Dog Tricks: Teaching Your Dog to Dance
by Robin MacFarlane
It might not be high on your list of priorities, but credit to those dogs that can learn the balance point that allows movement on only the hind legs!
Teaching a dog to twirl on the hind legs in a Dance movement is an old standby for a lot of small dogs. They can balance on the hind legs so easily. I've seen many toy breeds learn to do it pretty early in life simply as a way to get attention and get picked up.
And how can you not smile? It really is pretty cute and you can't help but notice. The behavior gets rewarded (often unintentionally!) and thus it persists.
Even if you don't have a toy breed dog you can teach this trick to a pretty wide variety of dogs. I've seen even large breeds like Retrievers and GSD's manage it. Granted, teaching a big dog to Dance might not be high on your list of priorities, you have to give credit to the dog that can learn that balance point that allows them to maintain movement on only the hind legs.
If you decide to give it a try, here are a few tips for encouraging the dog to stand, and then, balance on the hind legs:
Use a lure to encourage your dog to raise the nose high, eventually high enough that the front legs leave the ground.
Only expect a fraction of a second of balance for the first few repetitions. For dogs that are hesitant, you may have to reward for simply lifting the paws off the ground.
The more you can lure the dog into a vertical position, the easier it will be for them to find that balance point to maintain.
Gradually, extend the duration expected. It is important in the early steps to reward for the slightest success and gradually build on it. If you expect too much, too soon many dogs, particularly the larger breeds, will quite trying because they don't understand how to earn the reward.
You will see in the following video clip that I wasn't able to get a complete behavior in this first attempt at teaching this Cocker Spaniel to Dance, but she is beginning to understand what I'm asking and learning to find that balance point for herself.
Robin MacFarlane is a professional dog trainer and owner of Thatís My Dog in Dubuque, Iowa. Her best-selling dog training DVDs, JUST RIGHT and JUST RIGHT 2 have helped thousands of dog owners teach their dogs basic obedience and fix problem behaviors through a system of training that you can easily work into your daily routine.