Dog Dancing — Canine Freestyle
Dancing with your dog is called Canine Freestyle, Dog Dancing, or Heelwork to Music (HTM). It is a very popular dog sport.
Carnivals, traveling minstrels, and circuses usually have a choreographed performance between a handler and a dog dancing to music. The goal is entertainment for an audience. Dog dancing is a fun activity to do with your dog! It will increase the bond between you and your dog, and can reduce nervousness, stress, or anxiety your dog may have. Mental work is always more exhausting than physical activity. Any dog, no matter what age, size, or breed can learn dog dancing.
With clicker training or food rewards, you train your dog to do a series of tricks and moves. Then you choreograph a routine from the tricks and moves and perform it in time to music where you dance together. Anyone who has a dog and likes music and moving around with the music can do this with their dog.
The routine creates a bond between you and your dog. It involves handling, obedience, and agility. Heelwork to Music generally has you and your dog remaining close together. Canine Freestyle and Dog Dancing routines are more sophisticated and your dog doesn’t have to be in the heelwork position throughout the routine.
In addition to your dog obeying your commands off lead, he must know basic obedience training such as Sit, Stay, Down, Wait, and Recall. Cues are given with your hands, legs, or the way your body moves.
For the music selection find something you enjoy listening to. The music can be instrumental or have vocals, but anything with a strong beat is preferable. Many owners start with marching music and move on to other styles such as Rock and Roll, Disco, Latin Dance, Roaring 20’s, Country Western, Polka, or Classical upbeat music.
You can teach moves and then fit them into the music, or listen to the music and invent moves as you go along that keep pace with the music. Either way is fine, but the music, beat, and rhythm should be something you can listen to over and over again. Praise a lot and keep sessions short. Never punish your dog for not being able to do a routine. Start over at a time when you are in a good mood and most of all be patient.
- weaving through your legs
- walking on back legs
- jump through hoop
- jump over a cane
- circle, spin clockwise, or counter clockwise
- roll over on floor
- lift front paws
- jump over your arms or legs
- take a bow
If you or your dog has a physical condition that will limit movement, a more stationary dance can be designed at a slow pace in 1 spot.
Always check with your veterinarian if you have any questions about certain moves. Many of the moves are lateral side steps and are easy. Owners train in long pants which makes it easier for your dog when learning a complex move such as leg weaving.
For sport competition owners perform in costumes or an outfit that compliments the music or routine but never takes the focus away from the dog. Your dog can wear a scarf or special collar but nothing more. During competition you can use a prop such as a hoop, cane, hat, or small flag — but it must work within the routine and be allowed for that particular competition.
Canine Freestyle competition required moves include: Heeling, Frontwork, Changes of Pace, Backing and Lateral Work, Turns and Pivots, Circles, Serpentines or Spirals, and Distance Work.