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More Articles

Where Obedience Leaves Off and Freestyle Starts
A Rose Is A Rose Is A Rose
The Freestyle Challenge
Getting Started With Freestyle
Definition of Freestyle and Structure of a Freestyle Performance
More Than Just Heeling
Creative Development of Movement
Music, Rhythm and Freestyle
Understanding Required Moves
Do I Have to Dance?
Freestyle - A Point of View
Training: a New Mindset
My Introduction to Training a Freestyle Dog
It Takes Three - The Audience
Choreography: How to Begin
40x50 Feet: The Empty Canvas
Rhythm: The Great Organizer
What is a Guild

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CFF represents a movement oriented approach to Freestyle. The focus is on the movement of the dog and has the goal of showing the dog off at his best. Different "moves" (heeling, backing, weaving, spinning, etc.) are taught but the focus is also on how the dog looks as he does the "move", evaluating how the dog moves to accomplish it and developing that movement creatively and artistically.

The "moves" are the technical basis for Freestyle and these technical aspects of dog training are what most of us are familiar with. However, part of the freedom and appeal of Freestyle lie in fact that we are no longer tied to the rigid requirements of the obedience ring and can creatively explore and perform new "moves". The other part is the infusion of creativity and artistry in presenting those "moves" and developing the movement. The creative potential in developing movement is infinite. We need to teach ourselves to seek out, feel, include and develop the creative aspects of freestyle which are fifty percent of the sport. The creative and technical aspects of freestyle should be intertwined and inseparable.

Firstly, is the movement graceful and comfortable for the dog or is the dog cramped, crowded, overextended or uncomfortable? The dog may be able to do a given move but if he doesn't look good you would not incorporate it into a routine. This can apply to a basic move straight from obedience such as jumping. Some dogs look elegant and graceful sailing over a jump. Others get the job accomplished but may heave themselves over, land hard or otherwise not look their best doing that particular move. So, here we have one of the great advantages of freestyle - we get to choose what to incorporate into a routine and what to leave out.

Secondly, how can the movement involved be developed beyond the "move" itself? Here’s an example: from a right circle in standard left heel position the curving movement could tighten into an inward spiral and then tighten even more into a spin or pivot. Or the movement could grow into an outward spiral. The right circular movement could sweep the dog into right heel position. Or the right circular movement could sweep the dog around into a standing front position from which dog and handler could do a pivot in place (still a circle but now the dog is moving his body laterally) or take the lateral movement of the hind legs from the curve and develop it into straight sideways lateral movement. In this example alone we’ve looked at the shape (a curve) and movement (a circle) of the dog’s body and considered the possibilities of tightening or loosening that curve and where the momentum of the circular movement could take us. When the curve and momentum bring the dog around to a front position we begin to see the development of lateral movement in the hind feet (often crossing each other but not necessarily with little dogs). If a pivot comes next the floor pattern is still circular but the forward momentum of the dog has changed to lateral movement and the dog’s body is now straight. If the final development of this phrase is a straight sideways lateral the curve has made a smooth transition into a straight line as well as the dog’s body straightening and the momentum changes from the curve to straight sideways.

Are you already imagining more possibilities with just this one example? How can we vary the dog's position relative to the handler and continue to capitalize on these movements? How will changing speeds vary those movements? Do you see the infinite potential of this approach? The development of movement cannot be categorized as another "move". Movement will look different with different dogs depending on their size, shape and personality. Every dog's movement is unique. If, in practice, you allow your dog the freedom to continue a movement without direction from you, he may well show you something entirely new and unique to that dog. By focusing on showing off your own dog's movement to your audience you will find yourself making the switch from a technical focus to a more artistic focus and drawing your audience into the relationship you share with your dog. You will involve your audience as compared to just entertaining them.

So by all means teach your dog any intriguing new moves you can imagine or see performed by another dog and handler. Teach them and then ask "How can I develop that movement? How can I make it unique to me and my dog and not just an exact imitation of what I observed?" By all means experiment and teach your dog lots of new things. The more we teach them the better they learn how to learn and the more material you will have to creatively manipulate in choreography.

Once your dog has learned the foundation of a new movement on command and/or signal, then start to develop it. Start to evaluate how the dog looks while performing it. Explore all the possibilities here too. How do your body cues and handling affect how the dog moves? The way you relate to and cue your dog’s actions can profoundly affect how he looks while performing them. Are you enhancing your dog’s movement or distracting from it? Are you giving him time to gather under himself when you want to drive forward, or are changing direction? Is your dog scrunched or cramped together because you are asking him to move too slowly or maneuver too tightly? Maybe a particular movement will look great at a fast and awful at a slow? Then again maybe he's overextended? Are you giving him time to prepare his body for the next part of the movement sequence? Sometimes you can continue the flow and other times you need a pause.

Now you'll have a much better idea of when your dog looks his best, what to include and what not to include. But even those movements you choose to exclude in choreography now may be developed and lead you to other possibilities in the future. Keep experimenting and teaching. Be creative and allow your dog the freedom to be creative also. Listen to your dog and be observant and keep it fun and happy and playful. Who knows where your next best idea will originate until you start looking?

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