Canine freestyle is also known as musical canine freestyle, freestyle dance, dog dancing, or heelwork to music. It is a modern dog sport that mixes obedience training, tricks, and dance to music. The sport has a degree of artistry which allows for creative interaction between dogs and their handlers.
Canine freestyle is a choreographed performance and is meant to illustrate the training and joyful relationship of a dog and handler team.
Distinctive to canine freestyle is the characteristic that a dog has to be taught to be able to work on both sides of the handler's body, not just the left side (standard obedience heeling).
There are two types of musical canine freestyle - freestyle heeling (also known as heelwork to music) and musical freestyle.
Freestyle heeling focuses on a dog's ability to stay in variations of the heel position while the handler moves to music. In heel work, dog and trainer must remain close to each other at all times. Pivots, and moving diagonally, backwards, and forwards are important parts to freestyle heeling routines.
Musical freestyle combines a variety of tricks and other obedience talents. Heel work can be combined with other moves such as leg weaving, moving together, and tricks such as jumping, spinning, bowing, rolling over, etc. A popular finishing trick is for the dog to jump into the trainer's arms.
There are several organizations around the world that have competitive freestyle events. Competition rules vary in the different countries and between groups, but all are judged on a variety of technical and artistic merit points.
Generally, there is only one dog per handler for competition, but sometimes there are groups of dogs and handlers. Any breed of dog (including mixed breeds) can participate.
Musical freestyle has also become quite popular in televised talent shows and speciality acts. These performances are usually referred to as Exhibition freestyle, as the focus is to entertain an audience and usually allows for props, cues, costumes that would not normally be allowed on the competition circuit.
This "Gladiators" routine is from a duo in Brazil.
This is Mary Ray performing at CRUFTS 2011.
Read other articles in our series on Dog Sports:
- Canine Freestyle / Dog Dancing
- Disc Dog / Frisbee Dog
- Dog Hiking
- Dock Jumping / Dock Diving
- Dog Scootering
- Dog Surfing
- Earth Dogs
- Scent Work / Nose Work
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