Canine Freestylers Compete on Video

Canine Freestylers Compete on Video
A new group offers its first virtual competition.

By Brenna Fender


Most dog sports require handlers to travel to a show site in order to compete and earn titles. In many cases, dogs require extensive practice in varied environments before being able to turn in a competitive performance in a show. Dogs simply don’t generalize well and need lots of practice in order to be able to perform complex skills in different locations, particularly those that are full of distractions. Often, owners enthusiastic about training and competing with their dogs lose their momentum when they realize how difficult it can be to get their dogs to go from a successful performance in the back yard to a qualifying or placement-earning one at a show or trial.

One way to combat this problem is to try video competitions. The SD Canine Freestylers (SDCF) will be hosting their first video titling competition (in canine musical freestyle) this summer in order to help people have competitive opportunities without having to travel. Pamela Johnson, who founded SDCF along with Emily Larlham, says, Our goal is to get people involved with training and working with their dogs doing canine freestyle and a lot of people do not want to travel to participate in live events. Also, many times live events are really stressful on the dog and handler and by holding a video competition the dog and handler can be relaxed in their own environment.

Because Johnson and Larlham want to encourage people to try the sport, and to help newcomers have success at it, they have created a beginners titling level that is quite user-friendly. Our beginner title allows members to use reinforcement such as food rewards or toy rewards as we want to get people to get started and not worry about being perfect at first, says Johnson.

To further encourage new competitors, SDCF allows all breeds and breed mixes to compete. There is a junior division for handlers under the age of 18, and disabled dogs and handlers may compete as long as no moves appear to make the dog or handler uncomfortable or in pain.

The competition is judged on the overall performance and bond between handler and dog rather than on the number of tricks performed during a routine. Handler and dog should both seem to be enjoying the sport. There are four categories being judged, each worth 10 points: Positive Bond between Human and Dog, Choreography and Transitions, Accuracy, and Overall Performance. There are no minimum or maximum numbers of tricks needed, or any particular required moves. Johnson says, We want to allow everyone that enters to be as creative as they wish!Musical Cover Image-3

Events are divided into a Canine Freestyle and Props divisions (with Junior counterparts), each offering four titles, from Green Freestyler (GF) to Excellent Freestyler (EF). Medals will be sent to first, second, and third place winners in each division. Titles will require earning two legs. The minimum qualifying score for a leg is 28 points.

SDCF will hold four competitions per year. The club’s first video competition has a deadline of July 30, 2010. Entries will be judged by two different judges and the scores will be averaged. Results will be available approximately 30 days after the deadline.

To enter, the competitor must join the group (the annual membership fee is $40) and also pay entry fees of $30 per entry, per dog. For the first competition in July, all entries must be submitted via youtube. All rules and regulations for the event, including detailed instructions on using youtube, can be found on the SDCF site at

The founders of SDCF clearly want to share their love of canine freestyle while encouraging dog owners to enjoy spending time with their dogs. They’ve made it as easy as possible for you to join them in their favorite sport. Are you game?