In 2012, a duo named Ashleigh and Pudsey stormed onto the stage of the U.K.’s hit reality show, “Britain’s Got Talent,” winning the title for their dynamic dance routine. The pair won the audience’s hearts and the judges’ scores for their choreography, costumes, perfectly timed dance moves and synchronized tricks. Ashleigh certainly holds up her end of the duo, but the real star of the pair is Pudsey. And unlike most dance partners, Pudsey is a dog. And their dance routine, officially called canine freestyle dancing, is a big thing.
You can see Ashleigh and Pudsey dancing to “Gangnam Style” at the U.K.’s National Television Awards in the video above, and below is a look at Ashleigh and Pudsey’s winning performance for “Britain’s Got Talent.”
Ashleigh and Pudsey certainly didn’t invent freestyle dog dancing. The movement traces its history back to the early 1990s when obedience trainer Mary Ray demonstrated “heelwork to music” at Crufts, the well-known dog show held each year in the U.K. The activity eventually became a sport with two divisions: heelwork to music, where handlers have to work with their dogs in heel for two-thirds of the routine, and freestyle, where most of the routine is less formal. The activity emphasizes the partnership between the dog and his handler.
Here’s a highlight reel of some of the slickest moves from Crufts.
The 2018 winners in the Crufts’ Freestyle Heelwork to Music competition were Skiffle and his human partner, Lucy Creek. Here’s a look at their Cinderella performance.
Dog dancing is popular in various places around the world. Here’s a video of the top 10 competitors at a recent competition in Austria. (Yes, we know it’s eight minutes long, but just take a look and skip around; you’ll be glad you did.)
As you can see, the movement has evolved into something that’s one part obedience training, one part dance, and one part theatrics.
You can get something as magical as this freestyle routine set to “The Last Unicorn”:
This doggy dancing’s not going away anytime soon. Now that you know about it, you can look forward to many more hours watching the handlers and their whip-smart pups dance the night away.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated since it was published in April 2016.