2. Walk Nicely On A Lead Continued...

Exercise 2.10 - Teaching Spin (Left & Right Directionals)

In this exercise we teach your dog to spin round (both directions).  Teaching the dog to spin around is a method agility trainers often use to teach their dog how to turn left and right (called directional cues).  


Being able to turn left and right on cue is useful in many dog sports but it’s also great for warm-up and focus exercises which is more our purpose in Foundation Obedience and once taught you can incorporate them in your loose lead walking and recall exercises to keep things fun and challenging for your dog.  This exercise also helps you teach other behaviours like weaving through your legs, going around the handler.



Most dogs have a preferred direction in which to turn. Figure out which way your dog turns more easily by luring him around in a spin a few times in each direction. One way should seem less effort. Pick that direction and start with it (for the purpose of this exercise, we will assume left, but it could be either direction).






1. Lure the spin

Begin with a treat in your hand, and your dog standing up.  With a small dog / puppy you may want to kneel down but with a larger dog you can stand up.  The important thing is to be in a position that makes it very easy for you to keep the treat at the dog’s nose level.  


Lure him to spin to his left with the treat in your hand (you may need to put the treat very close to your dog's nose and move your hand very slowly at first). Click as he is turning and feed him the treat. Repeat 3 or 4 times, no more!


2. Transfer from a lure to a physical cue

Use your hand (this time with no treat), in the same motion as you did to lure your dog. Click and treat as he follows your hand around, and while he is still moving. Repeat until he is fluent in this behaviour.


3. Gradually refine the hand signal by making your hand motion smaller

Gradually reduce the signal by making your hand motion smaller and bring it further away from your dog so that he is no longer following your finger with his nose. Repeat until you have a small hand gesture as your cue to spin to the left.


Note: It’s usual to teach this with the dog in front and facing us and then gradually move around so that the dog will understand the cue from the side.  Ideally you want your dog to understand this cue and spin in front of you, by your side or from anywhere and so you will need to vary your body position as you practice giving this physical cue to ensure he understands.




Repeat all the above steps using your opposite hand to initiate the procedure.

I think it’s easier on your dog to just do one direction in one session when they are learning the behaviour.




I think Spin is one of the easiest behaviours for new owners to practice transferring a physical hand signal to a verbal cue.


It may be very beneficial to have someone video you during this process.  Very often we don’t think we’re moving at the same time as we give our verbal cue but we often are by nodding or making some small gesture which the dog will also notice.  Dogs naturally pay attention to body language first so it’s important we keep very still.




1. Before you begin make sure the hand signal is well-understood and decide which word you want to use instead.


2. Say your new cue e.g. LEFT and within a second, follow this with your well established hand signal

Your dog will perform the behaviour, click and treat.


3. Repeat this as many times as necessary (over several short training sessions)


Essentially you repeat until your dog begins to anticipate the old cue as you say the new cue. You can then just use the new cue, click & treating when he performs the behaviour.


This method of transferring to a new cue word applies to all other cues for discreet behaviours or handling that you have taught so far, or continue to teach throughout the remainder of this course and beyond.


You need to be 100% sure that both you and your dog have exactly the same understanding of each of your cues.  You should be much more aware of the implications of this following the activities you just did in teaching left and right!



Common mistakes if you have any problems getting your dog to spin around:

Often handlers try to move their hand too quickly for the dog to follow so make sure when you're practising at first start with your hand movement very slow.  Slow enough that your dog can easily follow the food around in a circle continuously.  As he starts to get more used to doing this you’ll be able to move your hand faster.


The second thing that I often see is people hold their hand a little bit too high and the dog gets a little bit stuck or may even sit.  Just lower your hand so it's at nose level and then try to turn your dog just a little way.


Once you’ve taught both ways you can include it in some fun workouts by asking for other cues in between to make a chain e.g., “right,” "down," "sit" "left," etc. 


You can ask for:

  • a spin then a hand target to keep your dog focused on you
  • a spin and then back away quickly for fun recall practice
  • a spin at your side while you are walking and reward him when he bounces back into heel position.

Don’t forget to mix up your rewards too, if your dog likes chasing a ball or toy you can:

  • Hold on to your dog while you toss a ball
  • Then ask for a spin and when he does immediately release him to fetch the toy as a reward


Have lots of fun with this exercise!