top of page

Subscribe to the blog!
Get a free zen bowl webinar!

Pivot Hand You're Doing it Wrong

If you asked me to pick the one hardest skill I teach to people learning obedience it's the ability to lure their dog into heel, pivot style. Nothing even comes close to how hard this is for us to learn! And then you add in trying to teach the dog on top of that and it often doesn't go well!

Despite its difficulties, this technique is the single greatest tool you can have if you want a pretty heeling dog. Or for you agility folks, it will get you that fast and precise lineup you dream of!

Dog slightly crooked in heel position with Laura's hand on the outside of the dog's muzzle, palms facing towards camera. Dog's head it pressed to laura's palm and turned over their shoulder.

It allows you to instantly move the dog wherever you want them to be. Butt out? Bring it in! Even exaggerate it and easily move the dog's rear behind your legs! Your dog loves pivoting a bit too much and is now too far behind, pull them forward! Fix wideness while you're at it too!

Part of the difficulty in learning this skill is that it requires teaching our left hand to be smart. That's hard for the average right-handed person who isn't used to doing any fine motor skills with the left hand!

Practice this without a dog.

Picture having a treat in your thumb and index finger, your remaining 3 fingers hanging down on the side of the dog's head, or even under their chin. Then turn your wrist.

Just your wrist. Like you're turning a doorknob.

Your hand should stay close to your body. And your palm will end up facing straight forward. Spiderman pose!

Now add the dog, on a perch!

If your dog can already pivot on a perch at least a little bit, practice this skill with your dog on the perch. This way you can isolate that rear end action.

Even if your dog can pivot well OFF a perch, bring it back in so you're only rehearsing your part of the equation!

Watch your video. Did your hand stay close to your body? Are you turning the dog's head out over their shoulder? (This head turn action gets smaller once the dog easily moves in expectation of that wrist turn!)

Did I mention how tricky this was? It's ok if you are solely practicing head turn=cookie even if your dog's feet don't move at all.

Your dog's head needs to stay on that cookie. If they come off, don't start chasing them with your hand, keep your hand close and reoffer them the cookie at your side. The dog can move to the food, your hand doesn't need to move to them!

Play with having your fingers UNDER THIER CHIN as you rotate them.

Here's an example showing an exaggerated chin rest as I turn Quill's head. It takes him multiple cookies to get near my side. (In the video I also go back to practicing front pivots in between reps to remind him he can move his feet)

Here's an example of Aero learning this and she too is getting rewarded for just staying on the cookie! She backs away sometimes and I need to reset. But typically once I can get her on the cookie, I can move her!

One more great example of a dog just learning this head turn. The handler's hand is nice and close and Leena is learning to turn her head to eat that cookie. It's not easy and there are no foot movements yet.

Once you've mastered this head turn, you can take it off the perch too! I use it anytime I want to reward effort but want to fix the dog's position.

The example shows a lot of using my pivot hand to really lure Ginny back to my side as she's learning to pivot without a perch. She ends up a bit too but behind at times, but that's ok!

Key points:

  • Keep your hand close to your body

  • Think wrist turn, not a big arm motion

  • Reward the effort the dog turning their head while still keeping mouth to cookie!

If you want some extra help, we'll tackle this skill in TEAM1 this upcoming session. Registration opens November 22nd and we'll work on a bunch of other stuff too such as teaching sexy position changes, backing up, scent articles, and more!

1,341 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page