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Pivots. More or Less

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When you teach a dog to pivot – either for heeling/left turns/180 left about turns, left finishes, utility gloves or articles, Fenzi Team Titles or whatever…your dog is expected to stay in heel position while you turn “on a spot”.  How hard can that be?

Kind of hard, actually, because people don’t normally turn on a spot.  And to do it correctly, your dog has to pull in sideways and move backwards – not always the easiest thing to accomplish.  If that doesn’t make sense, ask someone to “heel” you and you’ll see what I mean.

I’ve heard it said “stay on a dinner plate,” which is great advice.  Sadly, I’ve very carefully stayed on my dinner plate and then watched the video later.  Never seen a dinner plate THAT big before.  And it felt so correct at the time.

I teach dogs to pivot on a disc – that’s the first step but if you think about it, by virtue of walking around the disc you are not on a dinner plate – the dog is.  So when you take that disc away, you have to be conscious of holding your spot.  Try putting some masking tape on the floor and staying on it to help you learn how to pivot in a spot. Or hop up on that pivot disc yourself – that works too.

I also use a hand target over the dog’s head if they understand targets – it eases the transition from pivot disc to pivoting on the ground.

Here’s Raika working on her pivots.  First watch it casually – am I staying in one spot?  Next, place your curser on my feet and watch it again.  Not so much, really.

Videos are awesome.  Simply being aware of what I’m doing makes it very likely that I’ll do better next time.  With better handling and some practice, Raika will soon be doing perfect left pivots.  Then I’ll drop the hand help and go from there.  She needs this for her TEAM2 title – so I’d like to get it just right!





About dfenzi

I'm a professional dog trainer who specializes in building relationship in dog handler teams who compete in dog sports. My personal passions are Competitive Obedience and no force (motivational) dog training. I travel throughout the world teaching seminars on topics related to Dog Obedience and Building Drives and Motivation. I own Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, a comprehensive online school for motivational training of performance sport dogs.

7 responses »

  1. ooops – where’s the Raika video on pivots?

  2. woohooo – there it is! Thanks!

  3. In order for you to pivot in place AND stay in one spot, you would need to rotate with your inside foot in contact with the ground; you meander out of place because you’re taking tiny steps in order to turn.

    You can see what an actual in-spot pivot looks like (and how to do the footwork) by watching videos of military drills with people doing Left Faces and Right Faces. A 180-degree turn is an About Face.

  4. Nice ! I can really see that the dog is working and the handler (me) needs awareness too.
    Thanks for sharing your ideas ,time and talents.

  5. I watched Ruth-Anne McCauley’s videos when I first started training for RallyO.
    I did pretty well managing to stay in a circle of about the diameter of the length of one foot and the width of the other. by placing (say when doing a left pivot) the instep of my left foot against the hell of my right foot, then lifting my right foot to line up beside the left foot — four times for as full circle.
    BUT here (Australia) certain judged have decreed that a ‘pivot’ must mean that part of one foot remains the whole time in contact with the ground. I’ve fiddles and fiddled with this. We trial here on grass and grass-sports should prevent you slipping on damp grass and keeping your weight on one foot means disturbing the grass 😦
    But I’ve come up with a solution. For a left pivot again — put your weight on you right foot, and while keeping the left heel in touch with the ground turn your left for 90 degrees to the left, Transfer your weight onto you left foot, lift your right foot and step around so the left foot remains where it is and both feet are together again. After a bit of practice it becomes natural 🙂
    (Of course for a right pivot turn you right foot on its heel, etc.)
    It takes up more room, but the dogs seem to have no trouble with the manoeuvre.

  6. For about turns when heeling Practise by walking in a line. Sivce ar club here we traini on a Rugby field, there are lines apleanty to practise on. You stay on the line and the dog either turns on your outside for right turn, or needs to back to stay in heel position as you turn left.
    I must admit for the 270 and 360 turns our course instructions say “‘a tight circle appropriate to the side of the dog” and the 180 turns are simply called U turns. So while I try to stay on the spot (aka turn on my own axis) I use Ruth-Anne’s foot work still.

  7. I just Googled for
    “foot work marching drills”.

    This is basically how I USED to do turns in heeling patterns — until I was told it was *wrong* 😦


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