How to Teach Your Dog to Dance

Two Methods:Teaching Your Dog Individual Tricks and Dance MovesCreating a Dance Routine With Your Dog

Teaching your dog to dance simply means teaching him several tricks and commands to perform in a row, and then setting everything to music (if you want). You can teach your dog to dance just for the fun of it, or you can get really serious and enter dog dancing competitions![1] Dancing with your dog is also known as “canine freestyle.” And while you can use these moves to dance, they also make great tricks for parties and pet therapy visits.[2]

Method 1
Teaching Your Dog Individual Tricks and Dance Moves

  1. 1
    Teach your dog to spin. You can teach your dog to spin in both a clockwise and counter-clockwise direction. However, make sure you use different verbal commands for each direction so your dog doesn’t get confused. For example, use the command SPIN to turn clockwise and the command TWIRL to turn counter-clockwise. As with all tricks, make sure to have some sort of food motivation for your dog while he’s in training. The best option is to have some of his kibble available as a treat when he performs the moves correctly. To teach your dog to spin, use the following steps:[3]
    • Place a treat in your hand and use your hand and the treat to lure your dog to move in a full circle (or spin).
    • If your dog performs the spin correctly, reward him with the treat.
    • It is also helpful to use verbal praise (like the word YES or GOOD) to indicate to your dog that he’s done something properly and a treat is coming. This verbal praise bridges the time between your dog performing the trick correctly and your dog receiving his treat.
    • When training your dog to move in a clockwise circle, try to use your right hand to hold the treat. And when training your dog to move in a counter-clockwise circle, try to use your left hand to hold the treat.
    • Once your dog has learned the basics of the spin, try getting him to spin multiple times before providing the treat.
    • You can also remove the treat from your hand and simply use the motion of your hand to command your dog to move in a circle.
    • Finally, start to add the verbal command to the trick. If spinning clockwise, start saying the word SPIN (as an example) when your dog is spinning. And use the command TWIRL when your dog is spinning in a counter-clockwise direction.
  2. 2
    Try the stationary leg weave trick with your dog. The stationary leg weave is a neat trick that isn’t difficult to teach but looks more complicated to people watching. Basically, you need to stand still, with your legs slightly apart and have your dog weave in and out of your legs. It’s referred to as the “stationary” leg weave because you just need to stand in one place. There’s no need for you to move around for this trick, although you may need to bend your legs every so often to help you dog walk through your legs. Use the following steps to teach your dog the stationary leg weave:[4]
    • Start with your dog in front of you while standing with your legs slightly apart (enough for your dog to fit through). Make sure you have your dog’s attention.
    • Hold your dog’s treat in your right hand and your dog’s collar in your left hand.
    • Place your right hand behind you, near your right leg and near the opening of your legs. You want your dog to be able to see or smell the treat in your right hand.
    • Using your left hand on your dog’s collar, guide him through your legs towards your right hand with the treat.
    • Use your right hand to lure him through your legs and around the outside of your right leg.
    • When he performs this movement properly, say YES and give your dog his treat.
    • Repeat the same basic movements on your left side.
    • During practice, provide the treat at different spots in the weave movement. This helps to prevent your dog from assuming he only has to go to a certain place to receive the treat.
    • Once your dog has the handle of weaving through your legs on both sides, use your hands and the treat to lure him in a full figure eight around BOTH of your legs before you reward him.
    • Eventually you can get your dog to do this trick without using your hands. Instead, you can cue your dog using the movement of your legs. To do this, practice the trick while bending your right leg and leaning slightly to the right while he weaves around your right leg. Perform the same movements on your left side. Once your dog gets the hand of it, he’ll move through your legs when he sees you bend your leg and lean to the side.
  3. 3
    Advance to the forward leg weave trick. To start learning this trick, make sure you’ve already taught your dog the stationary leg weave. While performing the stationary leg weave, move your leg forward as if you were going to take a step (but don’t actually take a step). This will get your dog use to your new movement for the leg weave. Once your dog is able to do the stationary leg weave properly, following these steps to teach your dog the forward leg weave:[5]
    • Start with your dog standing to your left side, facing forward. If you need to hold his collar to get him into this position, it’s okay.
    • Take a step forward with your right leg and lure your dog through your legs, towards your right side, with a treat and your hand.
