Q: I saw a YouTube video of a woman dancing with her dog in an event called Freestyle. What's this all about? I'm a former ballroom dancer and, call me crazy, but I dance with my dog, Charlie, when I vacuum.
A: You're not alone, according to World Canine Freestyle CEO Patie Ventre. "There are thousands of closet dancers who dance with their dogs when they're doing housework or cooking."
Freestyle competitors aren't judged too differently than freestyle ballroom roomers, which Ventre once was. Handlers pair up with their dogs in a routine choreographed to music, anything from oldies rock 'n' roll to contemporary tunes to jazz.
If it was up to Ventre, the Abner Doubleday of Freestyle, the event would be an Olympic sport. And she would be hosting a reality show called, Dancing With the Dogs.
"It's about the dancing, but even more so about strengthening the bond people have with their dogs," she says. "There's no dominance training here because when you dance you have to work as equal partners. In fact, sometimes dogs are better dancers than their people."
Learn more about getting started, where to find dog trainers who teach freestyle, and lots more at www.worldcaninefreestyle.org. To see canine freestyle in action, check out www.youtube.com; in the search box, type "dancing dogs" or "canine freestyle."
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Untraining dachshunds from using indoor pads
Q: We purchased our two dachshund brothers in the winter, so housetraining didn't go well. We decided to use pee pads, which turned out to be a big mistake. Now, they're nearly 2 years old and still going on the pads, but not outdoors. How do we get them to relieve themselves outside?
R.N., Wild Rose, WI
A: "It's interesting how problems come in twos with dachshunds," says dog trainer Krista Cantrell, author of Housetrain Your Dog Now (Plume Penguin Putnam, $12.95). "I just dealt with two dachshunds barking together. These dogs are piddling together."
Day by day, move the pee pads closer to a door. Once you get there, let the pads straddle the door for a day or two, then put them outside. Next, take your dogs on leash to the pee pads. As they go, say, "go potty" and instantly offer a treat only used for this purpose and lots of praise. By saying "go potty," eventually you'll train them to do their business on command.
Once the dogs are comfortable going on pee pads outside for a week or so, begin to cut away the pads little by little. As the pads shrink, the dogs will start to go on the grass a little until they have to because the pads are too small to use.
Cantrell points out that if you're leaving your dogs alone for more than six to eight hours every day, giving them an option to go indoors on pee pads is the most humane choice. Other options are to install a doggy door (the dogs will need to be shown how to use it) or hire a dog walker.
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The Action column is on hiatus while our columnist Emily Rieman is on assignment. Please send general questions to Ask the Times at firstname.lastname@example.org.