I’m still trying to live off the high I got last weekend at the freestyle competition. There is simply nothing quite like competing in musical freestyle. Freestyle is such a unique sport and, to me, nothing matches it’s awesomeness.
There is so much to love in this sport. First of all, it’s creative. And, unlike most other dog sports, YOU come up with the course. It’s not the same routine each time like Obedience or Schutzhund. Nor is it a course designed by the judge like in rally or agility. A canine freestyle routine is developed and designed by the competitor. This allows you to showcase your dog’s best behaviors. It also permits you the ability to avoid behaviors that your dog doesn’t like, can’t do (due to physical issues), or movements that don’t show your dog at their best (some dogs just don’t look good in a sit). On top of that, you can design a routine so that a super fun move that your dog loves follows a difficult move creating a reward in the middle of your routine. While that can happen in other sports if you get lucky, you can design it right into freestyle.
I also like that there are no required moves per se. (Depending on the specific venue of freestyle you perform in, there might be required moves. But, aside from heeling, there really is no required behaviors in WCFO freestyle. Since that’s the venue we compete in, that’s where I’m pulling my experiences from.) This allows you the freedom to design a routine that suits your interpretation of the music. Choice of music is also completely up to you!
In conjunction with creativity, canine freestyle routines are personal. It was created by you specifically for you and your dog. No other dog/handler team will perform that routine. And, even if another team did, it wouldn’t be quite the same. Each team creates and executes a truly unique performance.
And that leads me to another awesome aspect of freestyle: spectator appeal. It’s fun to watch! Now, granted, I’m a dog training nerd and I do enjoy watching dogs compete in obedience, rally, agility and various other canine sports. But, for the most part, I don’t watch an entire day of competition. Even when I’m competing with Risa, I do not watch all the dogs competing in our event that day. I usually watch the other dogs in our class and I also watch when my friends’ dogs compete. But I’ve rarely, if ever, watched an entire rally trial. Every time I trial in freestyle, however, I watch everyone compete. Even on the 2nd day when the routines are the same as the day before–I watch again. I also buy the DVD so I can watch the performances again later (and because I want to have a copy of our dance too)! Even if you’re not a dog training junkie like myself, I think laypeople can get a lot more enjoyment out of watching a canine freestyle performance than some of the other dog sports.
Finally, I like that canine freestyle is challenging. It’s difficult to design a routine that has spectator appeal, the right level of difficulty, pizzazz, and showcases the bond between you and your dog. There are also a lot of behaviors you’re cuing; especially as you get into the higher levels. In our Intermediate routine, I cued Risa 62 times!!
Most importantly, though, I do freestyle with Risa because it’s fun. There is no activity we do together that is as much fun to train for and compete in as canine musical freestyle. We thrive on the challenges of designing a unique routine. Risa enjoys learning new tricks and perfecting old ones. The shy mutt even really enjoys performing in front of an audience that claps with enthusiasm when she performs some of her favorite moves.
I never in a million years expected to get involved in canine freestyle. It was simply what was available at the time and I decided to give it a shot. Risa was a natural at it and so we got hooked. I’m so glad that was the case. It suits both my creative and competitive sides perfectly. And, it allows my scaredy mutt a chance to shine and show the world what she’s made of. I always have a blast out there with her and I know it shows. 🙂