AN INTERNATIONAL OVERVIEW OF A NEW SPORT:

MUSICAL CANINE FREESTYLE

by Patie Ventre
Founder, WCFO, Inc. The World Canine Freestyle Organization

“Dancing With Dogs Is Fun For You & Your Dog”
                   
What Is Musical Canine Freestyle?

The World Canine Freestyle Organization defines canine freestyle as follows:

"Musical Freestyle is a choreographed musical program performed by handlers and their dogs. The object of musical freestyle is to display the dog and handler in a creative, innovative and original dance, using music and intricate movements to showcase teamwork, artistry, costuming, athleticism and style in interpreting the theme of the music. Heelwork-to-Music incorporates traditional dog obedience and the art of dressage with the inclusion of musical interpretation, dance elements, and costuming with an emphasis on non-standard obedience movements. Both Musical Freestyle and Heelwork-To-Music routines should create a visually exciting display which is enjoyable to watch and which is equally enjoyable to dogs and handlers executing the programs. Canine freestyle is a showcase that truly demonstrates the joys and fun of bonding with your pet."

Patie Ventre, Founder

Musical Canine Freestyle or just Canine Freestyle is simply dancing with dogs to music. It is a fun sport for the owners and dogs, and the audience. We at Ventre Advertising Inc. call it the "Tail Waggin' Sport"! Based on basic obedience training, it adds other dimensions such as music, timing, costuming, routine development, showmanship.

In order to dance with your dog(s) to music, there are some simple basic procedures that you should follow. First, you start by selecting a musical composition to which you would like to dance. It may be one particular piece or you may edit several different pieces of music to create your own special music. Once you have the music, the second step is choreographing a routine to your music. This means you should design steps and movements for yourself and your dog(s) to execute that relate to the music you have selected. They may be comprised of basic obedience steps, variations on obedience steps, dressage movements, tricks or any new step you may create. It is important to plan the steps and movements within a defined area, covering the area as fully as possible. The third step is selecting costuming for you and your dog(s). Your outfits should coordinate with the theme of the music you have selected and be pleasing to an audience.

Once you have completed these three basic steps and put it all together, you now have a musical canine freestyle performance that you can take to a demo or a competition event. At a competition, there is a fourth step you must consider-meeting the rules/guidelines defined by the governing (musical) canine freestyle organization.

The Beginning Developments:

The first rumblings in regard to musical canine freestyle started in Canada in the late eighties, in Europe in the late eighties and early nineties and in the USA in the early nineties. Several people claim to have invented this new sport: obedience trainers, dressage trainers, choreographers and show business personalities.

Here are a few others who say they invented this sport that I have met since 1990: a retired teacher who did pattycake on a tennis court with her dog to music; a child ballerina who was practicing in her living room for a recital when her mother, a dog trainer, noticed their dog dancing with her; A skater, who also took his dog to obedience school noticed his dog working along with him as he practiced his moves; A therapy dog and her owner who decided to strut their stuff to music to make it more appealing to the seniors they were visiting.

Now, let's get down to Some Actual Facts!

1989
Val Culpin, British Columbia, Canada has a dream and works on developing a sport called musical canine freestyle, dancing with dogs. Dawn Jecs, Puyallup, WA, USA and her Border Collie Checkers did first routine to music at a seminar.

1990
Robert Harlowe, a dog trainer from the UK, gave an open Ad Hoc meeting at the Cycle Classic, Greenville, SC and talked about musical canine freestyle (heel work to music, canine dressage). I overheard Terri Arnold speaking about dogs, music, dancing and though that this was great for our publicity efforts and to get the public interested in basic obedience training, especially the younger generations. Mary Ray, top obedience competitor in the UK did a variation of obedience heelwork to music at Crufts.

