History of Heelwork to Music

Dog training clubs and those who compete in the dog sport Obedience - had been doing a form of  heelwork to music for many years - usually at Christmas parties for fun.

It was a fun activity to showcase dogs walking at heel.

Mary Ray was the first person to officially demonstrated heelwork using music in 1990. Mary, a top agility and obedience handler, is renowned for her natural graceful elegance when working a dog at heel. That elegance made her simply glide across a floor - putting this natural ability to music and adding her fantastically trained dog - made for a spine tingling demonstration which has stood the test of time.

Mary Ray's demonstrations before best of breed at Cruft's were always an eagerly awaited event. it is through Mary that the sport started along with the help of her husband Dave Ray and Peter Lewis. It was these three along with Rugby Dog Training club members who were instrumental in starting this fantastic sport.

They decided to put on the very first show which was called a demonstration show - this was Held at Connections sports centre at Ryton on Dunsmore and still is simply called the Coventry show even though it is now held elsewhere.

That first demonstration saw brave obedience handlers step into the ring and face an audience while they worked - anyone who has competed in obedience will tell you that it is not the norm to be watched by many unless you are working at Cruft's.

The 1996 show drew a big audience and this spectator sport was Launched.

Pedigree Chum were the main sponsors of the event and they sponsored it so for many years.

The first HTM judges ever were: John Gilbert, Bill King, Ron Mitchell, Peter Lewis and Mary Ray

The top handlers were; Donelda Guy, Sallie Roberts, Ann Northfields and Beryl Kelly all produced wonderful innovative routines and helped paved the way for the sport today.

The show became an annual event and now many years later it still is the pinnacle show of the year in the HTM calendar as it host the Cruft's semi finals.

Below is chronological dates and information on how the sport has progressed.


Paws N Music Association was started by Kay Laurence - they held the second show to take place in one year this was at Tomlinsons in Leicester in December of that year.

This show made a point of making handlers feel special by giving everyone who competed a 'star for the day ' certificate.

Paws and Music went on to apply for KC membership and was the first UK KC registered club in 2003.

The dancingwithdogs@yahoogroups egroup was started by Ann DeRizzio.


The Heelwork to Music & FreestyleAssociation was launched

Ann DeRizzio - dog club Clever Canines held the first show in the North at Myerscough College in Preston - this show was run on a shoestring but saw some fantastic routines and produced a video of the show.


The HTMFA held their first show in Newark


October - Canine Freestyle GB club was formed a nationwide club - Kath Hardman, Karen Sykes and Lesley Neville played key roles in the starting of the club and have been involved with the running of it ever since.

Sadly the HTMFA folded in December


First Crufts invitation competition - this was primarily a Freestyle competition, with a few heelwork competitors invited too. The demonstration competition took place in the special events ring and drew a huge audience.

Handlers for this first ever competition at Crufts were:

  • Tina Humphries
  • Kath Hardman
  • Pat Richards
  • Carol Wallace
  • Richard Curtis
  • Lesley Neville
  • Karen Sykes
  • Carol Mortimer
  • Ann DeRizzio
  • Sarah Cowen
  • Linda Topliss
  • Michelle Mellor

The Judges were:  Peter Lewis , Atilla Szkukalek & Lesley Brocklehurst


In June of 2005 the Kennel Club  held it's first Working party meeting where the rules and regulations for the sport were drawn up. The working party have been meeting twice a year ever since to help regulated the sports development.

Working party members for that first meeting were: Lesley Brocklehurst, Richard Curtis, Ann DeRizzio, Stan Ford,Donelda Guy, Kath Hardman, Peter Lewis, Gina Pink and Dave Ray.


© Ann Derizzio. All Rights Reserved.
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