Canine Freestyle: a new height in the human/canine bond.

A couple of years ago, one of my email contacts sent me a link to a video on YouTube. It was a recording of a canine freestyle dance, performed by Carolyn Scott and her dog, Rookie.

I had never seen anything like it, and I immediately shared it with every dog lover I knew. I think you’ll agree that the performance is remarkable, and by the time Carolyn and Rookie are halfway through it, I am sobbing–completely overwhelmed by the bond and joy the two of them share.

Canine Freestyle has been gaining momentum. It is a relatively new sport that combines dog obedience and dance in a unique and exciting way, blending the two in a stunning display of handler and canine teamwork. The handler and dog perform rhythmic footwork in time to music. The most exciting part of the display, however, is the enthusiasm of the dog that is participating. I have seen dogs play flyball, compete in herding and in agility. While each of these activities is loads of fun for dogs and handlers, nothing compares to the joy on a dog’s face when he/she is doing freestyle.

Several groups have popped up to help people and their dogs learn the sport of freestyle. The Musical Dog Sport Association was formed to advance the sport of canine freestyle and to share the joy of the canine and human bond achieved through positive training, enhanced by the artistry of music and choreography. Created by freestylers, the MDSA defines Canine Freestyle as “a dog sport in which training, teamwork, music and movement combine to create an artistic, choreographed performance highlighting the canine partner in a manner that celebrates the unique qualities of each individual dog. It is built upon the foundation of a positive working relationship of a dog and handler team.”

I am continually astounded by the enthusiasm, grace and joy that dogs exhibit when they are participating in this sport.  The rhythm and variety of movements is impressive. While knowing how to heel is an important component of freestyle, the dog is also expected to display original movements of a degree of difficulty above that normally seen in the obedience ring. Throughout the routine the handler may encourage the dog’s performance with verbal commands, but no training aids or food of any kind are permitted in the competition ring.

Tonight, another friend shared a new video of a dog doing freestyle, reminding me of how special this sport is. The choreography couldn’t be more different than Carolyn Scott’s and Rookie’s. This dog, Carrie,  dances the meringue!

Musical freestyle is a competitive sport. A handler and dog team may compete in three different classes at three different levels. Classes include Individual (one handler, one dog), Brace, (two handlers, two dogs) and Team (three or more handlers, each with a dog). Participants may begin competing with a dog in any class, in either the On-leash or Off-leash Divisions, but must qualify from the Off-leash Division to enter Masters. Titles of MFD (Musical Freestyle Dog), MFX (Musical Freestyle Excellent) and MFM (Music al Freestyle Master) are awarded to dogs, based on the accumulation of qualifying scores specific to each of the different classes. The sport has been receiving attention worldwide.

This dog and handler team took first place in the Freestyle Crufts 2010, Czech Republic

For more information about Canine Freestyle, visit:

The Musical Dog Sport Association

World Canine Freestyle

Canine Freestyle Federation

About yelodoggie

Ariel C. Wulff is an author, artist and animal advocate. They have been involved in pet rescue for over twenty-five years. They have written two books about their true-life adventures living with an ever-changing house full of pets: Born Without a Tail, and Circling the Waggins, and a guide to animal advocacy using the Internet as a tool: How to Change the World in 30 Seconds". Wulff also wrote a pet column and book review column for the Examiner, and was a contributing editor for They attribute their love of animals to having been raised by Wulffs.
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