This article was written courtesy of Doris Herber. I am very grateful for her interest in submitting this article.
Not for the faint of heart. However, if you wish a noncompetitive, group activity with your dog that goes beyond the regimented rules of obedience, here is one with absolutely no rules at all. It can be whatever you want: straight marching, dancing, done with props, done with or without music - your imagination is your only limitation.
The suggestions and information included here come from my own experience as coordinator, leader, founder of a K-9 drill team. I know of no other resource about this activity - it just kind of developed from training fun I was having with my Basenji. (Don't laugh - they are trainable.)
IF YOU ARE GOING TO ORGANIZE A DRILL TEAM, CONSIDER THESE:
YOU MUST BE ABLE TO, OR HAVE MEMBERS WHO ARE ABLE TO:
Break down music into basic beats and measures.
Visualize, both from top and side, people and dogs moving in formations.
Diagram formations on paper.
Demonstrate moves to other members.
Provide ideas for training movements to dogs.
Pick a short, snappy piece of music and choose basic obedience skills such as "heel", "halt and sit", "stay", "drop", "come", and "return to heel." Save the fancier dance movements for later. Routines can be created for as few as two people, and if that is all you have - start! Others may like what you are doing and join. After conquering the first routine, begin a second; working on one or more routines at once allows for "CHA" various positions during practices. Team members might want to alternate being "fill ins" for different routines.
PRACTICING EVERY OTHER WEEK WITHOUT THE DOGS IS A MUST, IF THE GROUP IS TO EVER GET THE FOOTWORK, TIMING, AND COORDINATION TOGETHER
FACILITY: We used and needed a 40 x 80 ft area for a six member team, with dogs, to learn routines. Unless you always perform in the same place, you will have to adapt your routine to various sized rooms. It is amazing how much space can be used up by a team in action. Even if you have plenty of room where you practice, make sure you are able to perform in tight places. Small steps, sharp turns, and close positioning can help conserve space. Keeping routines simple makes it possible to perform with just a part of the team, if necessary.
MEMBER RESPONSIBILITIES: A drill team is first and foremost a TEAM. Each member must have a strong commitment to making the team a success by supporting the efforts of other team members. Without mutual help, respect, and support, the drill team ceases to be a team and becomes simply a group of people each performing the same routine in the same room at the same time.
PITFALLS: Besides the problems faced in any group activity, there are a couple which are specific to drill team work You may arrive at a location to perform and discover that whoever promised you the large activity center was over ruled and now you must work in an area the size of a large closet. (Remember to practice small.) Some members may be slower learning a routine. These folks may need a mini-practice outside of regularly scheduled practices.
GETTING STARTED: The steps necessary to start a new routine:
Chose a song
Plot out the timing
Choreograph the movements of people and dogs
If you will be performing for money, get copyright release for music (consult an attorney)
Make copies of music on tapes so each member has music at home with which to practice
Write down the movements of the routine, copy, and give to each member
Demonstrate people and dog movements to the group
Practice, practice, practice
When your group is comfortable with the routine, call and schedule free practice performances for nursing homes and school groups
Practice, practice, practice some more
Give the greatest drill team routine ever presented to a live audience
Work? Yes. And lots of it. But the exhilarating sensation of being a part of two teams; you and your dog, and the team as a whole, must be experienced to be understood. It is very impressive to watch several owners and dogs synchronized in motion to music. To the uninitiated, it looks like magic. To those participating and who know the work and fun that went into it, it is a miracle. Good luck.
Join our K-9 Drill Team Yahoo group to share ideas, suggestions for music, moves, or help in getting started. http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/k9drillteam/ or e-mail me (Doris Herber). I will do what I can to help. I still have copies of routines we did and will be happy to share them with you.
The above article is brought to you by DogPlay, courtesy of the author Doris Herber.
Check the link page for some k9 Drill Team clubs
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