Teaching your dog their lefts from their rights

This is a skill that Betsy had to learn for agility but it makes a good trick for any dog. In agility it’s important that a dog knows left from right without any hand signal. If you know anything about dog training, dogs are MUCH better at visual cues vs verbal cues, so it’s always a bit trickier to teach something on a word alone, but it can absolutely be done. Just a bit more practice 🙂

The key to teaching this trick is:

  • Start with one direction and master it before switching to the other direction
  • Start with a hand signal and slowly fade it out
  • Proofing is just alternating directions and only giving a treat if the dog gets it correct! If you’re having too many wrong directions, try using the hand signals again for a bit to make it easier, then fade out again.

To start out, pick a direction. Take a treat, put it in front of the dog’s nose, and lure the dog into a circle. Do this several times until the dog is really “getting” it. Start incorporating your verbal command as they do the turn. Then, slowly fade away your hand movement: Instead of luring the dog in a complete circle, lure them 3/4 of the way and let them finish on their own. Then 1/2 way. Then just start them out. Then just point. This doesn’t all have to happen in one training session!

Luring:

Pointing:

Once they are reliably turning with the point, try removing the point and just saying the word. Once they have this, you can switch to the other direction. Give the first direction a break so you’re not confusing them, and repeat the same steps as before going the opposite way.

Once they can reliably do the opposite way, that’s when you can start showing them that they have to turn the CORRECT direction when asked to get a treat; they can’t just do a circle any which way they please. Alternate directions (using hand signals at first if it helps, then removing once they seem to be understanding the game) and reward them for turning the right way!


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