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Canine Freestyle



What is Canine Freestyle ? 


What is the difference between Canine Freestyle (Dog Dancing) and Heelwork to Music (HTM)?


Another word for 'obedience on music' is Heelwork To Music. Canine Freestyle is also called Dog Dance. In French it's called Obéissance Rythmée. 

Linda met DolceObedience on music is a new dog sport, developped out of the obedience training and in 1990 put on music by Mary Ray. The purpose was to make the obedience training more attractive to do and to watch at and to emphasize the movements of the dog and its handler. This way a new dog sport was born.

The first competitions took place a few years later en then the sport was divided into two disciplines. Obedience to music, i.e. the traditional exercises on music in which the dog and the handler stay close to each other during the whole routine. Canine Freestyle, i.e. a creative 'dance' in which the dog and the handler make complicated figures, often based on a theme. In both disciplines, a jury judges the unity of the dog and the handler and the correct interpretation of the music. 



How are Canine Freestyle and Heelwork to Music (HTM) born?


Kristine met VitaIn 1989 Dawn Jecs, a dog trainer from Washington State, introduced her unique musical training system for dogs on a large scale. The public was very enthusiastic to see the dogs having fun doing obedience on music. A year later, in 1990, the successful dog trainer Mary Ray showed a demonstration of obedience on music at Crufts, the largest English dog show.

In 1991 Tina Martin, a dressage rider, appeared in the Canadian Vancouver with her dog in a dressage exercise at an equestrian event. In the same year was founded in Canada the first organisation occupied with 'Freestyle'. The breakthrough came in America in 1995 with the foundation of the Canine Freestyle Federation (CFF) by Joan Tennille and Alison Jaskiewicz. In 1996 the first Heelwork To Music contest was held with all 24 teams. Around the year 1999 Dog Dance was introduced in Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium. A new dog discipline was born. Freestyle and Heelwork To Music are fun to do for dogs and for dog owners. 




In Belgium, there are several clubs where you can follow Canine Freestyle lessons. It is always fun to do exercises and to invent tricks. During the year there are competitions where creativity is highly praised. A dog may enter a contest when he is one year or older, but you can already start training a dog in a playful way when he is still a puppy. The dog may not leave the ring (the 'dance floor') during the routine. There is complete freedom in the choice of music and the length of the song. It is recommanded not to choose too long songs for young dancers because a young dog is easily distracted.


Laura met DolceIn Belgium, there are six categories at a contest: Initiation, Beginners, Novice, Intermediate, Advances and Innovation. A dog who participated for the first time starts at the Initiation class. The jury decides if you are passed or not. The dog must know at least five different exercises and show them well with his handler on the music. The next competition you can enter the Beginners class . A jury judges the tecnical and artistic side of the performance. In this class you can use a piece of food or a toy to reward the dog. You may not let the dog stand too long on his hind legs. When you have 4 times an 8 (on 10 points) you have to go to the next level (Novice), when you have twice a 9 (on 10 points) you may pass to the next class. After the Novice class, there is the Intermediate and Advanced class. A last class is the Innovation class in which one or more handlers work with two or more dogs. This is of course more difficult because you have to control more dogs.


To be able to do competitions, you need a routine. You have to be creative and practise a lot. First you have to choose a song (free choice). Then you have to analyse the song and find appropriate tricks to do. You may use accessories when they fit to the song. he movements also have to fit to the music. Creativity is very important. The jury judges the performance and has to take into account the capacities of the breed.


How to teach tricks?


Always with a positive training method! We use the clicker- and target method. We use a clicker that tells the dog that he is doing well the exercise he is doing iwhen it's almost or completely done. After the click with the clicker, we reward the dog with a piece of food, or a toy or some nice words.  With the target stick you can teach the dog certain exercises. The dog must follow the end of the target stick for example. But you can also combine it with other tricks.


Which tricks?


Kristine met VitaYou can teach a dog all kinds of tricks: making a circle to the left or to the right, sitting and lying down, giving a paw, making a slalom through your legs, rolling over, crowling, jumping through your arms or over your legs or back, walking backwards, saying Hi 5!, etc. There are also more advanced and complicated exercises. You can always invent new tricks and make new combinations. You can choose the command you want to use for each trick. 

Who can do Canine Freestyle?


Everyone, no matter what age you have, who loves to work with dogs and music, can do Canine Freestyle. You can dance with every breed, from a Chihuahua to a Great Dane, but every breed has its own capacities and talents. Some breeds are more motivated by nature, others are more agile to do certain exercises. But it's always fun ...



Our Havanese & K9 Freestyle


March 1, 2004 we started with Canine Freestyle with our little Maltese Tosca at dog school G.H.B. with The Wet Nose Dancers.


In May 2004 we welcomed a second dog, Dolce, a Havanese, and we started learning her some tricks in a playful way. Our first competition was just an exercise and took place on August 22, 2004. Tosca and Dolce (still a puppy) worked very well. It was a special experience. Since then we participate regularly to Canine Freestyle demonstrations and competitions. At home we practise new exercises and we invent routines on music.


Kristine met GioiaWe also teach our other Havanese, Vita, Gioia, Havana, Dalia, Mistica, (Itala & Hope) tricks. As long as they love doing Canine Freestyle, we will continue. It's an amazing dog sport. You can work with dogs and be creative at the same time. 

We know out of experience that Canine Freestyle is fun to do and it strenghtens your bond with the dog! 


Havanese are companion dogs, so not real working dogs. It's difficult to predict how they will work at competitions and demonstrations. Though, it's always nice to 'dance' with a Havanese. You have to adapt the exercises to the breed and its characteristics. Even though Havanese are small dogs, they have their charms! At contests we've had already some very good results. We are so proud on our dogs!! 

Review of our Dog Dance routines



Photo impression

Photo album

















Tosca, Dolce & Vita



Havana & Dalia



More photos and videos of K9 Freestyle can be seen on the other part of the site: Dog Dance.




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