1991
Musical Canine Sports International founded in Canada. First Canadian Demonstration given at the Pacific Canine Showcase in Vancouver. My company, Ventre Advertising Inc., was selected as the public relations firm for the Cycle Dog Obedience Championships. Our goal: get the American public interested in the joys of responsible pet ownership through obedience training. I started talking to Terri Arnold trying to get her to do something with music and dancing with her dogs.

1992
Several people started doing demonstrations in Canada, the USA and the UK. I spoke to Terri Arnold about doing Freestyle at CycleEvents thinking that this was something that the average family could relate to and enjoy seeing when they attended these events. Terri decided to think about it. Musical Canine Sports International started writing rules and judging guidelines. They also performed at the Pacific Canine Showcase.

1993
MCSI held their first competition under rules at Pacific Canine Showcase. The first demo at a Cycle Obedience Event, the Western Regional in Tacoma WA took place. The first organized United States canine freestyle demo took place at the Cycle Classic, Memphis, TN.

1994
Canine freestyle demos were held at all Illini/Cycle Obedience Events To develop the sport, a Steering Committee was formed by Cycle & Illini Town Hall meetings were held at all Cycle events. MCSI in Canada came to the steering committee's attention and was accepted as governing body for Illini Competitions. Plans for a competition two years out was loosely formed. Ventre Advertising made videos of demos to help develop and fund the growth of the sport. I loved this sport from the beginning and dedicated my company's resources to its promotion. I am a past roller skating pairs champion as well as a ballroom dance champion and canine freestyle was something I could relate to on many different levels. It was wonderful for the publicity aspect in promoting the Regionals and Classics, but more important to me, it truly demonstrated the joys and fun of training dogs. And it started to bring new people to the Cycle events Seminars were started by Donna Duford, Dawn Jecs, Sandra Davis, MCSI and others.

Cycle and Illini supported the development and it was approached as an international sport with the goalof a canine freestyle Team America being created to compete worldwide. Almost 30 people did some type of canine freestyle routine at the Cycle events during this year and over 700 videos were sold. Many of the freestylers were novice obedience people or total newcomers to these events. It was interesting and healthy to see a new group of people pop up who had never heard of or much less attended one of these events.

By end of 1994... we were able to identify 2 different styles of freestyle that were developing. In Canada you had very dramatic, theatrical routines with highly costumed competitors. In the USA, the demos were illustrating tightly controlled, heeling and dressage type movements with attention mostly on the dog and very reserved costumes in general.

1995
Our demos became known as Cycle Canine Freestyle Events and they were held in New Orleans, York, Salt Lake City and Orlando. MCSI attended the Cycle Obedience Events, giving seminars and demos. The Canine Freestyle Federation founded The first Freestyle Demo at AKC Invitational, CFF in 1995.

MCSI held Championships in Canada. The Cycle Canine Freestylers was formed by us and were doing demos at specialty and all breedshows. Independent freestylers were doing demos at the specialities Globally, demos were popping up and requests for videos became international. I continued producing videos for funding and introduced the Cycle Canine Freestyle UPDATE Newsletter to promote sport to USA. The global requests for information and videos promoted our setting up networking worldwide to promote sport. We were in contact with Japan, Germany, Finland, Netherlands, Australia and Canada. Towards the end of the year, we received some funding from Heinz Pet Products for MCSI & Canine Freestyle.

By 1995... there was at least 2 supposedly different styles of freestyle in the USA, musical canine freestyle and freestyle heeling (heelwork to music). The Canadian events were becoming less dramatic, less theatrical and more conservative costumes were being worn. The USA events were beginning to be less controlled, some Off-Leash teams began appearing, movements were getting more theatrical and costuming was becoming more flamboyant. This was illustrated at the demo in Reno, NV by Bonnie Backosti and Ray Underwood from Canada and Sandra Davis from El Paso, TX.

