About Joan Tennille

In October of 1993, Ms. Joan Tennille introduced what she called “Canine Freestyle” to the world as a new discipline in the Sport of Dogs. Ms. Tennille’s four original choreographed Canine Freestyle presentations were performed at The Cycle Classic in Memphis, Tennessee. Each team’s presentation highlighted the unique and joyful relationship between that dog and person with artistically expressed movement illustrating mutual delight in working and training together. The demo group included three teams who had earned OTCH titles and one novice team. Each presentation was choreographed and focused on the dog’s best attributes. The music for teams was individually selected to focus on each dog’s unique temperament and movement behaviors when presenting before spectators. These concepts, as conceived by Ms. Tennille in 1993, are still the guiding tenets of today’s Canine Freestyle Federation training, classes, and presentations at sanctioned Titling Events around the country.

For those original presentations, Ms. Tennille designed an open space with no barricade of any kind; it was specified to be 40′ x 50’, the ideal space for performance partners to move in and through, a three-dimensional arena for teams to be able to clarify the objective of this exciting new discipline. Team movement designs were created to focus on a behavior or quality relative to the reference positions of heel and front. Ms. Tennille’s skill as a choreographer showcased each team’s training strengths with honor and respect by illustrating their oneness as working partners, by showcasing the expression of mutual trust between dog and human, and by enhancing the willingness of each of the pair of presenters to respond equally to one another in an artistic and creative way. From the day of that first set of presentations in Memphis, enthusiasts in the Sport of Dogs recognized that something entirely new had been created. Ms. Tennille had brought into being a unique discipline which could engage the spectators in a powerful and emotional way; she had designed a venue which would both demand and celebrate a true and creative partnership between a dog and human team. The successes of those first two days of demonstrations were followed by seminars in the United States, Canada, and England along with many more requests for demonstrations.

In 1997, Ms. Tennille developed a training method for the sport of Canine Freestyle incorporating three invaluable training skills, skills which are conceptually based, lending much depth and breadth to the sport. In her training design, which is used in today’s CanineFreestyle Dogwork® classes, teams train technically in movement. Performance training in Ms. Tennille’s method focuses on artistry to express behaviors and qualities; teams train to communicate objectives and purpose to spectators; creative skills are honed to combine with music as each team crafts its own personal test (presentation). Under this training design, teams are empowered to grow in the performance skill of artistic expression as the human and canine partners progress creatively. The ability to maintain spectator interest improves as teams train in performance and choreography; Ms. Tennille had created a recipe for success.

In 1995, Ms. Tennille co-founded the Canine Freestyle Federation as the international organization to support and guide the new competitive event for dog and handler teams. Through the Federation, Ms. Tennille continues to teach and share this remarkable discipline in the Sport of Dogs. As the first President of the Federation, she developed a training program and judging protocols; she also designed standards of training for Federation judges and methods for judges to maintain their skills in this new discipline. Through Ms. Tennille’s work, a Canine Freestyle Federation Guild program was established to promote CanineFreestyle Dogwork® on local and regional levels as a training and competitive discipline. She initiated The Learning Center which is the Federation’s online teaching program. Joan Tennille’s ingenuity, dedication, and vision are exemplified in today’s Canine Freestyle Federation.

Joan Tennille and her Cavalier Toddy
Painting of Joan Tennille and her Cavalier Claire