"It all started in 1996, when I had just set up my “HappyPets” - Pet Behaviour and Training Practice, and by then I had been training, showing and breeding dogs for over 15 years.

I have trained from Boxers to Neapolitan Mastiffs, and most of the working breeds, as well as competed and instructed Schutzhund classes (Police Dog Training).

It was around this time that I went to the Discover Dogs Show in London and saw Mary Ray and Donelda Guy performing their fabulous routines. I had no dog at that time but during those 2-3 minutes when Mary and Donelda moved around the ring as their dogs circled, spun, whirled and weaved I knew that once I got a dog, that would be the activity I would get involved in.

It was all Heelwork to Music.

However, it was only two year after that day that I got my first dog to train HTM. And what a dog I found! 

I received a phone call from a lady, who had brought her Border Collie puppy to my puppy classes, saying that the puppy was getting very assertive towards her, and sometimes getting quite aggressive when she wanted the puppy to do something that the puppy wasn't keen on doing. And after a long and hard consideration, she had decided to rehome her puppy Fly.

But I remembered Fly from the puppy classes, especially that she was an assertive, cocky puppy.

As I thought it was time to get a dog, I decided to have a look at Fly. I went over to come and see the puppy, play a little bit with her and attempt some very basic commands to see her response level, interest and drive. I was glad to find out that she was very interested in games. Any games! And I'm sure she would have played fetch for the whole of the 30 minutes that I stayed there.

After that visit I went home, and the next day I phoned Fly’s owner and said that I would like to take her in.

Fly turned out to be a wild dog indeed, with lots of energy to channel! But as she had some basic obedience training, I immediately started teaching her heelwork, advanced obedience and basic tricks: Roll Over, Pirouette, Salute, High Ten, etc.

A year later I met Annie Clayton at a Turid Rugaas Workshop, who after seeing Fly do a few different tricks, convinced me to enter the HTM competition in Leicester.

I participated and to my surprise, won the Novice group. 

This competition had a very strong influence on my progress since I saw several different routines, and amongst them, the super routines from Donelda Guy and Mary Ray. This time primarily, it was a few backwards tricks and 2 legs movements in Donelda’s programme that impressed me a lot. And I also became aware that there were competitors representing different styles, which was not HTM any more.

A few days after my return from my first competition I started phoning dance teachers and asking them who would teach me to dance with a dog. And I found a very kind and extremely talented teacher called Heather Millan, that after trying to teach me Spanish dance steps, realised that it was easier to find me a routine theme that would match my natural steps rather than teaching me to dance.

And the Charlie Chaplin routine was born.

From that point on, I have developed new routines, some of which you can see in the Videos section of the website."


Attila Szkukalek