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Discussion Starter #1
Colleague just showed me this YouTube video and it's super cute (not a GSD, though, it's a Golden):


Apparently it's an agility sport called Freestyle...

Jack will move around the living room with me if I'm getting my groove on, jump and chase and be chased, etc., just playing really. He recently learned to spin and twirl and I tried to get him to do that with me over the weekend while I was dancing around, but he didn't get it. Right now, he still only understands it when we're "in school" (in a training session). I had no idea there's an actual sport at the time! Dumber than a box of rocks, but learning every day, doh. :rolleyes:
 

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Canine musical freestyle is the sport where Pongu and I started. :)

Richard Curtis (esp. the two Thriller variations), Tina Humphrey, and Attila Szkukalek (especially the Gladiator routine!) are among the top in the field, if you want to go look up some of their youtubes.

I'll always find the "Grease" routine particularly inspiring, though, because that Golden Retriever actually started out as a fearful dog. Training and performing were how he learned to cope with his fears. That's why freestyle was the first sport I tried with Pongu. I wanted him to be like that too.

Turns out my dog could do it just fine, but I couldn't dance worth a darn. So eventually we moved to Rally. But still, freestyle is where we started, and I'll always have a soft spot for the sport. It has a super positive sport culture, too.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Those are So awesome!!
 

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It's a great sport. It's not always easy to get into, though.

The primary difficulties with getting seriously into freestyle are, IMO, as follows:

(1) It's not as popular a sport in the U.S. as it seems to be in Europe and the UK. Most of the best freestylers are in the UK (Richard Curtis, Mary Ray, Tina Humphrey, etc.) and while you can get their books and DVDs and youtubes here, it's not nearly the same as having a good instructor to work with in person. In my opinion, Emily Larlham was one of the best U.S. trainers working in freestyle, and she moved to Europe. Sigh.

(2) Competitions (if you want to do that) are few and far between. There are three main freestyle organizations in the U.S. but they're all quite small and they don't hold events often. You can compete by video entry, which is nice, but it's nothing like the big sports where you can go out and do shows every weekend if you want.

(3) Boy you are gonna look and feel silly when you first start trying to put a routine together. It was just too much for my never-sturdy dignity to handle. I even took a couple of dance classes hoping to get better, but nope, not happening. ;)

With that said, IMO it's worth cross-training in freestyle if you can, because it will sharpen up your handling like nothing else. You have to be able to work your dog in 360 degrees around the handler, with heeling not only on the left side, but on the right side, in front of you, and behind you. You'll have to be able to get position changes and cued behaviors not only up close, but at a distance, and so fast and precisely that you can keep time to the music for minutes on end. Your cues to the dog have to be subtle enough to hide inside your choreography.

It is incredibly difficult to do well. I'm in complete awe of the people who are good at it. I'm downright lousy at it myself, but I am really grateful for having had the opportunity to study freestyle for six months, because it has been super valuable in doing all our other sports.
 

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Thank you for the info! I find it fascinating. I'm only just in the beginning stages of training *myself* on basic OB. And Jack's my guinea pig, bless his heart. But I'm making this a loooong term goal. It just looks way too fun not to give it a go if and when I get an opportunity :). One more dog related goal to add to my retirement list!


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It is really fun. :)

And I love blathering about it because it seems like hardly anyone is interested in freestyle, so the chance rarely comes up. ;)

A really good resource, if/when you might want to get started, is Julie Flanery's "T.A.P. [Transitions and Positions] Dancing for Success" DVD set. It's a recording of a two-day seminar she gave, so it is not a tremendously glitzy production. Basically, it looks (and probably is!) like somebody just set up a home video camera in the corner of the conference room and left it running the whole time.

But the information it contains is great. It's a good and thorough resource that goes all the way from basic training philosophy and techniques to foundational behaviors (position changes, dog-to-handler orientation, and transitions between all the possible permutations of both those things) to designing and choreographing a competition routine.

While not cheap (dog training DVDs always are crazy expensive, aren't they?), it's less costly than actually going to a seminar or attending a six- or seven-week class, and I thought it was well worth the money back when. Plus you can always just rent it from Tawzerdog if you don't want to buy.

Welcome to Dogwise.com

There are a lot of good books and other DVDs out there too (anything by Emily Larlham/kikopup is good, and her youtube channel has a lot of good beginning material to train at home as foundation stuff; likewise Pamela Marxsen and Michele Pouliot), but if you are gonna splurge on one big DVD set, that's the one I'd recommend. It goes from A to Z and is thorough and helpful about how to do everything along the way.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I'm going to put Flanery's DVDs on my wish list. I'm a long way out from being able to train to that level. Really just getting started. I've done all right taking in rescues and bringing them from fearful to social, but I'm a newbie to OB and tricks. My goal was only ever to take in other people's leftovers and end up with a polite, happy, and well cared for dog.

But since I adopted Jack at an early age, only eleven months, and realized I did him a huge disservice by focusing on getting him past his fears and not training earlier. It could have brought us along so much faster, I now believe. Anyway, now we are working with a really good IPO trainer and I see so much potential for both of us. I'm hooked! And I'm looking forward to expecting/giving so much more to him and all my future dogs :)

Btw... This forum has been inspirational, and you are a big part of that. I love love love following your progress with Pongu, especially your videos :)


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