(ANIMAL NEWS) BRITAIN— With the burgeoning popularity of Britain’s got Talent victors Ashley Butler and her 6-year-old cross-breed Pudsey, Britain saw an increase in dog dancing. The dancing duo inspired a number of dogs throughout the country to perform this new activity named “heelwork to music.” In response, Britain’s Kennel Club announced a ban on this and any dangerous tricks taught to dogs. The BKC also banned any ‘degrading’ behavior concerning pets, including guardians over-dressing their canine companions. While people may find amusement in the two-legged waltzing of a gaudily dressed puppy, pets do not. Read more about Britain’s great concern for their country’s animal welfare. — Global Animal
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Britain’s Kennel Club has announced a ban on ‘degrading’ routines and tricks following a rise in the popularity of dog dancing.
When Pudsey the dog triumphed on Britain’s Got Talent, it led to a surge of interest in the little-known pastime of dog dancing.
The animal’s performance, pirouetting on his hind legs and weaving through the arms of his 16-year-old owner, Ashleigh Butler, prompted other owners to have a go with their pets.
But some of the dance moves being attempted have so alarmed the Kennel Club that it has announced a ban on certain tricks.
The organization — the UK’s governing body for dog activities — has outlawed moves it considers “extreme” or “unnatural” for fear they could injure the animals.
It has also introduced new rules against routines that are “degrading” to the dogs. This includes dressing the animals in costumes — although fancy dress is still permitted for their handlers.
The club has not introduced a set list of proscribed moves as it believes this could encourage owners to develop even riskier routines to get around the banned techniques. However, among the moves that have been prompting concerns are:
* “The wheelbarrow”, where the dog’s hind legs are held by the owner and the animal is walked on its front legs. This can damage the dog’s back and pelvis.
* “The footstand”, where the handler lies on the ground with their feet in the air and the dog stands on these. If the animal slipped, it could strain a limb.
* “Shoulder jumps”, in which the dog leaps from the owner’s shoulders, risking a sprain. This is a favorite move by Pudsey, but Ashleigh crouches over to safely bring him nearer the ground.
* Walking on front paws, which can damage joints. Walking on hind legs is a problem if done for longer than around 10 seconds. Pudsey’s routine includes short periods on his hind legs.
Caroline Kisko, the club’s secretary, said the rule changes had been introduced in response to the rising number of people taking part in the activity, known officially as “heelwork to music”.
“We know that the more people we get into the sport, the more they are going to have to look to other types of moves in order to make an impact,” she said. “We are trying to pre-empt that. The priority is the dog’s safety.
“We have used Ashleigh and Pudsey as an opportunity to encourage people to get into it.
“Our interest is to get people out and about with their dogs, and to keep them active.”
Judges will disqualify any pair whose routine they consider extreme, unnatural or degrading. Ms Kisco said the use of costumes would certainly be banned under the regulations.
“We are trying to stop what we would see as demeaning for the dog,” she said.
“They are allowed to wear a certain amount — perhaps the equivalent of a dog coat. But we would absolutely not expect the dog to turn up in a full Father Christmas Claus kit, for instance.”
Heelwork to music emerged in the Nineties and has been regulated by the Kennel Club since 2002. There are about 90 affiliated clubs that offer dog dancing activities.
The club reported a 20 per cent increase in interest in the activity after Ashleigh and Pudsey appeared on Britain’s Got Talent earlier this year.
Ashleigh, of Wellingborough, Northants, is a member of the Young Kennel Club and it was there that she became interested in the activity.
Mary Ray, who is credited with popularizing heelwork to music and regularly performs at Crufts, welcomed the new rules.
“Personally, I find some moves, like walking them on their front legs, degrading to the dog,” she said. “And I’m not happy with costumes. They are dogs and they don’t wear clothes.”
At club events, participants perform routines of up to four minutes set to music.
Most dog shows feature two categories — “heelwork”, which is more structured, and “freestyle”, which involves more innovative tricks. Both are scored on content, accuracy and musical interpretation.
The new regulations do not formally take effect until the start of next year, but the Kennel Club has ordered competitors to observe them “in spirit … with immediate effect”.