My Story

How did I become involved in Dog Dance

K9 Freestyle – Heelwork to Music

It all started in 1996 when I just set up my “HappyPets” Pet Behaviour and Training Practice. By then I have been training, showing and breeding dogs for over 15 years. I have trained from Boxers, Dobermans, German Shepherds  to Neapolitan Mastiffs, most of working breeds and competed and instructed Schutzhund classes.

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

It took 2 more years to get a dog and I was not even aware what an excellent, amazing dog I would get. I got a phone call from a lady, who brought her Border Collie puppy Fly to my puppy class. She said that Fly was getting very assertive towards her, sometimes even aggressive, especially when she wanted Fly to comply with her instructions, while Fly wanted to do something else. She has not had a dog before and found Fly’s behaviour challenging, therefore she would like to rehome Fly if she could find a good home for her.

I remembered Fly from the class that she was an assertive, cocky puppy. I thought it is time to get a dog, why not have a look at Fly. I saw her and liked her, she was very interested in any game. She would have fetched the stick and the ball for the 30 minutes that I stayed. I came home and the next day phoned Fly’s owner that I would like to take her.

Fly turned out to be a wild dog indeed with a lot of energy to channel. She had some basic obedience so I immediately started teaching her heelwork, advanced obedience and basic tricks: Roll Over, Piruette, Salute, High Ten, etc. A year later I met Annie Clayton at the Turid Rugaas Workshop who after seeing Fly do different tricks convinced me to enter the Heelwork to Music competition in Leicester, which I did and to my surprise won the Novice group. This competition had a very strong influence on my progress since I saw among others the super routines from Donelda Guy (All that Jazz) and Mary Ray. I realised that Donelda’s routine as well as my Carmen routine did not fit strictly the HTM rules. I realised that in the USA the sport has been called Canine Freestyle and our routines fitted K9 Freestyle rather than HTM. I was very inspired by my success at the competition and seeing Donelda’s Freestyle routine and decided that my next routine would be a sort of dance routine to Spanish music. So I started phoning dance teachers in Norwich who could teach me some basic Spanish dance steps and dance style and help me choreograph a routine that I could perform with Fly. I found a very kind lady and extremely talented teacher Heather Millan. Heather 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. She asked me; has anyone done Charlie Chaplin? I said not that I am aware of! And the Charlie Chaplin routine was born.

Then for the next routine I wanted to find a different theme; a sort of drama, that differed from the Charlie Chaplin. Heather suggested to look at costumes in a costume book. First I saw some Indian costumes, Batman, however the next one was “The Gladiator”. And my eyes lit up. I could see some fighting scenes with Fly and no hesitation, I knew straight away; this is it! This is what I was going to do!