Canine Freestyle (Dances With Dogs) Crash Course

New to canine freestyle? Welcome to our free online crash course for dancing with your dog!

Canine Freestyle (aka Dances With Dogs) is a fun dog sport that a dog and their owner can participate in together. Dances With Dogs enables a dog-handler team to demonstrate creativity and innovation as they perform a well-choreographed and skillful routine to some catchy tunes.

Benefits of Freestyle

There are many benefits to dancing with your dog, including:

  • It’s a lot of fun.
  • The bond between dog and owner is strengthened through the use of positive training methods.
  • It can be done with any age, breed, size and fitness level as you can cater your routine to suit your, and your dog’s, needs.
  • It mentally stimulates your dog and keeps their mind active.
  • It physically exercises your dog and improves their body coordination and balance.
  • It can be practiced within the confines of your home.
  • The public love a dancing dog!

So, you’re keen to start dancing with your pooch but not too sure how to go about it? That’s what this course is for – to give you a basic understanding of how to construct a canine freestyle routine!

Expand the sections below by selecting them!

NB: Recommended you follow the sections in order.

Canine freestyle is a dog sport in which a handler and their dog perform a sequence of tricks to music.

These are some basic tricks that most, if not all, canine freestyle routines contain:

  • Spin (left and right)
  • High five or wave
  • Crawl
  • Roll over
  • Leg weaves
  • Leap in the air
  • Circle handler
  • move backwards (reverse)
  • Sit pretty
  • Stand tall
  • Walk on hind legs
  • Hooped arms
  • Jump into arms
  • Put your feet on mine
    And many more.

Border Collie Frankie the K9 Superstar shows off some of these tricks below:

Start working on these basics with your dog and master these tricks individually (either with a verbal cue or a hand signal) before starting to construct a routine.

Need help? Pam’s Dog Academy is a fantastic resource to help you teach your dog some of these tricks!

You should also start thinking about some trick combinations that you could incorporate into your routine! View an example by Frankie the Border Collie below:

Sidestep/Orbit Combo:

What other trick combinations can you come up with?

Write your combinations down so you don’t forget!

The music plays a crucial role in your routine as it sets the mood for your routine, so it’s important to give it a lot of thought.

My advice: Choose the song and then build the routine around it. Do not build a routine and then try and match a song to it – this will make finding suitable music much harder!

The first thing that you need to think about, that most people forget or don’t realise, is the “speed” of your dog. Some dogs are high energy and move fast while others are slower because they’re lower energy dogs.

So, you need to find the perfect song that matches your dog’s natural pace.

Sure, a fast pace song is exciting and really fun to watch and if you have a “fast” dog then you’re good to go. However, if your dog is naturally lower energy, then having a fast song is not the way to go. And that’s absolutely fine to use a slower song, in fact some of the coolest routines have slow, groovy songs! If you’re looking for a slower song, some of those old Crooner tunes from the 40s and 50s  make for excellent routines!

You’ve now chosen a song – how do you turn your individual tricks into a routine?

Start by listening to your song. Note down the lyrics, all changes in tempo (faster sections of the song require more dynamic tricks) and listen for the chorus.

Assign tricks to suit the different parts of the song:

  • For slower parts, you may lean towards tricks such as crawl, single spin, sit pretty, “say your prayers” or “shy”.
  • For faster parts, you may lean towards more dynamic tricks such as hooped arms, leap, rebound or hind leg tricks.



Though not essential to put on a good show, many of the best routines generally have a storyline of some sort for the audience to follow. This also helps you keep your routine flowing and your audience entertained.

See the following examples for two highly effective uses of storylines in performances:

Jot down some possible “storylines” that you could use in your performance.

Think about what you want to convey to your audience.

One of the key aspects that defines a good canine freestyle routine is the flow of the performance, and sometimes this can be one of the most difficult aspects about constructing a routine.

To help keep your performance flowing, you can incorporate transition tricks into your routine. Examples of transition tricks include (but are not limited to):

  • Spin
  • Backup/Reverse
  • Orbit
  • Scoot
  • Crawl

More transition ideas can be found in this useful video by Pam’s Dog Academy:

Look at the examples of some great routines below, can you spot the transitions?

These transitions are very subtle and can be hard to detect unless pointed out.

  1. At 41 seconds, you can see a quick spin.
  2. At 1 minute and 11 seconds, you can see a scoot. This was a fantastic transition to get to the bow position in front of the handler.

There are several more transitions, try spotting these ones yourself.

Got the idea? Now try spotting the transitions in this incredible routine below:

All dogs have strengths and weaknesses and preferences for the tricks that they like the best. Like us, dogs have their favourite tricks – we want to carefully incorporate these tricks so that the dog gets “rewarded” throughout the routine. This is called “self-rewarding”.

There are other ways for your dog to “self-reward”; props. For instance, if your dog loves to play tug-o-war then you can incorporate that into your routine!


The Importance of Self-Rewarding

Some competitions do not allow training treats to be given during a performance but we want to keep our dog encouraged and having a good time. How do they have a good time? By having fun with tricks they enjoy.

Spread out the more difficult tricks in your routine and put some easy, fun ones that your dog loves in between.


What’s next?

Now you’ve planned your routine and know what it’s going to look like and so it’s time to practice by YOURSELF (yes, you heard right!) – this is a step that many new canine freestylers forget to do.

The reason we practice by ourselves first is so we can iron out the kinks of the routine and make sure our moves flow! It also makes us familiar with the routine so that we can more easily teach our dogs!


Practice With Your Dog

Finally, you can practice with your pooch and start teaching them the routine!

Watch this useful video by Pam’s Dog Academy to help you back-chain a routine!

Costuming & Props

So you have the moves, you have the dog and you have the catchy tune – what’s left? Costumes!

When done well, costumes can add to your routine but it’s very easy to overdo. With costumes, LESS IS MORE – view the two examples below:


Practice, Practice, Practice

So, now you’ve successfully put together a routine! Congratulations! Now make sure you practise it before performing in front of people. You want to make sure that both you and your dog know what you’re doing!

Congratulations on putting together a routine, you and your dog are going to have so much fun!

Did you know that some dogs love dancing so much that they get really excited when they hear the music!



Special Thanks to Pam’s Dog Academy for the great tutorial videos! Head to her channel and subscribe for more fantastic content!

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