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  • How To Teach Your Dog Left And Right

    by David Comiskey

    Did you know that it is actually quite simple to teach your dog the difference between left and right? With the right approach, your dog can learn to distinguish these directions in just a few weeks. 

    A retriever mix dressed up wearing glasses. You can teach your dog left and right with a little practice.

    Why Teach Your Dog Left And Right?

    There are a bunch of different benefits that come with teaching your dog directionals.

    First of all, it is bonding and will help both of you understand each other better. Whatever it is you are training your dog to do, will ultimately make him a better trainee, make you a better trainer and make every future training faster and more successful.

    Dogs have to learn “how to learn” and will be much better at acquiring obedience skills if you also invest some time into teaching them different tricks in addition to sit, down and stay.

    Left and Right also are great commands to have for a dog who for example comes on bike rides with you or is a canine jogging partner. Being able to tell him which way to go is much more convenient than having to yank on his leash every time there is a change of direction.

    Time To Train!

    For your training sessions, make sure your dog is well-rested. Don’t try to train after he has come in from a long game of fetch or playing with this doggy friends. The better he can focus, the faster he will learn.

    Take a couple treats that your dog loves and stand in front of your dog. Your dog should also be in a standing position. Now hold a treat directly in front of his nose. Draw a circle in the air with the treat to make your dog spin. Make sure to hold the treat right at the level of his head (if you hold it too high he will sit or only turn his head, if you hold it too low he will lay down).

    After he has completed the circle, give the treat to him.

    Now take a second treat and lure him in a circle into the other direction and reward him for that, too.

    Practice Makes Perfect

    Repeat the circles in both directions a couple times each day. Eventually your dog should be able to turn in a circle faster and faster. Don’t worry if your dog seems to need some extra time to achieve this step – every dog is different and will learn in a slightly different way.

    As long as you consistently practice, your dog will get there!

    Introducing Cues

    Now we want to name the spins Left and Right. You want to use a lot of caution at this step to make sure to get the commands right. If you are standing in front of your dog, what looks like his Left from your perspective is actually his Right. Think it through before attaching the commands and avoid accidentally teaching him that spinning to the left is named “right”.

    When you are certain that you got Left and Right sorted out, simply say the name of the command as you are luring the dog in a circle. Again, repetition makes perfect – your dog won’t learn the new command in one or two tries, instead he will need several sessions to really understand the names of his new tricks.

    Fading The Treat

    Now comes the time to fade the treat! It can be difficult to train dogs to do behaviorswithout treats, but here is a little trick that works every time:

    Take a treat and rub it between your fingers. Then you put it back into your pocket and lure the dog in a circle with your hand that still smells like the treat. Your dog will perform the trick, and then you can reach into your pocket and get his reward. That way he will learn:“Even if I do not see the treat, I will still get rewarded!”

    Fading The Hand Motion

    The last step is to get rid of the luring hand motion. This can take a little while, but if you practice consistently your dog should be able to spin Left and Right without a hand signal in about a month. 

    In order to make him successful, reduce the amount of hand motion just a little bit every time you lure him in a circle. Eventually you can make him spin left and right with only a flick of the wrist.

    Looking for more training tips from Barkly’s Fur the Record? Check out our post about teaching your dog to heel. Enjoy the training!

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