Teaching Big Dog to Spin...



I have a big (90lbs) Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. I have been trying to teach her to spin for weeks now, and she doesnt seem to get it. I started out trying to shape it, but after 2 weeks of no process, I switched to luring. She still doesnt "get it." I have even tried shaping while luring if that makes sense.

Part of me thinks that her size/body may have something to do with it. She is very uncoordinated at times, and it seems hard for to control her legs. Even though she is almost 3, her breed physically matures slowly and she is still in the "goofy puppy stage." I have done some rear-end awareness, but not much.

Should I give up until she is more mature? Do you have any suggestions on how to go about teaching this? Has anyone else had problems teaching bigger dogs to spin?



Experienced Member
I don't won't to get too technical, but I always start with " rule-outs".
The first rule-out with a dog having probs with learning a trick ..
1. Can the dog physically do this manouver ? I would test her out in a hallway to see whether she can turn 180deg with relative ease ( when she is walking away from you, call her quickly to come back to you ) observe how easy she turns, if she struggles it may be a health problem or just her physical breed.
If she can turn 180deg, there shouldn't be a problem doing a full circle ( 360deg).

2. Does she intellectually understand what you are asking for ?
She could be confused by how you command or lure her into the behaviour. Use no words or sounds, and slowly lure her with a wide circle, when this is consistant, start making the circle smaller and get it a word.
Some dogs are simply uncoordinated, there are props to help with this.

Hope that makes sense, and can help in some way.
Good luck, let us know the progress.



She can turn herself easily at other times, so I dont think she has a medical problem stopping her.

I will try luring a larger circle and making it smaller. Thanks for the idea! :dogbiggrin:

Jean Cote

Staff member
1. Make sure that your lure is fluent and in one motion.

2. Give your marker signal at the end of the turn.

3. Give your treat within one second after your marker signal.

4. Once your dog picks up speed and accuracy into what is asked, you can then add your command.


Experienced Member
I just want to clarify your question a bit- Is she having problem doing a FULL spin (like she'll turn her head but won't ever go past head turn) or is she having problem learning the command/signal?

If it's the problem of actually doing a spin most dogs prefer going one way over the other way, so you can see if she does better one way. Otherwise just try breaking it down into smaller steps and look at the timing if your clicking. If you click late you could be reinforcing the head turn back to you. Or it's really easy to get stuck on clicking the same response, so I up criteria as soon as I"m getting 75% correct responses at the current level. Otherwise the dog gets stuck in do what worked last time, over and over again.

You can also try a target stick and see if that helps. Just teach her to touch her nose to the end of a stick and teach her to go back and forth and do little tiny head turns. Once you get movement like that then try doing a half spin, etc.


New Member
If there isn't any medical reason why your dog can't spin then your dog just isn't quit getting the message. We speak in a language that they don't understand and your dog maybe quite hasn't gotten the message yet. You may be too anxious for the finished product which we all are guilty of from time to time. You mentioned shaping. Start very small. Lure your dog's head to start his spin and click or give your verbal marker (just for the head turn) then treat. Make sure your click and treat and fluent. If you give a "click" or "verbal marker" then fumble for the treat you lost the vital bridge time between the secondary reinforcer (click) and primary reinforcer (treat). Be happy with the head turn for several attempts. Don't give a verbal cue at this point since it will mean jibberish to your dog. Once your dog is turning his head fluently after a few lures, drag the lure a little further around, perhaps a quarter of the way. As he follows, click and treat. You will then repeat this pattern until you are able to turn in a full circle. Once you get it slowly be happy for it. You can't expect a large breed to spin like a Papillion would. Once he gets it add your verbal and eliminate the lure and just use the hand signal. :msngrin:



Well-Known Member
Kai is five months old today, and she knows spin, both left and right. I half-lured it, clicking for a head turn when she fallowed my hand. Then I stopped and clicked when she turned half way, and had her turn around completely to get the treats. I did this for a while until I didn't have to crouch over to get her. It only took 9 minutes. Kai is a German Shepherd, so I don't know about a Swiss mountain dog...