Trick Spotlight: Teaching “Twirl”

If you want a quick, easy trick to teach your dog, look no further! “Twirl” (it’s just what it sounds like: your dog spinning around in a circle) is a straightforward trick to teach, and it has the added bonus of being cute and looking impressive. Sasha learned this one quickly, and now has the adorable habit of offering it when I have something in my hand (food, obviously) that she wants.

When teaching “twirl” we use the lure and reward method, which means that you will stick a tasty treat right in front of your dog’s nose so that when you move your hand, he or she will follow it. Below, I have laid out the simple steps to teaching this cute trick.

  1. Begin by luring your dog so that he spins in a circle, and reward with a treat. Repeat this many times until your dog lures easily each time.
  2. Now that your dog knows what is coming, you can add a label to the behavior. Say “twirl” (or whatever word you want) and wait a brief moment; then do the lure. If you talk and lure at the same time, your dog will likely tune out your voice.
  3. Next, you will begin to fade out the lure. Start by taking the treat out of the lure hand and pretend that you have a treat in it. Then, after your dog spins, pop a treat in his mouth with the other hand. (Don’t forget to always say the verbal cue before doing the visual cue. That way, in the future you will be able to use either one separately.)
  4. The final step is to completely fade out the lure so that, in its place, you have a hand signal to cue the behavior. To do this, you will begin to gradually make the lure less exaggerated: at first, you may be basically luring your dog, but your hand makes a smaller circle than the dog does and your hand is no longer right in front of his nose. Next, you might make the circle with your hand even smaller, and a little higher above your dog. You will want to do this very gradually so that your dog doesn’t get confused. The end goal is to have a hand signal of drawing a small circle in the air with your pointer finger.

Ta-da, you’re done! You now have a cute trick to show off to your family and friends. Once your dog has this down, you can make it even more impressive by teaching him or her to spin in the opposite direction, but with a different verbal cue. Surely your visitors will think that you have the smartest dog in the world.

Not only does Sasha know “twirl”, but so does Hammy! This picture shows a close-up of how you should be luring. 

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