Few realize the enormity of what goes into a well-designed Freestyle routine. The Freestyler needs to know how to train a LOT of different tricks, in different contexts, and pay attention to what the dog finds rewarding, fun, and/ easy to do while also considering what presents well (some hard tricks aren’t so cool to watch and vice versa). And, of course, there are always extravagant tricks we hope to showcase. To do well, you must build value for performing a trick. To put that in layman’s terms, it needs to be fun for the dog to do the trick in and of itself. Further, the value and accuracy need to be maintained so the dog can nail trick after trick (which could be upwards of 80 behaviors!!) during a routine which might be 3+ minutes.

Beyond all that, Freestyle is a dance of timing. You don’t get to just sing along. It takes time for your dog to hear your cue, process, and then execute. So, you have to cue your dog at the right time in order to perform on time to the music. If you’ve ever run agility, you know exactly how fun (and hard) it is to deliver your cues at just the right time so that your performance appears fluid and effortless. A good routine is choreographed with consideration given to the direction of the preceding trick’s movement so that the dog can flow from one thing to the next.

There is so much going on during a routine!

As you develop a routine, the wise trainer listens and adjusts the arrangement and selection of tricks to best suit the dog. You might find your dog doesn’t naturally turn left or make sense of that trick in that part of the chain. You could invest enormous amounts of time to train that one component…OR…you can give up one plan and, instead, co-create new ideas together with our best friend. This truly is a collaborative sport!

Freestyle may seem daunting because of the enormity of the final goal. But realize, just like anything else, you start at the beginning and take one step at a time. It’s actually a terrific activity to teach and remind you about training and learning principles, which involve knowing how to break things down, build them up, repair and maintain behaviors, build value for work/focus/engagement and more!

Freestyle can be fun for beginner to expert trainers. It’s accessible and can and should be trained mostly in and around your home (like out where you walk and play). At InJoy you will get heartfelt support. Classes are kept small so that we can meet the needs of everyone involved. It’s important that you work at the level your dog is at. And wherever you are at, that is the perfect place to start!

Our “Where to Start” class is a prerequisite for this class. Please email injoydogtraining@gmail.com to find out more.