1996
Heinz Pup-Peroni picked up and increased the sponsorship of Canine Freestyle events enabling us to expand the development of the sport. There were demos at Pup-Peroni Obedience Events in Detroit, MI, Reno, NV and Raleigh, NC. The Pup-Peroni Canine Freestylers Teams, formerly the Cycle Canine Freestylers, did demos at the following events: International Kennel Club Show, Chicago, IL; Bay Colony Cluster, Boston, MA; Riverfest, Newport, KY. We made sweatshirts, hats and duffles and sold tee shirts to increase funds.

The Pup-Peroni Canine Freestylers Teams appeared on the following television shows: Brian Kilcommons Show, New York, NY; Oprah Winfrey Show; Today Show; John Melancar; Good Morning, America- Detroit, Florida. Illini held freestyle fund raising seminars and many individual trainers were giving seminars and forming clubs and groups. MCSI held another Championship in Canada. CFF did another demo at the AKC Invitational and several other demos.

"Canine Freestyle" was started in England by Ann Clayton. "Heelwork to Music" held its first competition in the UK sponsored by Pedigree. It was won by Donelda Gray. Ian Dunbar's K9 Games held a "Waltzes With Dogs" Event. The canine freestyle network at Ventre expanded with the support of Heinz Pup-Peroni. We were now able to send out teams to do demos across the nation at various obedience and conformation shows, fairs and consumer shows and put freestyler trainers in touch with schools requesting seminars and workshops.

Also, in 1996, Canine Freestyle went to Cyberspace. The first site for Pup-Peroni Canine Freestyle was created by Richard Whorton in North Carolina. With the support of Heinz Pup-Peroni, we took a sponsorship of the non- profit site: http://www/woofs/org. We received our own home page: http://www.woofs.org/freestyle and our own email: pupfreesty@aol.com. Our events and information were now carried on all the major dog show sites. On Friday Evening, November 15, 1996, on the eve of the Classic Obedience Championship in Springfield, OR, the First Pup-Peroni International Canine Freestyle Championship took place at the Red Lion Hotel in the ballroom. It was the first Sanctioned MCSI Competition in the USA, hosted by Illini and sponsored by Pup-Peroni. The 20 entries were International- evenly split between the USA & Canada. Very few were from our competitors at the Regionals and Classic. Many were unknowns such as Carolyn Scott and her Golden Retriever "Rookie" from Houston, TX and Michael Pape and his Border Collie "Ketch" from Tampa, FL. It played to a standing room only crowd over 650 with hundreds being turned away. It was covered by the International and National Press, with one station sending satellite trucks for live event coverage. It was the first canine freestyle competition in the United States and the first time titles in this new sport were granted. Carolyn came in first and Michael second in the Off Leash division.

By 1996 we again saw styles of freestyle changing within groups and geographic areas. Canada was much more controlled, but increasing again in drama and costuming. The USA was getting further away from basic obedience movements, concentrating on team work, new creative movements and flashy costuming at the MCSI and Pup-Peroni events. CFF events were less dramatic, concentrating on the dog working, more heelwork to music and conservative costuming, more concentration on the dog, not the team. England's competition saw an influx of costuming with more creative teamwork and less heel work, a result of their viewing the videos from Pup-Peroni events. At present, we are on a free video exchange program with the UK group.

1997
This year was marked by 4 competitive events. Demos continued at Pup-Peroni Obedience Events in Louisville, KY, Bethlehem, PA and Tacoma, WA. Members of the Pup-Peroni Canine Freestylers Team did demos at the following events: International Kennel Club Show, Chicago, IL; Bay Colony Cluster, Boston, MA; Chicagoland Family Pet Show; AstroHall, Houston, TX; APDT Conference, Memphis, TN; Pennsylvania State Fair; breed and obedience shows and club specialties shows. Press coverage was extensive and included TV and print worldwide.

