The Dog Word

Freestyle Competitions

Learn all about freestyle competitions for a handler and their dog.

Freestyle competitions are where the handler and dog perform a creative routine to the sound of music. The music choice is that of the handler. Sometimes the routines have a comedy element, but it doesn’t have to.

According to Crufts guidelines, one of the largest competitions for Freestyle, they define and judge freestyle as:


Dog Freestyle Competitions

“A freestyle routine will be the dog working off lead and contain movements in any position. Heelwork (as described below) is acceptable although such movements must not exceed one third of the routine.

Heelwork is defined as the dog working off lead in the heelwork position, on the left or right-hand side of the handler, facing forward or backward, across the front or back of the handler, moving in any direction, at any pace. The shoulder should be approximately level with, and reasonably close to, the handler’s leg.”

This is different from the Heelwork to Music competition but is very similar. The difference is that in freestyle the handler has a little more creative flexibility but is limited to how much heelwork can be in their routine. In the Heelwork to Music competition emphasis is placed on the heelwork, while that is not important in freestyle. Both style’s of competition first became popular in the UK, and is officially recognized by the UK Kennel Club. The FCI started holding World Championships in the early 2000’s.

What Does it Take to Train a Dog in Freestyle

Training a dog to do what you want can be easy if you have a dog that is easy to train and are able to find creative, effective ways to communicate what you want. Since a freestyle music competition is really all about applying your creativity and creating a routine to have fun with, the possibilities are endless. What you’ll need to train your dog then becomes all about what your trying to achieve. 


There are 2 official competitions that international participants can compete in, like someone living in the Canada, or America. Since the CKC and the AKC do not recognize this style of competition, you won’t find any on their event calendar. So if you are looking to compete you should try doing a local search to see if competitions are being run aside from your national Kennel Club. You can also consider the annual Crufts competition, which has taken place in the UK for the last 125 years. The FCI World Canine Organization also holds World Championships.


Crufts holds a competition each year where they only allow one individual to compete as a representative of their country. If you plan to compete at Crufts you will have to apply and see whether or not someone else applies from your country. Then they decide who can compete. You can check out Crafts on their website at


When you enter to participate in the FCI Freestyle World Championship competition, you will be competing as a representative of your country. There are only a maximum of 4 dog and handlers allowed, and a minimum of 3 needed. If you are considering competing then you should make yourself familiar with the FCI’s regulations for dog dancing competitions. These apply to both Freestyle and Heelwork to Music competitions.

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