Donelda Guy was born in the picturesque country village of Wigtown on the Scottish Border. She moved permanently to the Channel Island of Jersey off the French and English coasts in 1956 with her parents. Having had a career in hair styling and event management to fund raise for charities she pursued her passion for obedience dog training and competing in dog shows, performing with her dogs on stage, at the Theatre and on Television.
Donelda has been in the business of training dogs for over 40 years and started 15 years ago training dogs in Heelwork to Music (HWTM). Originally the moves were classic Heelwork with spins, twists and weaves and the concept of using music was introduced by John Gilbert and Mary Ray. Donelda won the inaugural event for HWTM in Coventry in 1996. In Freestyle you can create exciting moves in your routines incorporating distance moves, providing the moves are not dangerous to the dog. Freestyle has taken over from HWTM as the spectator sport.
Donelda is well known in the dog world and around the time of the first HWTM competition held in Coventry, was invited to America, Houston Texas, where she had the privilege of judging the fabulous Sandra Davis and her border collie, Pepper, at the Footloose Show. This was organised by the fabulous Caroline Scott who was the owner of the amazing “backing up” Golden Retriever, Rookie. This was Donelda’s introduction to Freestyling. At that time, Sandra and Pepper were the forerunners of many of the advanced moves and choreography which we see today. Donelda brought these moves and ideas back with her to the UK and incorporated them in many of her routines. These moves included distance moves and dogs on their hind legs which were seen for the first time in UK competitions. Since then, many of her fellow dog trainers have used and expanded on these moves. Having had great success at many well known dog shows and competitions, Donelda has a wealth of experience that she has shared with her colleagues in the business and up and coming dog trainers through her book and training DVD’s.
In the early days, certain people frowned upon the use of the term ‘Dancing Dogs’, but now it is readily used by most people instead of the term ‘canine freestyle/HWTM’. Unfortunately, the term ‘Dancing Dogs’ is a necessary evil to obtain audiences but this is only used until audiences are au fait with the term HWTM/Freestyle. Putting on a show is an expensive affair and if ‘Dancing Dogs’ puts bums on seats then unfortunately it is a term that must be used. Considering it is 2010, ‘Dancing Dogs’ is still the norm and is even used by those who were strongly opposed to this term.
Donelda was one of the driving forces of HWTM in Jersey and helped run shows in the UK, being one of the founder members of the Freestyle HWTM Association.This was attracting over 200 members in its first year including many of the talented Freestylers.To put it in a nutshell, this upset ‘the establishment’ who then took steps to take over the Association. Donelda feels that this action and for other reasons, the sport has been greatly held back. Since 1999 Donelda has held a competition in Jersey every alternate year.The first competition was under the auspices of the American, World Canine Freestyle Organisation, the founder of which is Patie Ventre, a dynamic lady who has Freestyle as an Olympic event in the horizon.
Donelda started HWTM (Freestyle) when she was asked to do a demonstration in Jersey in about 1995. Donelda happened to be in England at that time and telephoned Mary Ray to see if Mary could show her how she put the Glenn Miller’s “St Louis Blues March” routine together.This was Mary’s current routine with her Tervueren, Roxy. Donelda spent a very pleasant afternoon with Mary and her husband Dave. Mary took the time to show Donelda how she put together her routine and Donelda had the privilege of working the fabulous Roxy which she thoroughly enjoyed. Shortly after this the first ever competition took place in Coventry and the rest is history.
Words from Anne Northfield
“I met Donelda in 1996 at Coventry at the very first Heelwork to Music demonstration in England. The atmosphere at this first show was electrifying and full of expectancy for both competitors and spectators alike, as none of us were sure which way this new sport of ours would go.
When Donelda and Chelsea entered the ring all went quiet as they performed a wonderful routine to ‘A Dancing Fool’ by the West End Orchestra with Gary Wilmott. I will never forget Donelda's glitzy sequined top, which shone out, as did her routine. She possessed the certain 'X' Factor, or what I call her razzmatazz showbiz quality, which definitely adds to the entertainment value of her performances. They performed movements the rest of us hadn't even dreamed of, and the large crowd of spectators were enthralled. I felt that this was surely the way the sport would head, with more freestyle movements being incorporated into the programme. As we can see now in later years this is what is happening with classes being split into two categories, Heelwork to Music and Freestyle. The judges at this show obviously agreed as out of 24 entries Donelda and Chelsea came first. That was only the start of their success as they also won the second year's demonstrations, thrilling us all with their performance to ‘Crazy For You’ by the Deadrock Symphony Orchestra, introducing even more new movements that others have seen duplicated at subsequent shows, but it was Donelda who took the lead into this exciting path to where we are now heading.
When Donelda introduced her 10-
Anne Northfield has the distinction of being the first handler to win the Crufts obedience championship with a beautiful standard poodle ‘Ob Ch Benjomar Painted Lady of Iatka’ (Kirsty).Anne Northfield competed regularly at Crufts with her ‘Ob Ch Iatka You're My Girl’ (Holly) and Holly's daughter ‘Iatka Zingalong Ziggy. Anne has now sadly retired from the dog training world, a huge loss.
Words from Richard Curtis (from his book ‘Dancing With Dogs’)
“In 1995, Donelda put together a demonstration with her own dog. Since then, Donelda has become a driving force behind Heelwork To Music in the UK; her flamboyant and innovative style has attracted many admirers. Donelda started to use a variety of moves in her routines, going beyond heelwork and working with her dog at distance, which was the start of a more Freestyle approach to the discipline.”