Dog Dancing? Dances with Dogs Freestyle Starters

Generally the first question out of people’s mouths when I tell them that the Border Collie, Cynder and I do dog dancing is ‘do you do the waltz/foxtrot/insert random dance name here?’. Cynder at KCC parkThe first thing I usually tell them is to YouTube ‘Caroline and Rookie‘ to see one of the most watched dog dancing clips on YouTube. It’s one of my personal favourites and one of the routines that made me think, ‘Yeah, that’s something I would love to do with my dog one day.’

As the Border Collie, Cynder and I move through the levels of Dances with Dogs and Heelwork to Music we will take a closer look at them, and what’s expected of your routine at each level. Firstly we will be taking a look at Dances with Dogs Freestyle Starters level, the basic level where you will start when competing in Dances with Dogs Freestyle.

Dances with dogs has foundations in traditional obedience heelwork but with a bit of glitz and flair added in! The addition of innovative and creative moods, as well as movement in time to and intepretation of music is greatly encouraged, making Dances with Dogs routines a lot of fun to do, as well as a lot of fun to watch!

Cynder at KCC parkStarters routines are expected to be between one minute and one and a half minutes in length and should present a competent performance of positions, actions and moves showcased with musical intepretation. The routine should also showcase the teamwork and partnership between the dog and handler.

Dances with Dogs Freestyle Starters routines are judged on three areas:

  1. Routine Content: The routine itself should be varied with no excessive repetition of moves. Starters level should include at least: One change of pace, or at least two positions or moves/directions, (positions are where the dog is in relation to handler, so could be the dog heeling on left, or on right, etc.) good use of the ring and attention and teamwork between the dog and handler. At starters level it’s expected that the dogs attention is on you at least 65% of the time.
  2. Technical Merit: This area covers the accuracy of the moves, the speed which the dog responds to your commands, the quality of the moves and the dog working in a natural and willing manner. Dogs should respond on the first or second cue, and these can be evident. At starters level, the overall standard expected is at least equivalent to that in Community Companion Dog (CCD) Obedience (but off-lead).
  3. Musical Intepretation: Both the dog, and the handler should move in time to the music, and choreography of moves must be evident and reflect the music and rhythm. This can be through turns, changes of pace, positions etc. that are complementary to the music. This area also includes marks for costume that is appropriate to the music and the theme of the routine.

Getting from Starters to Novice requires 3 passeCynder at KCC parks with 2 separate judging panels. The Border Collie, Cynder will begin trialling next year, and we look forward to hopefully sharing our experiences and routines with you!

It can all seem a bit technical and scary, if you have any questions please feel free to ask!

Bookmark the permalink.


  1. That is the cutest thing! I wanna see

  2. Great blog! I just loved Caroline and “Rookie” They are legends 🙂

  3. OMG! So much fun. Can’t wait to see you and Cynder competing! Will be awesome! 😀

  4. We look forward to hearing all about it. Have a marvelous Monday.
    Best wishes Molly

  5. We can’t wait to see Cynder in a video like that one. We will be looking for it on uTube.

  6. Pingback: Dog Dancing? Dances with Dogs Freestyle Novice | "that dog dancing guy"

  7. Sounds awesome, but definitely intimidating! Excited to start practicing for fun-don’t know if we’ll ever officially trial in Freestyle though. Good luck to you and Cynder!

    • You’ll probably get hooked!!

      Cynder’s sister Stella started doing Freestyle just for the training… now she’s trialling though cause they loved it so much! The dogs have so much fun! 🙂

  8. Can you tell me what the rules are for commands- do they have to be hand commands or can they be voice commands for freestyle? Which is better?

    Thanks so much!

    • Hello,

      Both verbal and hand signals are encouraged in DWD.

      As you move up the classes though your signals should be less obvious to the judges. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *