Fading the body movements

When you are confident that your dog has associated the word to the behaviour, the challenge is for your dog to be able to perform the entire trick just using the command.

To build to this finale, your need to fade your body movements so that you can remain in a single position when you ask your dog to perform the trick.

The key steps to fading your body movement are:

  • Choose a location to stand. This should be close enough to the step that you can reach over your dog’s head when its standing on the step. Use the command for your dog to start the trick
  • When your dog stands on the step, keep using your command and reward as soon as it starts moving around the step on its own.
  • When rewarding, place your hand so that your dog must face away from you to get the reward. As your dog knows that it must keep its front paws on the step it will have to move its back end around towards you to be able to get the reward. Keep using the command whilst you are doing this.
  • Slowly fade the number or rewards that you are giving by only rewarding when your dog does progressively larger turns. As you fade the rewards also start lifting your hand away from your dog, to fade the luring hand. However, still use subtle hand movements to encourage your dog to turning.
  • Keep building the distance that your dog moves until it can do nearly a full revolution coming round to meet you in a Heel and Side position.
  • Finally step back so your dog can do a full revolution without coming to a stop against your legs

We cover these steps in the final video for this Trick with Emily and Leo.

Once your dog has learnt this trick, you can use a wide variety of objects as the target for its front paws. It is a fun trick to practice whilst out on a walk where you can use tree stumps or rocks provided its safe enough for your dog to walk around them.

Another good challenge would be to use a football as a perch to encourage your dog to develop its balance skills with its front paws. However, be careful this is very difficult, so I suggest you gradually introduce an unstable perch before introducing the ball. I suggest you start by introducing a balance cushion that you gradually inflate more whilst your dog is gaining more experience and confidence with an unstable surface. Remember the more air in the balance cushion the less stable the perch it becomes, hence the more balance your dog will need to develop. Only when you dog is confident with the balance cushion can you introduce the ball.

Build the rotation and add a word

As your dog starts to become comfortable with the trick, start building the number of steps that it takes before offering the rewards. Set yourself goals of being able to turn 90 degrees in both directions. Then increase this to 180, 270 and then finally 360 degrees.

In the following video with Leo, Emily turns increasing further with Leo. Remember that its highly probable that you will not progress with your own dog as quickly as this. Leo is used to learning and offering behaviours so tends to pick up tricks very quickly.

You can start to introduce a word to the behaviour once your dog is smoothly turning around the step in both directions. In the next video Katy has the right level of understanding of what is expected of her for Emily to start introducing the word, in this case “Elephant”.

Object from the floor

The next progression is for your dog to pick up the object from the floor.

For some dogs this may take a bit of time to understand that the object does not have to be in your hand. Also, depending upon the type and size object, it may be difficult for your dog to pick the object off the floor. For example, a ball is easier than a coin to pick up.

When starting with the object on the floor, place the object close to you. Only when your dog understands that it must pick the object up should you start increasing how far away you place the object. You might need to animate the object a little bit on the floor near to your dog to get it interested before being able to throw or slide it away (keep the distance small at this stage), this will help stimulate your dog interest.

 “Push” was used in the previous topics to get your do to bring the object to your hand. As your dog becomes increasingly proficient in the retrieve trick, you should be able to fade out the “Push” from the sequence.

If you find your dog start dropping the object, remember the tip to use your hand above your dog’s head when taking the object from it. (the Tip video in the Encouraging Grabbing Topic if you need to take another look at this)

Some dogs like doing “zoomies” or running away from you with the object. This is because they want to play with the object rather than bringing it back to your hand. A tip to prevent this in the early stage of teaching the retrieve is to throw the object in the corner of the room. When you dog picks up the object it has nowhere to go but to turn back towards you. Emily gives a quick demonstration of this with Leo in the next short video clip.

Lowering the Object

Previously the object has been offered at your dog’s head height. Once your dog is confidently pushing your hand whilst holding an object, gradually start lowering the object. The objective is being able to have the object on the floor.

At this stage we really want to generalise the behaviour so that your dog will perform the trick irrespective of your location. You should be able take the object from any position.  Vary your position, vary the distances, so your dog approach the object from different angles.

Push to the Hand

Now that your dog has master the “Hold it” trick you can take the trick further and develop a rock solid Retrieve or Fetch!.

Having worked the “Hold it” for several weeks now, you dog should be proficient with “Hold It”. It should be able to keep hold of any object, even whilst being distracted, until asked to release it with the Give command. The short video of Emily & Leo demonstrates the sort of hold you should now be expecting from your dog.

A lot of people struggle with a clean retrieve. You will often notice during walks when people play with a ball, the dogs tend to come to a certain distance and leave the ball on the floor.

For the retrieve trick we want your dog to actively bring the object it is holding to your hand instead of dropping it.

The trick to the trick is very simple! You are going to chain your “Push” and “Hold it” tricks together.

Where you have previously been using the sequence:

Take It, Hold It, Give

You are now going to use:

Take It, Hold It, Push, Give

By introducing the Push in the sequence your dog will have to take contact with your hand, which in essence is a retrieve!

We demonstrate this change in the following videos with Manouk and Mozzie.

As your dog should be familiar with the Push, whilst your dog is holding an object in its mouth, hold out the palm of your hand and use your Push command.

Tip if you that find your dog does not move towards your hand and perform the push:

  • Place your hand nearer to your dog
  • Move your hand gently away from your dog so that it must follow your hand to come to push it. Don’t make it too difficult, remember you don’t want to demotivate your dog, but you want to teach him that he has to come to push the hand.

Whilst working this trick, offer the object from different positions relative to your body position.


It’s time to make your dog’s back paws part to the trick too! Dogs often struggle with tricks involving their back paws therefore we decided to introduce those tricks later in the school and we are going to develop the skills gradually, starting off with one of the easy tricks.

The Elephant trick is so called because it is a trick that was often performed by Elephants in circuses. It involves your dog standing on and object with its front paws (the “On it” trick) and then moving its back paws laterally (in abduction and adduction) to circle around the object with its back end.

It is an extension of the “On it” trick but it trains your dog to become proficient to use its hind-legs appropriately to turn around the perch. You will find out that some dogs can turn better one way than another.

To encourage your dog to move its back paws whilst its front paws are on an object:

  • position yourself next to your dog’s side
  • With a treat in your hand, to lure your dog’s head to the side than you want it to start turning. So, to turn clockwise around the object turn your dog’s head to the right.
  • With your leg that is directly next to your dog’s side very gently touch your dog’s side. You are not trying to force your dog to turn by pushing it with your leg but just encouraging it to move its hind legs.
  • As soon as your dog makes a sideways step with its hind legs use your Yes marker and reward. Some dogs really struggle so just one step should be enough to mark and reward, don’t be too hasty!
  • Gradually build the number of steps your dog takes before giving the reward. When your dog takes a step you also need to take a step to follow their movement.
  • Remember work in both directions. Like the Roll Over Trick, you will probably find your dog is much better turning in one direction than the other.

The following video is of Mozzie’s first attempt at the Elephant trick