Heel Work to Music

What is it?

Heelwork to Music is a canine activity which is particularly suited to the liveliness, intelligence and showmanship of the Papillon.

'Taking a Bow'

HTM, as it is known for short, is divided into two sections –– Heelwork to Music and Freestyle. As the name suggests HTM is rather like Obedience heelwork done to music although with some extra moves added. The dogs are not always in the conventional heel position. They can also move sideways and backwards and such moves as spins, circles and leg weaving may be added. Moreover the handler is not always in the conventional Obedience position either as he or she may choose to do part of the routine sitting on the floor. In HTM the bulk of the routine –– about 50% –– should be done either in the heel position or in another close position. Freestyle almost comes under the heading of Anything Goes. Here the variety of freestyle moves are more important. Heelwork should be kept to a minimum although it is recognised that it is useful for linking up moves and also for helping the handler to make good use of the floor space. In Freestyle credit is given for the dog working at a distance from the handler.


In both HTM and Freestyle the music should complement the routine. Props and costume can enhance a routine. For example, for Singing in the Rain an umbrella can be used and the dog can jump over it and do circles around it. For a cowboy song such as I've got Spurs that Jingle, Jangle, Jingle a cowboy costume can be worn and the hat can be taken off and put on the ground for the dog to circle.

It is also important to use the music and keep in time to it.


Videos and DVDs

In HTM every routine is different as it is the handler who chooses the music and who works out the routine. This is quite different from any other canine activity where the handler is told what to do. For example in Obedience the handler has to follow the instructions of the steward. But in HTM it is the handler who decides exactly what to do. So if a dog does not like any particular move then, instead of struggling with it, the handler can just decided to miss it out of the dog's repertoire.

This uniqueness of routines has led to an interesting development. Now the majority of HTM Events (in HTM they are called Events and not Shows) are put on video or DVD. Some of these are professional productions, others amateur. So anyone not able to get to an Event can still see it.


photo:Nick Ridley


HTM started in the early 1990s. In the UK it was pioneered and promoted by Mary Ray particularly with her demonstrations at Crufts. But there was also a kind of spontaneous combustion as it was also done in different parts of the world and today it is strong in Europe, North America and Japan.

photo by http://www.actionshots.org.uk/

In 2002 the first Events were held in the UK under Kennel Club regulations. This means that HTM now has a similar structure to other canine activities and dogs can win their way through the classes from Starters to Advanced. In 2005 there was an HTM competition held at Crufts for the first time. But Events held under Kennel Club regulations are not the only HTM Events. Fun Days are also popular. Under KC regulations the dog must work off lead and food and toys may not be taken into the ring. For a Fun Day the rules are made by the organisation putting on the Event and some allow food and toys in the ring. Also, even at a KC regulation Event, the KC allows the club to put on extra classes and many choose to schedule an Absolute Beginners class.


Training and Societies

How does one get started in HTM? First of all the dog should learn basic control and be able to work off the lead. Here a good dog class can be helpful. Note I stress a good dog class. A bad dog class can do more harm than good.

For the actual HTM a specialist class is not necessary. There are plenty of instructional videos and books. Also many HTM handlers use clicker training and it would be a good idea to work with a clicker trainer. Most clicker trainers teach ‘clicker tricks' –– which is actually HTM without the music. To find your nearest clicker trainer go to the web site of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and click on Find a Trainer. The address is http://www.apdt.co.uk/

It would also be helpful to join some of the main HTM societies in the country. This would provide information and schedules for Events and also information on where to get instructional videos. Some of the main societies are given below.

Paws and Music http://www.paws-n-music.co.uk/

Canine Freestyle GB http://www.caninefreestylegb.com/

Dog Education, Scotland http://www.dog-ed-scotland.co.uk/


Breeds Taking Part

HTM is being done by a wide range of breeds. It is an activity which allows a dog to be itself and show off its own personality.

And Papillons are already beginning to make their presence felt.