Having grown up with dogs, Katie (self-confessed ‘crazy dog lady’) soon found that her affinity with man's best friend went beyond just enjoying their company. She can often be found practising behavioural training, Heelwork To Music and grooming tips on her four dogs; Deano the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Prinnie the Chihuahua, and Eric & Boudicca the French Bulldogs. Today Katie talks to us about how to get started in her dog sport of choice, Heelwork To Music.
1. If someone wants to do more with their dog than just take him/her for a walk, what other kinds of sports are there out there?
Spending time with our dogs is one both fun and rewarding for us and our dogs, but sometimes the same walk around the same park can become a little boring for us and for them. Quality time with our pooches is so valuable and there are many different sports and classes you can join to vary your quality time. The most popular sports include flyball, agility and Heelwork To Music. My personal favourite is Heelwork To Music or HTM for short, also known as doggy dancing. It is such a lot of fun for both you and your dog. HTM is a sequence of basic commands and tricks in a routine and set to music. You can be as creative as you want which is what makes this sport so varied and exciting.
2. So how would someone get into Heelwork To Music, can you start at home or do you have to attend a course?
The best way to get things started is to join a local group… there are many classes across the country. We started at a basic obedience class, then we joined a specific HTM class.
3. What basic obedience training would a dog need to be able to learn heelwork?
I believe you only need a few commands to get started: sit, stay and down. These commands are the foundation that lead on to pretty much all the moves the dogs can learn.
4. Does the dog work to your verbal instructions only or do they take prompts from the music too?
The majority of the time the dog solely works on the handler’s body language, movement and commands. Dogs are very clever at being able to learn what comes next in the routine! The music is to help us humans to remember what comes next.
5. What kind of dogs do best with Heelwork To Music, energetic ones or more sedate personalities?
What is so good about this sport is it is not a timed one, and therefore any breed can have a chance at doing well whether they are quite spritely or a little slower. If you have a keen dog willing to learn, who loves food or toys, you are already half way to success!
6. How would a dog and owner get involved in competitions?
Competitions can be very challenging and fun at the same time. Ideally you would start doing basic shows at dog shows locally. Most shows have a tricks/talent competition, and you can use this as a ‘training’ opportunity to practise part of your routine while giving your dog the experience of being inside a ring. Moving on from here, there are many official competitions run by The Kennel Club throughout the year. This is what Deano, my 7 year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and I did. We started at the small shows and built up to the larger shows. We never made it to Crufts but we had a great time along the way!
7. Tell us about a memorable moment you've had with Deano during a competition
Deano entered his first mini competition aged four months at ‘Essex Has Got Talent’, a local dog show. He was so tiny and fully of beans but he stunned the audience and judges by knowing so much so young. This was the start of years of nerve-racking yet fun competitions. Our biggest claim to fame was being featuring on th