How to Train Your Dog to Do the 'Circle Me' Trick

Easy
5-30 Days
Fun

Introduction

Maybe your dog is bursting with energy, running frantically from one distraction to the next, never calming down enough even to look at you. You would love to work with her on obedience training, but you can’t get her attention long enough to procure even a 'sit'! Maybe your dog goes crazy whenever guests come over, jumping all over your furniture, you, and your guests. Perhaps you and your dog already have a good foundation of obedience training, and you are trying to take it to the next level by teaching your dog fun tricks. It may even be the case that you would simply like a way to ask your dog to walk on your other side, without yanking her around by the leash.

No matter your reasons, or your dog’s age, breed, or attention span, 'circle me' is a fun trick to learn and teach. Most dogs catch onto this trick quickly and easily, and don’t mind doing it. It is one of the easier behaviors to translate from the initial training location to other areas with increased distractions. It can be done on or off leash, with dogs that are experienced in training or just beginning.

Defining Tasks

Keep in mind during training that 'circle me' is a fun trick, and dogs perform best when they are enjoying the trick. Unlike calming commands like 'sit' and 'down', dogs perform this trick well when they are feeling energetic, and can even perform it when they are distracted, with a little practice. This makes it a great trick to get your dog’s attention and help her to build self-control for more boring, but important, behaviors.

This command can be very useful when going for walks, either on-leash or off. For dogs who are learning to heel, 'circle me' can remind them of the principle of sticking to a leg in a fun way. Dogs trained to circle left or circle right and stop can be positioned easily on the left or right of your body--very useful for when your dog wraps the leash around you and you would like to be unwrapped, or for when you would like to be between your dog and some upcoming obstacle.

Getting Started

It is easiest to teach this trick when your dog is feeling energetic. If your dog is motivated best by food rewards, it is ideal that she be a little hungry so the food will be more enticing as a lure. You will want both treats that are smelly to entice and those that are relatively healthy for actual reward. If your dog is toy motivated, tug toys work best for this training, but make sure your dog has a good 'drop it' so that you can keep working after the brief tug game rewards. If using a method involving a leash, it is helpful if your leash has some elasticity, so that you can suggest a change in direction subtly, rather than with an abrupt pull.

The Follow the Goodie Method

Effective
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Step
1
Choose a goodie and a safe place
Choose an enticing reward that your dog will willingly chase after. Pick a location that has relatively soft ground, as you may get dizzy and fall.
Step
2
Teach to follow
Encourage your dog to follow the treat or toy, rewarding her when she does so. Start by leading in very short bursts, then longer stretches before rewarding. Don’t use a verbal command at this stage, as you are just encouraging a natural behavior.
Step
3
Follow around you
Lead your dog in a circle around you, starting slowly and rewarding frequently, then increasing to full spins before rewarding. Use the command “circle me” at each full circle.
Step
4
Teach left, right, and stop
Teach left and right by leading left or right while saying “circle left” or “circle right”. Teach “stop” by pulling the reward up suddenly and saying stop. When the dog is stopped and at attention, reward her.
Step
5
Practice without enticement
Remove the toy or treat that you were using to lead and use your hand and the voice command alone. Reward periodically.
Recommend training method?

The Leash and Lead Method

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Step
1
Teach to follow
Entice your dog to follow a food item or toy, using the leash to gently get her back on track if she should become distracted. At first reward frequently, then increase the duration until your dog is following easily for some time between rewards.
Step
2
Follow around you
Encourage your dog to circle around you, using an enticing treat and using the leash to gently correct if she should stray off the circle or try to go the the other way. Use the command word every time she makes a full circle.
Step
3
Teach left, right, and stop
Teach left and right by leading your dog left or right with the toy or treat and using the leash to reinforce the direction while saying the command words. Teach 'stop' by pulling the toy up and pulling gently up on the leash while using the command to stop.
Step
4
Remove the enticement
Remove the enticement and practice using just the leash to direct behavior. Reward frequently at first and then less frequently. You should find yourself needing to use the leash less and less frequently to direct behavior.
Step
5
Remove the leash
Once you are confident that your dog understands the commands and behavior, try practicing without the leash. Reward frequently at first to reinforce the behavior now that the reminder of the leash is gone.
Recommend training method?

The Tie to You Method

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Step
1
Tie your dog to you
Tie your dog to a secure belt or dog walking device, using an elastic leash that is relatively short.
Step
2
Teach to follow
Teach your dog to stay with you using a treat or toy to entice her and allowing her to bounce against the leash naturally as she strays away from you.
Step
3
Teach to circle
Turn in a circle, using the treat or toy to entice and allowing the leash to pull your dog along beside you. Use a command word at each full circle.
Step
4
Teach left, right, and stop
Teach left and right by spinning in those directions while using the appropriate commands words. Your dog should be anticipating the pull of the line by now and moving ahead of you at least some of the time. Teach 'stop' by stopping abruptly while saying the command word. You may need to grasp the leash to pull up if your dog doesn’t catch on.
Step
5
Remove enticement
Remove the toy or treat that you were using as incentive and practice using commands and rewards alone, allowing the leash to naturally correct behavior.
Step
6
Remove the leash
Once your dog is rarely coming up against the leash and is operating on your commands alone, practice without the leash, remembering to reward frequently.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

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