Dancing With Dogs

Love to dance but tired of leaving your dog home to go dance at the club? What if you didn't have to!


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Mercury at the canine freestyle seminar

Sassafras Lowrey

Canine Freestyle or Musical Freestyle as it’s sometimes referred to, is a dog sport where dog/human teams perform dance routines choreographed to music! For the lesbian who can't bear leaving her dog at home to go out, or who doesn't want to deal with the drama of going out, this seems like the perfect activity.

A couple of weeks ago I got the chance to attend a canine freestyle seminar at the Brooklyn Dog Training Center taught by Jenn Michaelis of Sassy T Canine Academy this is definitely a sport that all dogs can excel at and its never too late to teach an old dog new tricks, so I brought my 14 year old Chihuahua mix to the seminar and we had a blast!

Musical Freestyle is a dog sport where you are taking music of your choice and then combining creative choreography with trick training to give the appearance that you are actually dancing with your dog! Way more fun that trying to dance with some drunk girls at the bar! One of the things I really liked about freestyle as a sport was how much freedom you have - pretty much anything that doesn’t endanger your dog is allowed so long as the dog is in close proximity to you which means when creating your routine you can add in a lot of the tricks your dog already knows.

The World Canine Freestyle Organization, Canine Freestyle Federation  and the Musical Freestyle Dog Sport Association are all organizations that conduct freestyle trials. Their websites also have resources to help you to get connected to a trainer in your area. The sport is ideal for urban dogs because there isn't any equipment needed! If you are looking to take your dance moves to the next level you can even train with an eye towards competing. For those of us who have binge watched  "Dance Moms" this is totally the moment to show off your dogs skills! Also take a look at freestyle videos on YouTube and some handlers definitely are breaking out the sequins!  Trials take place in person all over the country, but you can also compete in some organizations via submitting videos online!   Because I'm a total dog nerd after the seminar I had to read all of the official canine freestyle rules. There is repeated mention that "sexually suggestive" music isn't allowed; I hope that isn't veiled racist/classist/homophobic language. I know I'm thinking about some of my favorite queer tunes and how to create a routine with my dog to go along with them.

One aspect of the seminar That really struck me was how flexible freestyle is. Not only can it be adjusted to work for any dog and handle team regardless of physical limitations, and can utilize a lot of tricks (like "sit pretty" and "wave" that a lot of dogs already know) but it's actually encouraged for you to incorporate tricks/movements that your dog likes into the routine! So fun! Over the course of the 3-hour seminar our dogs learned a LOT of tricks.  I especially liked that some of the freestyle maneuvers were actually quite easy to teach and when paired with music looked really impressive.

One fairly simple freestyle move is where your dog moves around you in a circle. The dog can either go counterclockwise or clockwise (which you can cue with different hand and verbal signals). A great way to teach this one is by luring your dog around you with a treat. Praise and treat when your dog gets all the way around you. Do this repeatedly until your dog is comfortable before starting to add in the cue (whatever you want to call it), and start fading out the lure. A slightly more advanced skill is the “Flip Turn. For this, both you and your dog change direction by turning while standing still. You and your dog turn in the same direction so the dog lands on your other side. So for example if you and your dog are facing west with your dog on your right side, after the flip, you and your dog will now be facing east, with your dog on your left side!

Mercury wasn't sure that freestyle was for him, but I'm definitely fantasizing about putting together some routines with my younger dog Charlotte set to my favorite lesbian tunes. Picture it, dogs dancing to the Indigo Girls, Melissa Etheridge or Tegan and Sara! Think freestyle sounds like something fun to do with your pup? Leave a comment and share what queer songs you would want to build a routine around! 

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