There is a prerequisite to this trick, which is to (1) read and (2) understand and (3) train, your Buddy to the target stick. If you do not have any of the three prerequisites, go back to my blog and read “What is a Target Stick and Why Should I Own One?” (Parts 1 & 2), then train that first. Of course, you should know how to handle a clicker. So I am assuming that you have also read “What is Operant Conditioning?” which of course, is the prerequisite to all “training,” period.
GOING IN CIRCLES, OR THE SPIN TRICK
First as a warm up, hold out the stick for Buddy to touch. When he does, of course, you click and treat.
Now we are going to raise the bar (just a bit). Let’s say Buddy is standing in front of you and you are at 12 o’clock. This time, when you present the stick to Buddy, you slowly move the stick a bit to the 3 o’clock position. (Of course, that’s if you want him to turn to the right. If you are looking for a left hand turn, move it to 9 o’clock.) Of course this is the ideal, but sometimes Buddy tries to get clever and back-up, in order to follow the stick. You can nip that in the bud by working this initial step in a corner.
If your pre-work on the touch stick was solid, Buddy should simply follow the stick with his nose, and whichever way his nose turns, his body is sure to follow. When the nose gets to 3 o’clock (or 9 o’clock) position, of course you click/treat and praise. Keep up working on this short turn until you can see that he follows that stick and knows that little turn like the back of his paw.
Now that he is a quarter tuning pro, let’s raise that bar just a bit, (I know I said that before) once again. Same drill, present the target stick to Buddy to do the first turn (in your chosen direction) but this time instead of stopping at 3 o’clock or 9 ‘clock again, slowly move it to 6 o’clock. If you really did work on the first move until Buddy was good, Buddy will breeze through this extra little bit of movement. When he gets to the 6 o’clock position, (at this point Buddy is facing the same direction as you, so his hind side will be facing you). This is when (you know the drill) you click/treat & praise.
If Buddy doesn’t follow the stick around to 6 o’clock, you did not work enough on the first turn. So go back and get that looking smooth before even thinking about progressing to the 6 o’clock position.
Now, when Buddy knows that half circle really well, getting the other half of the circle is a piece of cake. When he gets to the 6 o’clock position, just slowly move that stick around the final semi-circle, so that Buddy is now once again facing you at 12 O’clock (the starting position). This is exactly where Buddy wants to be, because he knows that moment when he is facing you, is when that magic, click/treat and praise thing happens because he is such a talented dog.
Of course, if Buddy does not move all the way around the last half of the circle following the stick, go back a step to working on the semi-circle before attempting to complete the circle.
There you go. That’s the spin trick. Once he is proficient with it, it’s time to start adding the verbal cue. Use whatever word you like, spin, circle, around, catch your tail. It doesn’t matter as long as you stick with what you pick.
Remember, you say the verbal cue just before you present the stick. If you do it the other way around, your verbal cue will be totally lost and ignored, as if you never said it.
At this point, it should go without saying that Buddy gets no clicks/treats or praise for sloppy circles.
All that is needed now it to lose the stick (if an audience sees you using that stick, you will be forever branded as a rank amateur) which is fairly easy to do. Just shorten it up gradually until all that remains is your hand motion doing the same circle pattern, and if that hand motion bothers you it’s easy to fade that out also.
Now that Buddy can do a full spin, how about expanding on that exercise, and working on multiple spins? Or how about starting the whole trick over, but this time in the opposite direction? Use your imagination to see how you can build on this move.