Dancing goes to the dogs in canine-crazy Japan

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Rumba with your retriever, polka with your poodle, or samba with your Scottish terrier in Japan, where dog dancing is the latest must-do activity in this canine-crazy nation.

Dancing lessons for pets joins a long list of things to do with your animal companion in a country where the pet industry is worth one trillion yen (nearly $9.5 billion) and where dog hotels, cafes and even dog-friendly cars are the norm.

At dance class “Wan Nyan World”, which literally means “Woof Meow” in Japanese, dog-lovers and their reluctant partners do a little waltz and a little dog-trot to ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”.

“Whether it’s a Chihuahua or a big St. Bernard, if you have the right music and moves, any dog can dance. Even age doesn’t matter,” said 51-year-old Mayumi Ozuma, who teaches the class.

“Dog dancing allows owners and their dogs to show their individuality.”

For a tasty treat, dogs learn to circle their owners and move between their legs. Classes are held twice a month, and some couples even go on stage to display their skills.

Japan has more dogs and cats nationwide than children under 15, the result of an ageing population and a declining birthrate.

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Animals, and dogs especially, are often seen on the streets of Tokyo, dressed up in specially made clothes and being pushed about in strollers by their doting human “mothers”.

“Dog dancing allows me to have fun with my pet. It’s refreshing and I feel like my dog’s also having fun,” said Mikako Oba who was dancing with her one-year-old Corgi, Carlo, adding that she would like to enter dancing competitions in future.

Seiji Osawa, a 37-year-old businessman was excited about class because now he can maintain eye contact with his two-year-old Shih Tzu.

“Now my dog will look at me,” he said, sweating slightly from the dancing.

Others relish the class as a way to improve communication with their pets.

“I like the fact that Naruto will do what I say -- it shows we are communicating,” said 45-year-old Miyaki Takahashi of her dog. “He used to ignore me when I called his name, but now he will come near me.”

($1 = 106.21 yen)

Editing by Miral Fahmy