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One of the easiest tricks to train your puppy is to spin around in a small circle. This trick is so simple that even puppies as young as 12 weeks old can pick it up in just a few sessions. Another perk? It is just cute as a button to do as a trick to impress your friends with how smart your puppy is.
When you take the time to start training your puppy from an early age, you will help him learn the basics of training communication, making it easier to teach more complex behaviors when he gets a little older. In addition, starting training early improves his focus, a skill that will serve you for the life of your dog.
In this guide, we will show you three easy to follow methods to teach this easy trick in a snap, along with some great tips for keeping your training sessions fun and effective no matter what behaviors you are looking to teach your young dog.
When training tricks, the fastest way is to use food rewards. This is because you can repeat the rewards at a very high rate, keeping your puppy focused on the task at hand. Don’t worry, once the new behavior is fully learned you can decrease the use of food motivators over time and switch to praise and other forms of positive reinforcement.
When choosing the right food to use in your training session, keep in mind that you only need a tiny bit to reward. A pea-sized piece of chicken or cheese is plenty. You can even use pieces from your puppy’s regular kibble mixed with a few tasty treats in most cases. Of course, if your puppy is a free-feeder (not recommended) then she may not be willing to train for kibble since she can have it for free any time she wants.
Keep in mind that your puppy probably has a very short attention span. Our methods assume that you will be training this easy trick over the course of a few sessions. It is critical that you quit a training session before your puppy gets bored or distracted. Better to start over next time than to make him dread training sessions.
Here are a few more tips to make sure your training sessions are successful:
Always train new behavior in a quiet and low-distraction environment. This is critical to keep his full attention. You want to be the most exciting thing around when training your puppy to spin around (or any other trick or behavior).
Keep things positive. If you are in a bad mood after a long day at work and think you may have trouble with your patience, it is not a good time for a training session. Your puppy will pick up on your mood, so bring the best attitude to the table when it is time for learning.
Reward often, don’t punish. While there is a time and a place for punishment, teaching tricks and/or new behaviors is not one of them. Focus on setting your puppy up to be able to get her reward and ignore any failures. This way she will feel confident to try new things, critical for shaping desired behaviors and perfecting tricks.
The Lure Method
Grab one of the treats from your bag and let your puppy smell it so she knows it is there. As soon as she is interested, use the treat to lure her around in a circle. When she makes a complete circle, say “Yesss!” and then give her a treat. Repeat 5-10 times.
Continue to use the hand motion, but now without the treat. She will continue to follow your hand around. Remember to praise and reward when she gets all the way around.
Shorten hand signal
Start to abbreviate your hand signal, but only as fast as she is able to continue to figure out what to do. Your goal is to eventually have a hand signal that is as simple as your finger making a small circle in the air (or whatever your desired signal is). Continue to repeat, praise and reward as you go.
Add verbal cue
Once your hand signal is where you want it, and your puppy will spin around every time, you can add whatever verbal cue you like for this trick. By starting to say it just before the hand signal, over time your he will simply learn to spin on the verbal cue.
Once you have the spin exactly where you want it, you can decrease the rate of reward to choose only the fastest and cutest spins to reward. This will make sure the trick stays sharp and entertaining.
The Leash Method
Lead him around
With your dog on a short leash, lead him around in a circle with slight pressure on the leash.
Praise and reward
When he gets all the way around, praise and reward. Repeat 5-10 times.
Add verbal cue
Start to say your command right before leading him around and continue to praise and reward success.
Drop the leash
You will start to see your puppy anticipating the spin, at which time you can drop the leash, and you will see he starts to do the trick on his own when prompted. Continue to praise and reward every success.
Continue to practice this trick, now without using the leash at all. In no time you will have your puppy spinning around like a top.
The Clicker Method
Why use a clicker
If you happen to be clicker training, this is the method for you. It also happens to the fastest training method, almost across the board.
With clicker in one hand and a treat in the other, lure your puppy around in a circle with a treat. Click/reward when she goes all the way around. Repeat 5-10 times.
Fade the lure
Your puppy will likely follow your hand around in the spin even without the treat at this point. This is called “fading the lure.” Repeat 5-10 times, while clicking/rewarding each successful spin.
Smaller hand signal
Now you can start to make your hand signal smaller, gradually working towards the hand signal that works best for you. Repeat as many times as it takes (over the course of many sessions) until your puppy will spin around based on your hand signal.
Add verbal cue
You can add the verbal cue for this trick once he seems to understand the non-verbal command. Just start to say it before the hand cue and eventually he will do the trick with either command.
Refine the spin to be exactly how you want it by starting to choose only the best examples to click/reward. You can also start switching more to praise in order to get him away from treat based training once the trick is where you want it.
By Sharon Elber
Published: 03/28/2018, edited: 01/08/2021