A CFF team did a demo & Sandra Davis did an MCSI demo at the AKC Invitational. The 2nd Heelwork to Music Competition in the UK had 24 Entries and was won again by Donelda Gray with a routine illustrating many moves created in the USA. 1st CFF Competition was held in September in Suffolk, NY with 10 entries. Sandra Davis published "Dancing With Your Dog" the first teaching video. It has been promoted by both Davis and Pup-Peroni Canine Freestyle. It was a great success and she introduced the second video at our APDT appearance. The third should hit the streets in February, 1998. We have requests worldwide for these videos. Several freestyle groups were formed giving seminars and classes and holding events.

In 1997 First Pup-Peroni Canine Freestyle FUNMEET was held in honor of the UKC 100th Anniversary, Kalamazoo, MI in June. It was the first time all styles of freestyle were accepted & judged under same rules. Styles competing included MCSI, CFF and independent self-taught individuals. They competed in 4 Divisions: On and Off Leash Freestyle Heeling; On and Off Leash Musical Freestyle.

It was the first time for Olympic Style Scoring with 5 judges giving 2 scores each in ordinal format from 0.0 to 6.0. Scores consisted of 50% for Technical Merit and 50% for Artistic Impression. The scores were displayed to the audience for each competitor.

At this event we had the 2 distinct styles of freestyle meshing. MCSI, CFF and independent competitors were judged together. The competitors enjoyed the exchange of ideas and both MCSI and CFF members placed among winners.

In 1997, the Pup-Peroni Canine Freestylers, Sandra Davis, Julie Norman, Dee Dee Rose and Anna Schloff performed at the American Pet Dog Trainers Conference in Memphis, TN from November 20th to 22nd. Canine Freestyle had returned to the place where it was born in the USA. I gave a multi-media presentation on the history and development of freestyle assisted by Donna Duford for a Q&A period. This presentation to dog trainers increased the interest and awareness of this new sport. Our networking experienced a thirty-five percent increase directly following this demo. We are at present designing programs and events to satisfy the requests from trainers we received at APDT.

The following week the 2nd Pup-Peroni International Canine Freestyle Championship was held as part of the Pup-Peroni Dog Extravaganza on November 29, Chicago, IL. Other events included the Pup-Peroni Dog Obedience Classic and the 1st Pup-Peroni Dog Agility Classic, Hosted by Illini, Sponsored by Pup-Peroni & Dominick's Supermarkets Chain and sanctioned by MCSI.

The year culminated in a multi-breed, multi-style demo at the Bay Colony Cluster Show in Boston MA on December 4th through 7th. Demos included: Charles Chmura and Shetland Sheepdog "Sport", Donna Duford & Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen "Chie", Verne Foster & Portuguese Water Dog "Tugger", Janice Henderson & Cocker Spaniel K.C. Freckles, Betty Lewis & Whippet "Halo", Laura Rabschultz & Newfoundland "Gus", Nancy Triou & Flat-Coated Retriever "Pal" and Cyrille Young & Golden Retriever, "Arielle". This demo illustrated the versatility of breeds involved in this sport. Each routine was different and interesting and all were tailored to the ability of the breed performing.

1998
The year began with the showing of the Pup-Peroni Canine Freestylers videos which opened the 1997 Nature's Recipe Show dogs of the Year Awards Banquet on the Saturday before Westminster in New York City. The teams have performed at the chicaglonad Family Pet Show in March, America's Family Pet Expo in Pomona, CA in April, the Pup-Peroni Western & Central Regionals. The first association, the FOOTLOOSE Canine Freeestyle Assocaition has been formed in Houston, TX and they will put on the Nature's Recipe Footloose Fantasy Freestyle Event, welcoming all styles of freestyle.

