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More Articles

Where Obedience Leaves Off and Freestyle Starts
A Rose Is A Rose Is A Rose
The Freestyle Challenge
Getting Started With Freestyle
Definition of Freestyle and Structure of a Freestyle Performance
More Than Just Heeling
Creative Development of Movement
Music, Rhythm and Freestyle
Understanding Required Moves
Do I Have to Dance?
Freestyle - A Point of View
Training: a New Mindset
My Introduction to Training a Freestyle Dog
It Takes Three - The Audience
Choreography: How to Begin
40x50 Feet: The Empty Canvas
Rhythm: The Great Organizer
What is a Guild

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While working with a Freestyle student recently I was suddenly struck by her comment, "I need to change my focus from obedience training because Freestyle is more fun to train." "Why," I immediately asked, "should one be more ‘fun’ than the other to train?" And now I ask you the same question. Why should anything we teach/train our dogs to do be more fun than anything else?

I think part of the answer is we have allowed ourselves to fall into the trap of a certain mindset: obedience is work, agility is fun, freestyle is fun, etc. Agility is fun because dogs naturally love to race around at full tilt, running and climbing and tunneling and weaving. Those are all great tricks. Freestyle is fun because it is also perceived as teaching tricks, whether backing and laterals or spins and weaves. Well, why aren’t a spiffy finish or a flashy recall or beautiful heeling also great tricks? I think they are. The bottom line is that everything we teach our dogs is a great trick, a marvelous example of the dog’s learning capacity and our ability to teach them.

So whence comes the mindset that obedience is work and can’t be as much fun? Is it because much of obedience revolves around real everyday issues which enable our dogs to coexist with us? Is it because we feel that to be well mannered, long lived pets we must teach our dogs to come, sit and stay? Well, yes of course we need to teach our dogs these basic manners, but who ever said it shouldn’t be fun, for us or the dog? Does the must take all the fun out of the accomplishment? Why not try approaching obedience exercises with the same joy and anticipation as we look upon teaching our dogs to roll over or shake or climb an A-frame or sidestep? Why not show our dogs the same sincere delight and appreciation when they accomplish any of these asks/exercises/tricks?

Many people seem to be jumping on the Freestyle bandwagon because they think Freestyle is more fun than obedience. Well, actually they’re just two sides of the same coin, a many sided coin. It’s all training, whether Freestyle or obedience or agility or field work or earthdog or lure coursing or carting. If one is more or less fun than any other it is because we have allowed it to become so. This is a mindset. And if you think certain training isn’t fun you can be darn sure your dog thinks the same, because your dog is a master at reading your attitude.

Maybe the music makes Freestyle more fun than obedience. Maybe you are intrigued at teaching new skills to your dogs and as you experiment you are very cognizant of maintaining your dog’s attitude. Maybe just breaking out of the mold of the same old exercises is what makes the difference. Many Freestylers are saying that Freestyle is, at the same time, the most difficult and the most fun and satisfying work they have done with their dogs. Do the new challenges change your mindset?

Regardless of the reasons, I challenge you to take your newfound joy in Freestyle and apply it to your obedience work. Freestyle’s foundations are in obedience anyway and if Freestyle can give back to obedience the joy, pleasure and delight of training, then, in that alone, its contribution will have been substantial. I know many of you have already found your obedience work improving after taking up Freestyle. Have you been able to figure out why?

So remember, your attitude and mindset toward training are all important. Training wasn’t your dog’s idea and you owe it to him/her to make it as much fun as possible. If your dog is bored or unhappy look to yourself for the reasons. To those who say "My dog is bored with obedience," I say "Who let him get bored?" This can be a disturbing revelation at first, but once you choose to make a change, you and your dog will develop an even deeper relationship and will soar to new heights together.

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