How to Train a Puppy to Twist

Easy
1-2 Weeks
Fun

Introduction

Your new puppy is full of energy. Sometimes you think they never stop moving. You've managed to get some basic skills into your pup, but now you need something new to teach them to channel their energy. Teaching your puppy to twist is a fun way to keep your puppy interested in training. Besides giving your pup a party trick to show off, twisting can also help them stretch out their muscles and can create a foundation for more complicated physical skills in the future.

Defining Tasks

A twist, or a spin, is a 360 degree turn. Twist is a fairly easy skill for puppies to learn. Most dogs catch on quickly and have a lot of fun learning to twist. Some puppies will spin quickly like a runaway top, while others are more deliberate. Either way is fine, as you can work on speed later when they have a handle on the trick. With a touch of patience, your pup may learn to twist on command within a matter of days. Keep in mind that puppies have short attention spans, so you may want to stick to shorter training session with breaks for play in between.

Getting Started

For this trick, you need small training treats. If your puppy likes their kibble, you can even use pieces of that to reward them. Work on the 'twist' command in a distraction-free area with enough space for your puppy to spin without bumping into anything.  A clicker is a useful tool when training this method, though not completely necessary. For the 'Get the Stick' method, you will need a target stick. You can buy a professional target stick or make your own.

The Chase the Treat Method

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Step
1
Let your puppy see the treat
Hold a small treat just at the end of your puppy's nose. Let them smell and lick the treat but not actually eat it. Once they are interested in the treat, you can start using it as a lure.
Step
2
Move your hand in a circle
Slowly move your hand with the treat in it in the direction you want your puppy to spin. Your pup should follow the treat. Go nice and slow this first time so the treat stays close enough to your puppy's nose that they stay interested.
Step
3
Reward a full circle
Once your puppy has made a full 360 degree turn, say "good" or click your clicker to mark the behavior and then give your puppy the treat you used as the lure. Repeat these steps several times, always going in the same direction. You can add the other direction later, once your pup has the hang of the basics.
Step
4
Start fading out the lure
As soon as your puppy has the hang of the trick, start fading out the treat as a lure. Move the treat further and further from your puppy's nose until your pup still spins with the treat about a foot away from his nose. Then try without the treat altogether. If he can't do the spin without the treat, go back to using it until he can.
Step
5
Add in the command word
Once your puppy doesn't need the food lure anymore, start saying the command word "twist" while your pup is already in motion. After a bit, start saying "twist" before you give the hand motion. If your pup starts to spin after hearing the word and before you give the hand signal, try verbal only.
Step
6
Teach the other direction
If you want, you can teach your puppy to spin in the opposite direction as well. Choose a different command word to indicate the opposite direction and repeat the same series of steps.
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The Get the Stick Method

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Step
1
Teach your puppy to use a target stick
If your pup doesn't already know how to use a target stick, start with that. With your puppy standing in front of you, hold the target stick at eye level and then move it slightly to the side. If your pup shows any interest, click or say "good" and give them a treat. Repeat this until they follow the stick every time.
Step
2
Work on a 90 degree turn
Move the target stick from your puppy's nose around to the side of their body. If you built up enough of a reaction in step one, your puppy should follow the stick all the way around to one side. Reward your pup every time they complete a quarter turn until they can do it easily.
Step
3
Move on to a half spin
In this step, your puppy will need to follow the stick all the way around so they are facing the opposite direction. Using the stick in the same way as steps one and two, have your puppy follow the stick 180 degrees before giving them a treat.
Step
4
Do a full 360
Slowly move the stick so your puppy follows it for a full turn. If your pup has trouble with this step, that's okay. Simply go back to step three for a little while longer until your puppy can do a full twist.
Step
5
Teach your pup the command word
Once your puppy has a good handle on following the stick, say the command word just before you start to move the target in a circle. As you add in the command word, start to phase out the use of the stick, moving the point farther and farther from your puppy's nose until they respond to the verbal cue without needing the stick.
Step
6
Add some flair
As with the previous method, you can use these same steps to teach your puppy to twist in both directions. Simply use the stick and have your puppy follow it in the opposite direction. Remember to choose a different command word to let your pup know which way you want them to spin.
Recommend training method?

The Follow Me Method

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Step
1
Show your puppy what to do
In this method, your pup will learn to spin by mimicking your body movements. Start by holding a treat underneath your puppy's nose and then slowly turn in a tight circle. Once you and your puppy both twist 360 degrees, give them the treat as a reward.
Step
2
Practice twisting
Repeat the same action with your puppy until they follow you easily. Remember to take breaks so neither of you gets too dizzy. You can start saying "twist" as you move in a circle so your puppy associates the word with the action.
Step
3
Lose the lure
Hold the reward in your hand, but don't put it down by your pup's nose. Then say "twist" and turn in a circle. If your puppy twists with you, give them a reward. If not, go back to step one for a bit.
Step
4
Let your pup go solo
Say the command word "twist" and start to move your body as if you were going to twist, but don't actually go through with it. If your puppy circles you anyway, give them a treat and make a big fuss over how smart they are.
Step
5
Try saying the word without moving
Eventually, you want your puppy to circle you without you having to move at all. Move less and less each time until you stand completely still and say "twist." Keep rewarding your puppy for successfully completing the trick for a while and then start phasing out the reward.
Step
6
Go the other way
If you want to give your puppy a challenge, return to the beginning and teach them to spin in the other direction. Choose an alternative command to let your pup know which way you want them to twist.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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