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?