Durban - Dancing is not something you would expect a Rottweiler to excel at.
But Jax, a two-year-old male Rotty loves to dance with his owner, Lisa Robinson.
Lisa is regional director for Dancing with Dogs in Durban, a branch of the South African Dog Dancing Association, and Jax clearly loves dancing to the soulful Andy Williams hit More, weaving in between her legs, paying attention to her commands.
“He’s a big dog so a slower number suits him better,” says Lisa.
Molly the Maltese-cross, a 2-year-old rescue dog, is Lisa’s other dancing partner. She has a different, more playful style, even getting on to two legs, leaping off Lisa and dancing on her feet, as upbeat music gets her going.
They are part of the growing dancing with dogs phenomenon and you will be able to see Lisa and her canine partners at the Paws in the Park event on August 9, just after 9.30am.
“When you dance with your dog you are spending quality time with him or her,” says Lisa, an animal behaviourist who teaches private obedience classes and dancing with dogs. She is also a carting judge (where a dog pulls a small cart) in between her full-time job as a store manager for a food retail chain and studying for a BA in industrial psychology.
“Dancing is a sport that involves obedience and co-ordination, so when you are dancing with your dog, you are training your dog and having fun while doing it.
“My two Rottweilers are obedience trained and while obedience is important, doing the same thing over and over can become boring. I love dancing because when you know the basics you can put dances together and entertain people.”
Some breeds are better suited to dancing than others, says Lisa, who teaches freestyle and heel work to music.
“Border collies and Maltese poodles are awesome dogs for dancing as they have high drive levels. But any breed will learn to dance if they have the drive to work.
“Every dog is different. In dancing you look at the natural behaviours the dog gives you and you enhance and shape those behaviours to what you can work with. Molly my little SPCA dog that I have had for nine weeks can ‘fly off my legs’. She is a naturally bouncy dog and was jumping off walls, so I took that behaviour and worked it in to what I wanted. In dancing I recommend people use clickers, which help tell the dog what you as the handler are looking for, and food.”
The time taken to master the moves varies between dogs and handlers.
“You can perfect it today, but tomorrow your dog will have forgotten it because of a distraction. Dogs normally peak at the age of four to five. You can develop a routine but it may not go according to plan on the day and you will have to improvise.”
Lisa’s passion for dogs and dog training began at the age of seven when neighbours’ dogs would join the family’s pooches in the garden and she would train them in obedience and agility.
“I remember taking my mother’s brooms, putting them on bricks and making the dogs jump,” she said. “When I was 10, I got a Boxer called Salsa and did agility and obedience training with her. We started competing (in obedience) and from then on I knew that I wanted to become a trainer.”
This week she is in Johannesburg to be trained in rally dance, a new sport that is freestyle dancing with a stop watch.
“Instead of making up your dance, the moves are given to you.
“I am all for any sport where you and your dog work together and there is no harm brought to dog or owner. I love dog dancing because once you know the basics you can put dances together and entertain people.”
Lindsay Ord, Daily News