Sunday, March 24, 2013

trick of the week: stand on my feet

Photo from that dog dancing guy
I've had a couple of people ask me about this trick.

If you are playing along at home, please let me know how you're going with your tricks, if you're having any problems (maybe I can help!?) if you're succeeding, if I'm giving you too many assignments too quickly.

This trick was one of the early ones I taught to Lumen- I think she had a natural tendency to barge between my legs though anyway so it was a pretty natural progression from there.

For this trick, I think it would be helpful if your dog it used to playing with its feet- eg, experimenting while shaping by using its feet to touch things, climb on things, etc. It's only front feet this time and most dogs seem to have a better understanding of their front feet over their rear feet.

So, here's what you do.

edited: in case you feel lazy, you can just watch a video instead!!!

Stand on my feet (and walk)

You'll need:
Clicker or marker word (eg. yes!)
Hungry dog
Maybe some toys for jackpots.

First, start by luring your dog with a bit of food to go around your leg (this can be a trick in itself) toward your back. You might want a bit of food in both hands to stop your dog turning to look back at the first hand to get the food.

With open legs, reward your dog through the legs. You'll want to work on this lure and reward bit so the dog gets used to being between your legs. I can imagine some dogs wouldn't like it so you have to make it a fairly valuable place to be with plenty of treats. You can make the circling around and coming through a trick in itself, or if you wanted to skip it you could just step over your dog, I guess, but it's more fun if they get into position themselves. 
So, say you want them to come around on your right side because you're right handed like me so that makes sense (or switch this around), you'd have a bit of food in your right and left hands. You'd lure them from in front of you, around the right side of your body, as far as you can before they are bending weird from trying to get the food in your right hand... then you need to get their attention with the food in your left hand, and feed them for coming through your legs. I think it's less complicated than it sounds, give it a try. 

Ok, that's part 1 to set your dog up.
Now that it's happy to be between your legs, you'll want to curl your toes up to make your feet nice and flat. I suggest also wearing shoes as socks and bare feet are very slippy and even Lu has trouble staying on. You'll also want to start being a little pigeon toed.. means your feet are closer without you having to crush your dog with your legs. 

Now comes the shaping. You can lure a little here too but not in great amounts- I find Lumen does some of her best thinking while gnawing on my hand that has food in it, and will naturally shuffle around and try different things with her feet while she's doing this- your dog may or may not, but you need to find a way to get those feet moving without necessarily encouraging the dog to leave the leg zone. 
If they lift a foot, click and reward- I think Lu crept forward a bit while learning this, so I'd push her back with food to the nose. Essentially, you start clicking front feet movement, jackpotting and going crazy if their foot even accidentally touches yours.
It's a bit of trial and error to get to the standing on your feet bit, but once they get it you'll be right...
Eventually your dog should get one foot one, and then it's a matter of getting them to put the other on... as most dogs are left or right-paw dominant, one will be easier than the other. I wouldn't necessarily worry about having two paws on at once at first if you need to work on the non-dominant paw... I'd probably want them to understand that either/or paw can go on, particularly the non-dominant paw, and from there start waiting it out once one paw is on your foot to see if they move the other one.

For the walking, you just start small, even just shifting your weight and clicking them for staying on your feet. Then a little step, click for staying on your feet. Keep doing this, step by step, until you can take a few steps in a row before rewarding.
I didn't name this trick, apart from the circling around and through my legs bit- she knows if she goes through, she should probably stand on my feet next. I suppose you could name it if you want.


My dog isn't moving its feet or doing anything.

So I'd probably recommend other tricks to get your dog thinking about its feet, eg. paw touches/targets, standing on shoes (not on your feet), climbing on a saucepan, etc. I also helped get Lumen's attention sometimes by wiggling my toes if I had my shoes off. The movement helped her focus on my feet and she figured she probably needed to do something with them. Like I said, you can use food a bit to help shift your dog's weight to encourage them to move their feet, too.

My dog hops off whenever I move forward.

Work on just staying still but shifting your weight like you're about to take a step but don't really take a step. Get the dog to understand that their job is to keep its feet on yours.

Let me know if you have any other problems and I'll post the questions up here, and happy training!


  1. I will be trying this one out... Great breakdown :)

    1. Awesome! Let me know how you go- when I get home I have a video of me doing it with Lu and trying to do it with Mal (useless dog!!) so I'll put that up here as well.