start dancing? Turn on some music and start moving! Eventually you'll need to pick a song that highlights your dog's skills for your dance routine, but for your first time just turn on some music and practice these important foundation skills.

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Focus:

Focus on the handler is the primary skill that you'll need to have to succeed in musical freestyle. A great way to teach focus for musical freestyle is to build the skill at home, and then out on walks in more distraction environments. When your dog looks up at you, praise, and reward. As this becomes highly rewarded behavior, your dog will offer it more! If you want to get started in musical freestyle training with your dog, there are a few skills you can start working on at home!

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Verbal cues:

A key component of musical freestyle is the goal for routines to give the appearance that dog and handler truly are dancing together. In a polished freestyle routine, the dog is responding only to verbal cues. Dogs are very attuned to our physical mannerisms and so it takes a lot of practice to phase out those physical cues as much as possible so that your dog is responding to verbal cues alone.

Right/left side:

Unlike traditional obedience where dogs always work on a person's left side with doggy dancing, dogs will perform on both the right and left side of their handler. A fun way you can get started working on skills for freestyle is to practice your dog's different tricks and cues on both sides of your body.

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Tricks:

Other skills that are often incorporated into freestyle routines include spins, weaving between the handler's legs, crawling, backing up, and moving side to side with the dog staying next to the handler. All of these are skills that you can start teaching your dog at home first by luring your dog with treats and then phasing the lure out.

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Getting competitive:

Because of the the Covid-19 pandemic, there are now a large number of canine sports that are accessible to compete in via video submission. Because you don't need a lot of equipment for musical freestyle, it is an ideal sport to get involved with from home if there aren't local classes or competitions near you. The World Canine Freestyle Organization) has a "Stay At Home " monthly video event With these videos you and your dog can put together routines and submit them for earning titles. Poised For Success also has opportunities for dogs and handlers to put routines together including beginner levels where you and your dog can submit videos and earn titles as you build up your dog's freestyle skills. The Musical Dog Sport Association also has opportunities for dogs and handlers to begin their competition journey at home via video submission.

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Want to get a taste of some impressive dog dancing routines? Netflix recently released an episode of their series "We Are The Champions" of dancing dogs. The show follows competitors from across Europe as they compete at the highest levels of the sport!

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