Spin!

Is your head spinning trying to figure out how to handle your dog’s poor behaviour choices? A common training recipe is to ask the dog to ‘sit,’ rather than misbehave. Dog likes to chase kids? Have them sit instead. Dog likes to lunge to the end of the leash when skateboards go by? Have them sit instead. Dog barks when people knock at the door. Have them sit instead. Let’s put a new spin on this training game!

When it comes to finding an appropriate alternate behaviour to teach your dog, you could pick from 100’s of cool tricks that distract and engage a dog who might otherwise misbehave. So long as the behaviour is incompatible with barking, lunging, jumping, or any “bad” behaviour your dog would otherwise resort to.

Sometimes, you just want to have your dog ‘sit’ or lie ‘down’ to remain calm while they get used to distractions, but you can use ‘spin’ to keep you dog fully occupied in so many situations. I particularly enjoy cueing dogs to ‘spin’ when they would otherwise be too stimulated or distracted by a stimulus, like someone walking by suddenly, too close for comfort. ‘Spin’ is a fun, easy trick your dog can do just about anywhere. You can ensure your dog’s complete ignorance of visual distractions in the environment, and bonus: without getting his butt wet. Avoid sitting in a puddle in rainy weather by adding ‘spin’ to your dog’s trick repertoire.

Teach ‘Spin’

Get your dog up and moving before you begin practicing luring your dog in a circle. Draw a big, slow circle from their nose out to the side of your body, then out in front, and around, completing a 360 degree turn. If you start by leaning over, you may get stuck and find it difficult to lead your larger dog the whole way around, so ensure you begin by luring to the left or right of your body first. If you’ve chosen to begin with your dog spinning off to your right, you’ll begin luring with your right hand to the right side of your body. Some dogs show an obvious affinity for left (or right) turns, quickly determine which direction is easiest for you and your dog, and stick with that direction until your dog masters the cue.

Now that you can easily lure your dog around in a circle, let’s add the cue ‘spin.’ Show your dog your hand signal, then lead your dog around to show them what the cue means. Always put the cue first, followed by the lure.

1: Cue ‘Spin’ and show your hand signal

2: Lure your dog around

3: Say ‘yes!’ and reward

Now that we’ve got the command structure down, let’s fade the lure. In the video you can see how a good hand signal for spin is a tighter version of your lure. Perhaps drawing a small circle with your finger or waving your hand in the direction of the spin. Fade your lure by using smaller and smaller versions of it, until your lure looks just like your hand signal.

Cue your dog to ‘spin,’ then lure them with the least amount of help they need. Once your dog kinda gets it, you can usually get away with just flicking your wrist a 1/4 of the way around, instead of leading them the whole way around. The small hint in the right direction is all your dogs needs to continue the spin, happily meeting your ‘yes!’ and reward once they complete the circle.

Soon, your cue to ‘spin’ will clue your dog in, and they will complete the trick on their own. Your dog is anticipating that the lure will follow your cue. Doing fewer than two dozen repetitions a day, your average dog will be well on their way to mastering this trick by this time next week. If you’re ready to go to the next level, you can learn how to teach your dog to perform tricks like ‘spin’ at a distance, right on their ‘mark’ just like Doug does in the video.

I hope you enjoy teaching your dog this fun parlour trick, and soon you’ll find it as useful as I do. It doesn’t really matter what tricks you teach your dog, but it does matter that you teach them something. Pick a fun trick you think is cute, and before you know it, your dog is better behaved, more attentive, and you have one more trick in your back pocket to keep your dog occupied, entertained, and on the straight and narrow.