Learning the Outside Arm Turn

09 Aug 2006Steve Schwarz

The Outside Arm Turn can be used to initiate turning your dog during a Rear Cross Learning the Rear CrossRear Cross. It is effectively a partial “spin” cue. In itself this little exercise is another fun and easy thing to train your dog.

Start with your dog at your side and slightly in front of you. Using a treat or toy you lure your dog into a turn from your side in toward you. That is, with your dog on your left you use your left arm to turn your dog clockwise. With your dog on your right you use your right arm to turn your dog counter clockwise.

I am being specific about which direction you train your dog to turn with each arm motion. I am doing this so you don’t train your dog to turn away from you as they would with an Inside Arm cue. On the other hand if you do want to train the Inside Arm turn you can turn your dog in the opposite rotation with each arm as well.

The idea is to break the rotation down into small pieces and reward at each piece. So I put a handful of small, very tasty, treats in my hand and lure the dog through a 360 degree rotation rewarding as frequently as necessary to complete the rotation. When your dog is facing away from you some dogs don’t want to continue turning and will stop or turn back to you in the opposite direction. I’ve found that if you take a small step forward it can help your dog. Also if you have a dog that is longer than your arm reach you’ll need to take a step(s) too.

You don’t want to lure your dog with many cookies for more than a couple rotations. Cut back on them as rapidly as your dog will allow; you want the motion of your arm to become the cue for this behavior. If you have trained your dog to Target Your Hand you can also use a nose touch to draw your dog through the rotation.

Here is a video of me training Meeker using treats for turns in each direction.

If you want to turn this into a little “trick” you can give it a verbal cue, but I’m not aware of any need for this to be verbally cued otherwise.

Alternate Training Thoughts

There are trainers who would never teach this to a dog with a “proclivity to spin”. Shelties are often considered dogs who “like” to spin (I think they are just very agile). Although, in most cases I’ve seen, the dogs are usually spinning when they haven’t been given enough information from their handlers. A common case is when the handler has Rear Crossed on the take off side of a jump and the dog didn’t change leads on the take off side. So when the dog lands turned away from it’s handler it spins back looking for where their handler went. In those cases the handler has to give the dog a better/clearer cue when Rear Crossing on the take off side of a jump. To me it seems to be a symptom of faulty handling and not a breed specific problem or a “danger” of teaching a spin. I’m now training our third dog to perform this and have yet to see our dogs spin on course when properly cued.

I hope this article is of help. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

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