    PUP-PERONI CENTRAL REGIONAL, Duluth, MN: Linda Farr & Keeper: September 19 & 20, 1998

    ACE HARDWARE SHOW, Philadelphia, PA, Convention Center: RADIO SYSTEMS DEMOS. Carolyn Scott & Rookie, Kristen Hurley & Maggie, Penny Wellman Brehaney & her Golden, Julie Norman & Sprint, October 9 & 10, 1998

    AMERICAN'S FAMILY PET EXPO, Sacramento, CA: PUP-PERONI CANINE FREESTYLERS & NATURE'S RECIPE PET FOODS DEMOS, Kristen Hurley & Maggie, Lucia Gauvin & Buck, Suzi Bluford and her teams of students, October 23-25, 1998

    AMERICAN PET DOG TRAINERS CONFERENCE, King Of Prussia, PA: PUP-PERONI CANINE FREESTYLERS DEMOS & WORKSHOPS: Donna Duford, Friday Evening November 13 and Carolyn Scott Sunday Noon. Demos, Laurel Rabschultz & Gus, Carolyn Scott & Rookie, Donna Duford & Chie, Anna Schloff & Lacy among others. Final names will be posted next month.
    NATURE'S RECIPE FOOTLOOSE FANTASY FREESTYLE EVENT. Competition, November 20, 1998; Houston, TX - Hotel Braeswood.
    BAY COLONY CLUSTER, Boston, MA December 3-6: Demos, names to be announced in October.

1999
World Canine Freestyle Organization LTD was founded and spoke about the sport in the Dog Training Weekly booth. We met with Donelda Guy and made plans for doing a UK Event in 2000.

  • April 3, Uptempo Canine Freestyle Event in Pittsburgh, PA at the Western PA Kennel Club ShowJune Paws 2 Dance in Vancouver held our first WCFO FUNMEETAugust WCFO Rock Around The Clock FUNMEET in Delmont, PANovember, WCFO was sponsored to go to the Association of Pet Dog TrainersConference in San Diego, CA to do workshops and seminars
  • December, Bill Trainor Dog Boogie Shuffle Event in Boston, MA

2000
WCFO starts first titling competitions world wide

  • March, Chicagoland Family Pet Show Wag Time Ragtime, NC Regional March- World Canine Freestyle Organization LTD became a Non-Profit Organization Named. WCFO, INC The World Canine Freestyle Organization April, Delmont PA NE Regional Rock Around the ClockJuly Vancouver BC, Paws 2 Dance NW RegionalJuly Video Regionals, NORTH AMERICAN/USA/ALASKA/CANADA PACIFIC RIM UK/EUROPESeptember The Canine Cabaret, Beltsville, MD sponsored by the UnitedKennel ClubSeptember, The Disco Doggie Dance Meet sponsored by PetsMart, Hershey, PASeptember, Canines Come Dancing, Jersey, Channel Islands UK/EuropeNational hosted by Donelda Guy with an international judging panelfrom the USA and UKOctober, APDT Workshops/Demos , Top Hat & Tails, SC Regional, Houston, TXOctober the first membership rules forum was held and new rules for 2001were put in place for titling competitionsDecember World Video Competition
  • December North American National Bill Trainor Dog Boogie Shuffle, Boston,MA

2001
WCFO, INC added 2 new divisions for testing:

  1. Sassy Seniors for dogs over 9 years old and/or handlers over 65 years of age. This division will become titling in 2002
  2. Handi-Dandi Dancers for the creatively challenged dogs and/or handlers. This division may become titling in 2002

New Adivsory Boards were formed, one for Membership clubs and one for Judges. Both boards have a representative to the Director's Advisory Board

How Can a School/Training Facility Benefit From Canine Freestyle:

Musical canine freestyle is a very consumer oriented sport and fun to teach. Offering classes in freestyle and promoting these classes in you local press is a great way to increase attendance at classes. Seniors, kids, people with older, less active dogs, it appeals to all of them and it teaches the joys of responsible pet ownership in a fun manner. It also offers and opportunity for increase press coverage for you school. The press loves the concept of “Dancing With Dogs” and you will find getting publicity promoting your facility quite easy with the introduction of “dancing with dogs’ to your school’s roster. WCFO has special programs in place for clubs and schools that benefit both club and members.

 

  About WCFO © 2009 The World Canine Freestyle Organization

 

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