Trick Training: Teach Your Dog to Spin

Liz Palika
Spin Trick for DogsQwill, a Jack Russell Terrier, being led
through a spin.

The spin trick is a quick trick that dogs and owners can both enjoy. Many dogs like the fast pace of the trick; especially when they throw themselves into it, jumping into a spin.

For this trick, your dog will turn in a circle in front of you. When you teach it, your dog will turn one direction for the command, “Spin.” When he understands that, then you can teach him to spin in the opposite direction for the command, “The other way.”

Teach Spin

To begin, have some high value (special) treats. Remember, your dog’s sense of smell is his most important sense, so treats that smell good are more useful than ones that might taste good. Also, your voice is a tool to encourage actions you want him to do, so make sure you praise him, “Good!” as he’s doing what you want. Your praise also rewards him at the completion of the trick. Be enthusiastic.

Have one treat in your hand and the others in your pocket or training treat pouch. Let your dog smell the treat in your hand. When he’s sniffing the treat, move your hand so that you lead your dog by his nose in a partial circle; a quarter circle is fine. Don’t say a command right now, but tell him ‘good’ while he’s moving. When he’s taken a few steps, reward him and give him the treat. Repeat a few times, always having him move the same direction, then stop and take a break.

In your next training session, repeat the steps above and help him make a half circle. Repeat several times and take a break. After a couple days of practice, he should be moving freely with no hesitation.

Repeat the steps above, except when he’s in motion, tell him, “Sweetie, spin!” and lead him through a full circle. Praise him and pop the treat in his mouth. Again, repeat a few times, then take a break. Do not ask your dog to spin until he’s dizzy and staggering; that is neither fun nor funny!

As your dog gets better at the spin trick, begin asking him to spin at the beginning of the trick rather than when in motion. When he’s responding to the command well, ask him to do it more quickly. A really good treat and lots of encouragement from you will help him pick up speed.

At this point in the training, begin decreasing your hand signal. Instead of leading him by his nose, hold your hand (and the treat) slightly above his nose. When he’s responding to that well, then hold your hand even higher and make a smaller circle. Eventually you want to make a small circular hand motion to trigger this trick, but take your time achieving this. If at any point your dog acts confused, take a training step backwards and offer him the familiar signal.

When you’ve been able to decrease the hand signal and your dog is spinning nicely, you can also ask him to circle more than once. As he completes the first circle, make a spin hand signal and tell him to spin again. Cheer him on and offer him the treat at the completion of the second spin.

The Other Way

It’s fun to teach your dog to spin, but even more fun if he can turn in this tight circle in both directions. By using the phrase, “Sweetie, the other way,” your friends are going to think you have the smartest dog ever. After all, he understands what ‘the other way’ means.

To teach your dog to spin the opposite direction, use the training steps above and work your dog the opposite direction. Don’t worry if your dog is initially confused; after all, you have spent a few weeks teaching him to move in the original direction. Just take your time and be patient.

Having Fun

This is a quick and active trick, and gives your dog a chance to move. Use it when your dog is bored or when you want to show off.

You can also use it as a warm up exercise before you and your dog do something else. Each time your dog turns a circle, he’s going to stretch the muscles on the outside of the circle, so have him spin both directions a couple of times to limber up his body. Most importantly, as with all trick training, use it to enhance your relationship and communication skills with your dog. And, of course, to have fun together.

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