Spin and Twist


Spin and Twist are easy tricks to learn that are fun for your dog and give you a great introduction to trick training!  Your dog will learn to “spin” in a clockwise circle or “twist” in an anticlockwise circle!  You can jazz them up, so you mirror each other’s movements, or use them as a fancy way to link different tricks together.  The instructions below are to teach the clockwise “Spin”, but just follow the same steps but luring your dog anticlockwise instead to teach the “Twist”. 

Required Skills

Clicker training

You will need

A clicker (or you can use a marker word)

Step 1

Have a tasty treat in your hand and get your dog interested by holding it to their nose.  If your dog is sitting, have them follow the treat up into a standing position.  Stand still (a common mistake people make is moving themselves – you should be still and only the dog should move), and get your dog to slowly follow the treat around in a clockwise circle.  Click while your dog is still moving (we don’t want them to think they’re being rewarded for standing still – timing is important!) and let them have the treat once they have completed the spin.

Troubleshooting – Some dogs are nervous about hands over their head.  If this is the case for your dog, you may need to break down step 1 into smaller pieces where you reward a quarter of a spin, then move up to half a spin, before your dog can do a whole spin. 

Step completion criteria – dog can successfully complete a spin with an 80% success rate, while following a treat.

Step 2 

Next, it’s time to add your cue word.  I use the word “spin” for a clockwise circle and “twist” for an anticlockwise circle, but you can use whatever word you like!  Say the word, and then lure your dog into the spin as per Step 1.  Click and reward.

Tip – Don’t say your cue word more than once – they don’t know it yet.  Just say it once and then lure them into the spin. 

Step completion criteria – introduced the cue word to a minimum of 10 lured spins. Continue to use the verbal cue from this point on. ◻

Step 3 

Keep your treats in your treat bag, pocket, other hand or on a nearby table – it’s now time to try to get the spin on to a hand signal, instead of just following food.  Use your hand in exactly the same way as you did in the previous steps, but with no treat. 

Tip – people often do weird things with their hands when there is no treat any more, like make their hands a different shape, or show their dogs their empty hand etc.  Just pretend to hold an imaginary treat in your fingers to keep your hands consistent!

Use your spin cue, lure the spin with your empty hand, then as long as they spin, click and grab them a reward from wherever you have kept your treats.  Jackpot reward your dog at first, as this is increasing the difficulty. 

Troubleshooting – If they don’t spin for the empty hand, do a couple of repetitions with a treat in the hand as usual, then just don’t reload your hand with another treat for the third repetition.  Your dog should assume you have food in your hand and spin.

Step completion criteria – dog can spin for an empty hand signal (and be rewarded with a treat after) with an 80% success rate. ◻

Step 4

Next, it’s time to gradually fade out the hand signal so your dog can spin on just the verbal cue.  Instead of having your hand right next to your dog’s nose to lure them, hold it a couple of inches away and do the same motion.  If your dog still spins, click and reward them.  Every ten repetitions, try to have your hand further and further away and make your signal smaller and smaller.  If at any point your dog really struggles, go back and reward them at a point where they were successful, before trying to fade your hand signal out further.  

Remember, it is easiest to do repetitions in groups of 10 so you can count the successful reps versus the failed reps, as you are always looking to be in that sweet spot of the 80% success rate.  You can always make your hand signal a bit bigger/closer again for a while before attempting to fade it out further, if the failure rate becomes too high.  

Step completion criteria – Dog can spin when you give your verbal cue, without you having to move your hands, with an 80% success rate. ◻

Step 5 

Once you’ve got the spin on a verbal cue, the training doesn’t have to stop there.  Practice in as many different places as you can – dogs don’t always generalise well, so you might even need to go back a step or more to help them if you are in a new and distracting environment!  

If you want to use the spin in more creative ways, then we don’t only want them to spin when they are in front of us.  Practice having your dog spin by your sides, spin while you sit on the floor and spin behind your back.  Remember your dog might need a little extra help at first, but they will soon get it!

Step completion criteria – Dog can spin:

By my left side ◻

By my right side ◻

Behind my back ◻

When I sit in a chair ◻

When I sit on the floor ◻

When I sit on my hands ◻

When I spin at the same time ◻

Step 6 


Once your dog knows how to spin really well, you don’t need to use the clicker every time and you don’t need to reward them for every single repetition either.  Having said that, keep in mind that behaviour that is never reinforced will become weaker and disappear.  Keep randomly rewarding your dog for the behaviours you have taught them.