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Mon, Oct. 21

Powers: Canine musical freestyle — for the fun of it!

Sherlock’s grin and happily wagging tail are proof that he loves moving to an Irish tune with his partner, Christy Olthof. The bond between them is unmistakable. (Douglas Smith/Courtesy)

Sherlock’s grin and happily wagging tail are proof that he loves moving to an Irish tune with his partner, Christy Olthof. The bond between them is unmistakable. (Douglas Smith/Courtesy)

The Blackpak and I just returned from a Canine Musical Freestyle National competition in Tucson. Folks from several states came with their pups to compete for ribbons and titles.

Musical Freestyle is the fun sport of moving to music with your dog. All ages of participants come together with a wide range of ages and breeds of pups. Some teams are more agile. Some perform skits to music, and some just get out there and have a great time. Some call it dancing with your dog, but that brings lots of strange perceptions to many. It really is just moving to the beat of the music.

Musical Freestyle first appeared in Canada in the 1990s and has spread throughout the world. It came at a time when many dog lovers were frustrated with the rigidness of competitive obedience and wanted something that was freer and more fun. Many teams today compete in both obedience and freestyle.

Try it. You might like it! Put on some peppy music and then do fun tricks with your dog. Move out from heel position — feel the beat of the music — move him to your right side, then get him in front and try getting him to circle around you and weave through your legs. Or ask for a simple sit, down, sit again, then move out with him at your side. Are you and your dog high energy? Some jazzy music might be just right. But for a slower team, a waltz might be a better fit. Do not forget lots of wonderful, tasty treats. Freestyle is a sport with happy dogs and wagging tails.

Conformation and Competitive Obedience are the old standards that have been the backbone of the American Kennel Club shows for ages. However, quite a few new dog sports have been introduced as people are becoming more aware of the fun they can have with their dog.

Agility continues to be a favorite of many, involving fun training and lots of exercise for dogs and handlers.

Rally is a very popular sport enjoyed by many teams.

Nose work has become a hit with those dogs who love to smell anything and everything.

Competitions for these sports and others are held around the U.S., and competitors are eager and willing to travel.

The Prescott area is known for being dog friendly. There are many opportunities for training and competing in a wide variety of dog sports and activities. Any dog of any breed and any age, as well as any handler, can find an activity for fun, training and companionship.

On another subject, I received two comments from readers regarding my last column about responsible pet ownership. One gal said she used to walk her two small dogs but after being attacked a couple of times by loose dogs, she now is afraid to walk them. So very sad. The second note was from a gal whose friend is blind and has a guide dog. Her dog, while on duty, was attacked by a loose dog inside a building. Another time while walking past an outside eating area, a dog from one of the tables came running out and challenged her dog. As a result, the dog is now too stressed to do her job, which is guiding her owner. So tragic.

The moral of these stories — do not let your dog be off leash while you are out and about and NEVER let your dog approach another dog without getting approval from the person. You might think your dog is super friendly, but it is just not fair to assume that another dog wants to interact with yours. More on this subject in a future column, but it is so vitally important that I wanted to mention it briefly now. Responsible pet ownership is being in control of your dog and being considerate of other dogs and handlers.

Christy Powers is a freelance writer whose passion is studying and writing about pet health, nutrition and training. She can be reached at

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