July 2019 Training Challenge

A new month brings a new training challenge! For those of you who have been following us on Facebook (@PetHarmonyTraining) you know that each month we put out a new training challenge for you and your pet to try. I was inspired by a few colleagues who do similar challenges for their apprentices and thought it’d be fun for everyone! Plus, a lot of my clients tell me that they want to do something new with their pet but don’t know what to do. My hope is that these challenges spark some inspiration and give you some fun activities to try with your pet. Having fun through training is great for relationships!

Our July training challenge is: teach “spin” both clockwise & counterclockwise. Added challenge for multi-pet households: teach “spin” like a musical round (pet 1 spins, then pet 2 spins, etc.) 

This is one that you can do with any pet: dog, cat, iguana, hamster, horse. You name it! As long as they can move around you can teach this. I like teaching this behavior for a few reasons:

  1. Teaching new behaviors (like tricks) is great for mental exercise. To wear a dog out we need to provide both mental and physical exercise. 
  2. You can use it for wiping paws! Ask your dog to spin on a rug or towel a few times to wipe off their own feet. It’s not perfect but gets off the majority of mud; it’s especially great for dogs who don’t like you touching their feet. 
  3. Impress your friends! Okay this one’s a bit of a stretch but if you add a cute name to a trick it’s usually a crowd-pleaser. I use “twist” and “shout” as my directional spin cues. Plus, if you teach this to one of your non-canine pets it’ll seem even more impressive!

Typically, the easiest way to teach this is through luring: having the animal follow something and by doing so they perform the desired task. I think of this like old cartoons with the carrot dangling from a stick. Or like the dog in Mulan feeding the chickens by following his bone. 

Put a treat in your hand and move it around the animal so they spin as a result of following your hand. Give them the treat for doing it! Some animals will not spin all the way around in the beginning; break it into smaller steps for them. Move your hand, treat for a small amount of following, move a little more, treat for a little more following, and so on. I break this down in our Facebook Live July Training Challenge video so check that out if you need a visual on how to do this! 

Luring is usually the easiest and quickest way to get results but it’s not the only way. Additionally, some pets won’t be comfortable learning this skill through luring. When I first adopted Oso I attempted to teach spin via luring and he was not having it. His body is quite long– in fact, longer than my arm. I had to lean so far over him to compensate that it made him uncomfortable and he would move away. I chose to shelve this trick until he had settled in more but I could have also chosen a different avenue of teaching through either capturing or shaping. Capturing is just as it sounds: wait for the animal to do the behavior and reward them for it. Shaping involves rewarding the baby steps of progress toward your end goal. For spin it’d look like this: reward for head moving 1” over right shoulder, reward for 2” over right shoulder, 3”, 4”, 1 step to the right, 2 steps right, and so on. Shaping is a harder skill for both human and animal alike but very rewarding for all species once you get the hang of it. 

Now what?

  • Get out there and start training! 
  • Check out our July Training challenges video on Facebook for how to start teaching this trick.
  • Share your results! Comment here or post a video on Facebook of your dog spinning!