The Joy of Dog Dancing

Shake it out and get down with your dog!

Are you looking for something fun that will get you and your dog moving, and teach him some new obedience skills? Then dog dancing is right up your alley. It’s great exercise for the two of you and it’s a chance to teach new skills and tricks that’ll keep your dog’s mind sharp and active.

Also known as Canine Freestyle, dog dancing is more than just shaking your rump with your dog on the dance floor. Rapidly increasing in popularity, it was often thought of as silly and pointless. But now we know that it helps cement your dog’s obedience training, develop a strong bond with him and burn off excess energy and calories. Let’s go over the basics about dog dancing, and talk about a few tips you can use to get started.

What is Dog Dancing?

Dog dancing or canine freestyle is a sport that combines obedience training with tricks and dance. A competitive sport that’s practiced around the world, dog dancing allows for creative interaction with your dog.

Hitting the doggy dance floor in 1989, canine freestyle first gained attention when performances of obedience training set to music were showcased in Canada, England, the Netherlands, and the United States. The demonstrations were different in every country, but the common denominator that tied it all together was the combination of music and obedience demonstrations. British Columbia was the first to put together an official canine musical freestyle group in 1991. It didn’t take long for other countries to follow suit, with each one developing its own unique style to add to the sport.

Dog Dancing Techniques

The key aspect of dog dancing is obedience training. In order to perform, dog and owner must establish a close, trusting relationship—it’s the only way a dog responds to the specific commands. Dogs must be able to work on both sides of the owner’s body (standard obedience heeling usually has the dog working only on the left side). In a performance, a routine consists of several pieces, each consisting of two or three moves linked together. As the dance routine progresses, the pieces are connected.

There are two different types of dog dancing—freestyle heeling and musical freestyle. Freestyle heeling focuses on the dog’s ability to hold the heel position in different forms while the handler dances to the music. Dog and handler need to stay in close proximity at all times during the dance, and key moves include pivots and diagonal, backward and forward movement.

In musical freestyle, a dance routine incorporates tricks and obedience talents (other than just standard heeling). There’s a lot more creativity and choreography with this style—a dog can weave through his handler’s legs, move at the same time as the handler while at a distance or showcase jumps, rolls, spins, and bows. One of the coolest finishing moves for this type of routine is a dog that jumps into the handler’s arms or over the handler’s back.

Getting Started

Dog dancing is for every dog, of all breeds and ages. On top of that, it’s a wonderful outlet for dogs that display behavioral issues like hyperactivity or anxiety.

Your first step is to make sure your dog is fully rounded when it comes to obedience training. This means the ability to listen and respond to basic commands. Once this is established, start with basic moves such as moving together backward in a straight line, pivoting in place, side stepping, and weaving through legs.

If you need inspiration, there are plenty of instructional videos on YouTube that outline moves, routines and how-to instructions. Another tip: Google dog dancing classes, groups, and organizations in your area to see what pops up. You’d be surprised to see how much information is out there for free!

The best part about dog dancing is that it is a creative sport—use your mad dancing skills, turn on the music and get down with your dog in this wonderful activity you can do together.

Meet the Author: Amy Tokic

Amy Tokic is the Editor of, the flagship site to over 70 different pet communities, which offers pet parents a one-stop-info-shop for all things dog and cat related. Amy's been with PetGuide since the beginning, guided by the wisdom of her Shih Tzu mix and furry roommate, Oscar. Together, this pet power couple has their paw on the pulse of the pet industry, sniffing out trends, advice, news, tasty treat recipes and other tail-wagging stories.

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