Canine Gym At Home: Pivoting!

by Kathy Santo | Updated: Jan 22 2019

What’s So Great About Pivoting???

Pivoting is the unsung hero of dog body strengthening and conditioning. It teaches your dog to move their rear paws independently of their front paws, which improves their proprioception (which then helps prevent injuries), boosts their confidence, provides a strengthening exercise for their hind legs and core, AND it’s a foundation exercise for SO MANY other things! (as you can see, we’re huge fans).

Once your dog is confidently able to pivot in both directions, his ability to maintain heel position will improve when turning. That makes “Setup” and “Side” easier for him, because his ability (and confidence!) to move his rear independently when switching between positions will be improved.

If your dog loves to play with balls, frisbees, or sticks, you may notice that when you throw the toy...

… your dog makes quick turns when chasing AND catching it.

This is one of the most common situations where a dogs can injure themselves! By teaching and practicing their pivots, they’ll be more confident (and physically stronger and more coordinated) when turning or catching toys, which can help prevent an injury from occurring.

For those of you who compete (or are interested in competing) in a sport like agility, rally, disc dogs, or flyball with your dog, the hind end awareness achieved through pivoting is absolutely critical!

What You Need To Know

what equipment is needed?

Any object a few inches off the ground that your dog can pivot around such as:

  • Upside down bowl or tupperware (put it on a ‘grippy’ surface so it won’t slide!)
  • Large book
  • Small cardboard box
  • Small plastic bin
  • Upside down small trash can
  • Pillow
  • Folded towel
  • Upside down laundry basket
  • Cinder block or brick

What Commands Are Needed?

  • Paws Up

What Part Of The Dog's Body Does This Exercise Target?

It’s a full body workout!

How To Teach It

Quick Tips:

  • Have the dog place front feet onto bowl or object (you can use a cookie on their nose to lure them into the position if needed)
  • Start off with the cookie in front of you, level with your dog’s nose–if you need to help the dog understand what you’re looking for, vary your cookie placement
  • Slowly move the food to help lure your dog into taking a rear step laterally either to the left or right (you’re eventually going to teach both directions, but the dog will usually prefer moving in one direction than the other to start)
  • Start slow, expecting only one step at a time. Feed each time the dog takes a step to help him understand what you want
  • Have your dog pivot in a circle going in both directions
  • Begin with only 3-5 steps at a time, than release dog

Is Your Dog Ready For A Challenge?

Challenge 1

  • To further challenge the dog’s shoulders/core, use an unstable surface for their front feet (like a couch cushion or pillow!).
  • If your dog can spin with a hand signal or just a verbal command challenge their obedience with this exercise as well!

Challenge 2

  • To further challenge the dog’s rear and proprioception, add objects near their rear paws while pivoting, so that they have to step onto/over them (start with only one item at a time). 

For example: a stick or piece of wood they have to step over, a rolled up towel, or even a textbook that they can step onto and over to continue pivoting! 

Kathy Santo has spent her entire career as a dog trainer and handler, training dogs and winning over 500 obedience, agility and Canine Good Citizenship titles. Working with her own dogs, she has achieved every competitive obedience title the American Kennel Club (AKC) has offered and earned the prestigious AKC “Obedience Trial Champion” title (OTCh) multiple times.

In Waldwick, Kathy teaches classes, private lessons, and oversees the training of her student’s dogs using her extensive knowledge, experience and intuition to handle problems from the benign to the serious. Her engaging personality has won her the respect and friendship of her many students, who now consider themselves part of her extended family.


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