What is Choreography?

Choreography is fitting steps/moves to music. People worry about choreography unnecessarily. It can be daunting if you think of the music as a whole. The secret is to break down the music, work on the start then the middle, and then the end. Visualise your dog’s moves to a particular piece of music and ask yourself, did that work? Go through it in your mind. This can save lots of time.

Don’t expect your dog to do the exact same thing every time you perform your routine. Everyone I know, myself included have adapted the routine according to the dog’s speed on the day.

Have music with a theme. It makes the working out of the routine much easier. Themed music is also good for costuming. Pick music that suits your dog, NOT you! Music should suggest moves to you, keep listening until this happens, IT WILL!

Have a great start, middle and a flash ending. Do hold your end pose for a few seconds. Your music can suggest moves that you hadn’t even thought of before! Alternatively, your dog might do something that will give you an idea for a new move. Don’t forget to work on your transitional moves, these are as important as your “flash moves”. Also visualise how you will get your dog to go from one move to the other (i.e. Transitional moves).

Practice, practice, practice until you know exactly what the routine is. There is nothing more off putting to your dog if you are not sure of the routine!

Now you know the routine inside out, your dog knows the moves, what next I hear you ask. Simple! Practice, practice, practice!

Table of Contents


  1. For your first HWTM/Freestyle routine, teach your dog as many moves as you can.
  2. Pick a suitable piece of music, one which suits the pace of your dog. Do not pick music just because you like it.
  3. Plan your routine, splitting it into three parts and making sure you cover 75% of the ring.
  4. Work out the first part of your routine alone and practice it yourself without the dog until you know the routine 100%. In the same vein, work with the dog on the moves that you will be using within that first part of the routine.
  5. When the dog responds to your cues 100%, then you can introduce the dog to the first part of the routine. The same thing applies to the second and third parts of the routine. In the meantime, don’t forget, you should still be practicing all your individual moves that you will be using in the routine. Yes, it’s hard work to do it properly! There are no shortcuts, you only get out what you put in and will be thrilled on the day when all goes well.
  6. Recap:
    Now you and your dog both know the moves and are confident with the routine. Keep in mind that you might have to adjust your routine because the dog may be a little quicker or slower than you expect. This will come with experience, do not worry. If you are confident the dog will be confident. Be prepared to have an ad lib move as sometimes nerves might play a part, you may forget part of the routine (perish the thought-but it does happen to the best of us), so have a plan ready. This is where knowing your music inside out comes into its own.

Tips to keep in mind

  1. A good start, a good middle and a good finish, make for an excellent routine.
  2. Make sure your best moves are in front of the judges or where the judges get a good view.
  3. Do not repeat any of your moves more than three times if possible.
  4. Always keep the audience wondering what is coming next and save the best for last.
  5. Costume, please make an effort with your costume.
  6. The first impression for the judges and audience is very important.

You do not need to go over the top but a good costume adds to the overall affect of the routine and a bit of pizzazz goes down well with the audience.

Music for the Competition

Make sure your music is clearly marked with only your music on it. You should have four copies, two to give in, one for you to practice with at home and one in the car.

The following are some tips about choice of music by Jayne and Julie Witte (professional dancers):

Choose music that you would enjoy listening to as well as your audience. Choose music with a strong beat to it. Themed music is a good idea. Hold the attention of your audience by having change of tempo and try not to make the routine too long. Find music with a strong introduction and strong finish. Remember the emphasis is to show off the dance skills of your dog.

Choose moves that are comfortable for you and your dog and practice them. Keep your arm movements basic so as not to confuse your dog.

Notes and numbers:

Listen to your music over and over again to hear the beat and the time signature. Most pieces you can count in eights, fours or waltz time 123. Listen for repeats in music and repeats of the chorus. You can repeat moves on the choruses but try doing the moves slightly different on each chorus to add variety.

Leave sufficient counts in the music for your dog to do his moves. Do not rush the music.


Keep the audience interested by using your floor space well. Turning the routine around so all the audience gets to view you. Use moves that reach up and then later on in the routine moves that get lower to the floor. Try to make your finish position strong and hold this position for a while at the end. Think about your costume complementing your music, your dog and yourself. Use props where needed but not too many in one routine. Leave the audience wanting more. Note down your routine in a way you understand. Perhaps counts of music and pictures of moves. Get someone to film you and have this as a back up.

Enjoy your dancing and have fun; this will come across in your routine.

Common mistakes

  1. Practising the whole routine too much only makes the dog anticipate the next move and depending upon the nature of the dog, can bore the dog or can make the dog too excited. This is where the unwanted barking can start.
  2. Not warming the dog up properly before you start your routine. The dog might have travelled miles in a car and is expected to perform smoothly and this is not possible.
  3. Changing your music too much. Decide on your music and stick to it.
  4. Once you have taught the dog a move for the routine and you have it in place, do not change it. There is a big possibility that the dog will revert to the original move on the day of the show.