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Dancing doggies

A couple of trainers want to turn local dog owners on to canine freestyle dance

The days of sit, stay and roll over are pass? for Barb Velasquez and her black lab, Mariah, who instead are now busy putting the boogie in Boogie Oogie Oogie.

The professional trainer and her dog are learning to back up, walk, spin and weave together to the disco beat of that 1971 classic for a dance routine that'd make David Letterman toss his pencil.

You can make up whatever routine you want to whatever music you want, says Velasquez, 35, of Medford. This is exciting and challenging.

This is Dogs Gone Dancin', a canine agility discipline that puts a new spin on what Rogue Valley dog lovers can do with their best friends.

— Velasquez is one of two local trainers who are introducing Medford to canine freestyle dance as a new outlet for meshing traditional dog training with musical flair.

Pooch and partner can cuchi-cuchi like Charo to the beat of everything from salsa to ballroom to ballads to country or rap.

When you tell people you dance with your dog, they look at you funny, says trainer Julie Flanery of Philomath, a dog-dancer since 1999. It's not dogs standing up on their hind legs holding your hands with their paws.

It's a combination of obedience and tricks set to music, she says.

For 45-year-old Laura Ormsby of Central Point, it's doing spins and twirls with her 35-pound sheltie, Jake, to the paw-tapping sounds of Hello, Dolly.

You can see it in my dogs' eyes that they just love it, says Ormsby, who joins Velasquez as the only two members of the Dogs Gone Dancin'-Medford Chapter. They're so excited to train and it's so different than anything else they've done.

The pair expect the craze to catch on in the canine community here.

Dogs Gone Dancin' is holding a two-day workshop featuring Flanery today at a Medford tire store, and Ormsby expects the club soon to reach 100 members hungry for a new discipline to teach their dogs.

The dog days of dance began in British Columbia in 1989 and quickly spread to the United Kingdom, where it is a standardized sport with its own rules, certifications and competitions, according to the Brooklyn-based World Canine Freestyle Organization.

It has its own Web site () and a meticulous set of rules ' two-minute routines for rookies, and the dogs can wear costumes on their neck and ankles, but no tuxes or party dresses.

There's even an elaborate certification process that earns the title of WFD ' World Freestyle Dog. And WFDs can square off in competitions by videotaping their routines and sending them to judges.

Sometimes it can be very touching, very emotional, depending on the music, Velasquez says. Sometimes you can be just amazed at what the dog can do.

Ormsby spied a video clip of some U.K. acts in May and became hooked.

When I saw this, I thought that, oh my gosh, I have to do this, Ormsby says. Of all the stuff I've trained dogs to do, this would be the most fun.

Ormsby and Velasquez then tracked down Flanery and began their training, usually devoting about 15 minutes a day to dog-dancing.

Sometimes, the dogs even come up with their own moves and you work them in, says Flanery, 44. The level of obedience and training is incredible, she adds.

It's not just a bunch of old women dancing with their dogs, she says.

Want to teach your poodle to prance? WHAT: A two-day workshop teaching freestyle dog dancing.

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, and 10 a.m. to — p.m. Sunday.

WHERE: A warehouse at Ed's Tire Factory, 2390 N. Pacific Highway, Medford.

COST: &

36;60 for up to 30 people who bring their dogs to the two sessions. &

36;25 to audit without a dog. Continental breakfast is included.

MORE INFORMATION: Call Laura Ormsby at 826-7829.

ON THE WEB: www.worldcaninefreestyle.org

Laura Ormsby and Jake get into the spirit of Dogs Gone Dancin', a Rogue Valley club that offers a new kind of recreation for dogs and their owners. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell