Dogs that ‘go around’ come around

We teach our dogs tricks for so many reasons, not the least of which is so that they have something to do with their energy other than barking, jumping up, and pulling on leash. We teach tricks to bond with our best friend, and to show off to our neighbours, but mostly, we teach tricks because it’s fun! I love it when a trick can be useful too, which is why I am in love with my dog’s new trick ‘go around.’

Teaching your dog to go around objects, your own body, other animals, trees, tables, chairs, and exercise balls is a useful skill, a fun trick you can do almost anywhere, and a basic component of 3 major dog sports. I saw protection dogs doing blind searches years ago and knew right then I wanted to be able to just point to anything and send my dog around it. You’ll recognize this move from sheep herding too, although I’ll drive the Shepherds nuts by using ‘go by’ going the wrong way! You don’t need sheep to turn this trick into a sporting activity, you can train your dog to herd exercise balls! It is a popular dog sport called ‘Treibball.

Teach your dog to ‘go around’

You’ll need: A dog of any age, and something the dog wants like a treat or a toy. You’ll also need to select a small object. I chose a candle holder that my dogs were familiar with and already recognized as a normal household object. Choosing a novel object will take just a bit longer, because you’ll need to first convince your dog to quit sniffing, touching, and trying to retrieve it for you. Choose something boring and stable, maybe a large jar of something heavy? A garden gnome? There is something at your house that will work, but a chair, ottoman, or small table will be too big and awkward. Your back will thank you if you choose something short, with a tight circumference to begin with, because you’ll need to lean over to lead your dog around larger objects. Something the size of a traffic cone is ideal. You could try to showboat this trick and start with a tree… but you’d look really silly at the park hugging trees while you pass a treat or toy to your other hand. I actually did this, it was a waste of time, he didn’t get it, I looked and felt stupid, and decided to take this trick step by step.

  1. Cue ‘go around’

  2. Lure them around the object with a treat or toy

  3. Say ‘Yes!’ and reward

Simple as 1-2-3, this trick is so easy, your 3 year old child can teach it, and your 13 year old dog can do it.

Once your dog has the idea, stand just a foot or 2 away from the object, and give your cue to ‘go around,’ still making the sweeping, pointing gesture you used to lure them. Move forward to remind them what to do if they look puzzled or fail to make it the whole way around. Dogs will often spin around in a circle as they think it through, it is so cute, they spin when they can’t quite get ‘roll over’ too, it’s almost as if the brain is thinking ‘go in a circle’ but they don’t quite know which kind of circle to make.

Once your dog can ‘go around’ small objects while you stand 6-8 feet away, you can switch to a larger object like a chair. You’ll want the object you choose to be short enough that you can still lead them around if you need to. Begin teaching your dog to ‘go around’ the larger object by standing right next to it, always going back a step in the training process anytime you change the object. You’ll also go back a step when you start in another room or take it outside. Add these context changes one at a time, expecting renewed confusion. Step forward or lead them around if necessary. Choose bigger objects and obstacles until you dog can generalize the concept and ‘go around’ anything!

Teach your dog to ‘go around’ your own body too, It’s a great way to reposition them for another frisbee throw or another ‘go around!’ This move looks a lot like the ‘finish’ heeling command. Flip your wrist from your dog’s nose toward your back, and catch their attention on the other side by holding a treat behind your knees in your other hand. I trained my dog to ‘go around’ objects and my body clockwise, and made sure he understood that concept perfectly before teaching him to go counterclockwise. This skill can also be used to create a personal space bubble around yourself in crowds.

Here’s a fun way to take this trick to the next level: Try having them ‘go around’ your kids, your other dog or another pet animal. It’s easiest to work with an animal that will sit still at first. You can also work with an exercise ball, and practice moving it around for a dynamic ‘go around,’ that imitates sheep herding moves quite nicely in your own back yard!

You already know this trick is useful if you’ve ever tried to wave your dog around some obstacle, like a large table, and they looked at you or your gesture, and just didn’t know what to do. So many times since Doug has mastered this skill, I have been able to help him figure out how to get around obstacles. This is one of my favourite things about dog training: my dog understands me. He gets it. He knows what my gestures mean, he understands what I’m trying to tell him when I wave, and point, and speak english. If you’ve ever taught your dog a trick, then you know how magical a moment it is when your dog figures out what you’re trying to teach them. Their chest puffs out, they are so happy, and feel so connected to you. Learning to love listening to you is among the best things your dog learns when they are trained. If you have always wanted a dog who stares up at you, hanging on your every word, then teach them that your words have meaning.

Have fun with this trick, and the next time your dog is stuck, let me know how you helped them out of the jam with your cue to ‘go around!’