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Friday, September 02, 2005

Canine Freestyle Dancing

BY MAUREEN JENKINS Staff Reporter, Chicago Sun-Times

Canine freestyle dancing is the latest craze. A sport of sorts rooted in the United Kingdom and Canada, it has taken off in the United States as dogs and owners choreograph and glide through routines thanks to hand signals and spoken commands. "The dogs love it because they're social animals," says Patie Ventre, World Canine Freestyle Organization founder. "There are no professional handlers; they're all dog and owner."

These freestyle dancers kick up their heels -- and paws -- to Broadway show tunes and songs from Shania Twain and Frank Sinatra, with dog partners weaving in and out of their costumed owners' legs, trotting backward and rolling over on command, and prancing around on their hind legs. Some even take part in competitions. In the Chicago area, dog enthusiast Cindy Morettin -- a "freestyler" for the past four years -- is helping launch a group for folks who share her excitement.

"It is just the niftiest thing," says Morettin of west suburban Sugar Grove, whose canine dance partners include 3-year-old Australian Shepherd Mia-dog and 8-year-old Golden Retriever Clark Kent, "to think you're doing this as a team. They love it because it's really positive. You train them with treats and a lot of praise -- and they really get into the music."


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