I have been working on a trick, teaching my dog to reverse around me in a circle. It’s just for fun really, but we’re getting stuck at about three-quarters of the way around. Do you have any tips to help us get a bit further?
Denise Price advises…
This is a tricky trick, so kudos to you for giving it a go! I am assuming your dog is fit and well, and there’s no physical reason preventing him from progressing. Here’s how I teach a clockwise reverse from scratch, in case other readers fancy trying it:
• When teaching a new exercise, it’s good practice to have a consistent set-up each time; it helps you measure your progress and it helps your dog anticipate what’s next, so speeds up learning.
• Start with the dog in a ‘stand’ in front of you. Imagine you’re facing forwards – your dog will be standing in front of you, facing to your left. Have your dog’s front feet near your left foot.
• I usually teach this using a food lure. With a treat in your right hand, encourage the dog to take just a few steps backwards, then say, “Good” and reward.
• For the next few repetitions, build up to a quarter turn, saying, “Good” and reward when your dog has his front legs parallel with your right foot (your dog will now be on your right-hand side, facing forwards too).
• When that’s going well, repeat in a similar fashion until your dog has done a half turn (at this point he’ll be behind you, with his front legs parallel with your right heel, facing to the right).
• After several sessions, you should be able to lure your dog to the three quarter point (your dog on your left-hand side, facing behind you) all with the same technique. Getting three-quarters of the way around isn’t too difficult to achieve because we can move the treat around our bodies easily enough. The tricky bit is what to do when we can’t rotate our lure hand any further round – and this is often the sticking point.
• Work out the logistics of passing the treat from your right hand to your left hand, so you can complete a full lured circle. Try it without your dog a few times first, as you need to make sure you can seamlessly make the circle with your hands.
• If you find that too cumbersome, spend some time working on the first half of the reverse circle. Once you’ve got that sussed, work on the second half of the circle in isolation.
• Start with your dog in a ‘stand’ behind you; the dog will be facing to your right. Use your left hand to lure.
• Get plenty of repetitions mastered and eventually, you’ll be able to chain the two parts of the reverse circle together.
Once your dog can perform the full reverse circle following the food lure, the next step is to fade out the lure. The final step is to add your cue word. Keep sessions short and, most of all, fun.