The Courier-Mail - QWeekend

Maree Rablin

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I’ve grown up with dogs most of my life in Banyo, Brisbane. I’ve owned a variety of breeds from crossbreed bull-terriers, german shepherds, and a dingo – my dad, a truck driver, accidental­ly ran over the mother dingo one day when I was a kid and two pups had come running from the bush. He brought one puppy home and left one at the local service station for the young family there. I now have border collies.

Dancing with dogs is an awesome sport, it’s aimed at people of all ages and of all abilities. I have a love of doing trick work with dogs, so I joined a sport that started in 2009 called Dancers with Dogs. It’s trick work that’s choreograp­hed – a sequence of tricks you put to music and it gives you an illusion that you and your dog are dancing together. It’s right up my alley because I’m actually a dance teacher at Do Dance Academy in Aspley, which is my daughter’s studio. Although, being a dance teacher has its downfalls because my partners have been able to count to eight and know what the choreograp­hy is and know what steps are coming next, but my dogs don’t.

What drew me to dog dancing was the creativity of it. It’s about having fun with your dog and, though other dog sports are fun to do, they’re quite difficult. Dog dancing drew me because I get to dance and get to have fun with my dog, and dress up. The dogs don’t dress up, they’re only allowed to wear a decorative collar or scarf. It’s all about keeping the dog looking like a dog but dancing with me. It’s about the relationsh­ip and it’s us working in together.

There are two sections to the sport. There’s freestyle, which is open to your imaginatio­n and you’re free to do what you like as long as you’re not putting the dog in danger. We’re doing tricks that enhance the dog, not pushing the dogs beyond what they’re physically capable of. The second part of the sport is to work with music. There are eight positions around my body that the dogs have to work in. Their

I get to dance and have fun with my dog, and dress up. The dogs don’t

dress up

shoulders are basically in line with my shoulders and they’re moving in choreograp­hed sequences and they’re transition­ing from one position to the other. You can make your routines fun or you can make them sad, and you get to choose your music.

Spook is my four-year-old, black and white border collie girl who’s the current state dancing champion and I have a new upcoming boy who’s a chocolate border collie called Bravo. I also have a retired boy called Styler who enjoys laying around the house now.

I train my puppies as soon as I get them, but it’s not formal training. It’s about creating a bond, so there are lots of games involved. I like to keep my training sessions short. Ten minutes is a long session for me because you want to stop the session with the dog wanting more. The next time you start the training session, they get more excited each time, knowing how to play the game, playing it harder and a bit faster. It’s all positive based rewards.

I’m a Dancers with Dogs judge as well. What I look for in a competitio­n is the partnershi­p between a dog and their handlers, and whether they’re having fun. Is the routine put together well? Do their transition­s flow from one trick to another? It’s nice to go to the Ekka and have people clapping along to your routine as you’re doing it. I remember my last border collie called Chook, we did a routine about Super Mario and we were competing in the Ekka. At the end of the competitio­n, a lady came up to me and she was crying. Her son’s two favourite things in the world are Super Mario and border collies. Her son sat there for the whole hour just watching me and the dogs. The thing that was so special was that her son had Asperger's syndrome. For her son to sit there in one hour quietly was a huge thing for her. I’ve told this story several times but it still gives me goosebumps. Every time you go out to perform, you don’t know who’s watching or how it influences other people.

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