Dog likes to dance


Q. In your article about dogs and music in the March 2020 issue, you said that while our pets seem to prefer certain musical genres, they don’t perceive music in the same way people do and don’t really get that there’s a rhythm to song. But people and their dogs can take dance classes in musical freestyle; it’s often listed as a good form of environmental enrichment for our pets. If dogs don’t really “get” music and can’t move to the groove, how can they dance?

Ivan Komidulin
Eau Claire, Wisconsin

A. Dear Mr. Komidulin,

Your question is a reasonable one, more so in light of the fact that you can find lots of dogs “dancing” on YouTube. The answer is that they are not being cued to their moves by a musical pattern. Rather, they’re learning to follow cues in quick succession from their owners. Consider, for instance, the demonstration by a woman and her border collie who moved to the sizzling Bolero. Dressed in a matador costume, the canine’s owner twirled as the dog circled around her. The dog then repeatedly jumped over her legs while she completed a string of high kicks. Finally, the pet stood on his hind legs and, like any passionate dance partner, put his paws on the woman’s hips as they moved across the floor together.

But he was not taking hints from the beat or the rhythm. The woman had carefully taught him how do to one trick right after the other so that it all looked like choreography when it was really just a series of separate feats the dog had been trained to perform in tandem.

Musical freestyle is a great form of bonding between people and their dogs, by the way. It can strengthen an already-close connection with an owner and his or her pet and is especially good for dog owners who aren’t very fast or athletic and don’t want to throw a ball or Frisbee around. To learn more about musical freestyle, check out The World Canine Freestyle Organization at


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