    • Once you dog has moved through your legs and is on your right side, say YES and give your dog his treat. The word YES works as verbal praise to let your dog know a treat is coming and he’s done something right.
    • Take a step forward with your left leg and lure your dog through your legs, towards your left side. Say YES and reward him when he’s completely the movement properly.
    • Continue practicing this trick, leg-by-leg, as you walk forward until your dog is comfortable with the trick.
    • Once your dog is able to move around your legs individually, have him one around both legs properly before rewarding him.
    • Slowly progress through the process by taking away the treat and using only your hands for direction. Then stop using even your hands and just use the movement of your legs to cue your dog to perform the trick.
  4. 4
    Have your dog circle around you. Training your dog circle around you is very similar to training your dog to spin. The only obvious difference is that you are the centre of the circle for this trick, whereas with spinning the centre of the circle is empty. You can train your dog to circle around your clockwise and counter-clockwise. If you use verbal commands for this trick, make sure to use different words for clockwise and counter-clockwise. For example, you could use RIGHT for clockwise and LEFT for counter-clockwise. This trick can also be performed with you standing, kneeling, or sitting, but you may want to start with only one position until your dog has the hang of the trick. Use the following steps to train your dog to circle around you:[6]
    • Start with your dog standing on your left side and with his attention focused on you.
    • Hold your dog’s treat in your right hand and use your hand (and the treat) to lure him to walk around your legs in a clockwise circle.
    • Because a circle can technically start and end anywhere, reward your dog at different locations around your legs so he doesn’t always assume one specific spot is the ‘end’ of the trick.
    • While your dog is still learning, it’s also important to keep your hand as close to your legs as possible. This will help your dog associate the treat with your legs.
    • Continuing practicing the circle movement while saying the verbal command. Also, practice with your dog going in the opposite (counter-clockwise) direction.
    • Eventually your dog should be able to perform the trick without being lured by a treat, but by simply listening to your verbal command.
  5. 5
    Get your dog to hop up. Teaching your dog to hop up, or to stand on his back paws only, is not as hard as it seems, but does require a step-by-step approach so as not to confuse your dog. Throughout the trick, the important thing is to lure your dog upwards, onto his back paws, with a treat. Eventually, you’ll be able to remove the treat and replace it with a simple verbal command like UP. Use the following steps to help get your dog to hop up:[7][8]
    • Start with your dog sitting beside you, facing you, and make sure his full attention is on you.
    • Use one of your hands to hold a treat just above his head. Use your hand and the treat to lure him upwards.
    • The step-by-step approach is to first allow your dog to stand up with his front paws leaning against your leg. Once he’s in that position, you can give him verbal praise (YES) and give him the treat.
    • Once he’s perfected standing with his front paws on your leg, switch and have him put his front paws on your forearm.
    • Then, once he’s perfected both leaning against your leg and forearm, lure him to stand up without any support. This may be harder for some dogs than others. Some dogs may even be able to skip leaning against you and go directly to this step, but don’t be upset if it takes a while for your dog to get to this point.
    • As you work your way through this trick, start adding the verbal command — UP — when holding your hand above your dog.
    • Eventually you’ll be able to stop using your hand (and a treat) and just use the verbal command.
  6. 6
    Make your dog your dance partner. Most dance tricks you do with your dog are done with you and your dog beside each other. You may be moving together, in time to the music, but you’re not actually dancing hand-to-paw. There is a trick you can teach your dog that will put him a position to make it look like you two are really dancing with each other.[9]
    • Note, this trick will only work with a dog who is around the same height as you when standing on his hind legs.
    • Start by kneeling down at your dog’s level with one arm raised either to your side, or to the front of you.
    • Use your opposite hand to hold a treat above your outstretched arm. The purpose of the treat is to get your dog’s attention. Hold the treat high enough that he can’t reach it while sitting down.
    • Either on his own, or with some coaxing, get your dog to raise up on his hind feet and put his front paws on your outstretched arm.
    • Once your dog has his front paws on your arm, provide him with the reward.
    • You’ll want to repeat this trick several times in the kneeling position. You may also want to add a verbal command to the trick so you dog will still perform when you no longer have a treat.
    • Once your dog has the hang of this trick while your kneeling, practice the trick while you’re standing up.

Method 2
Creating a Dance Routine With Your Dog

  1. 1
    Find music that suits your dog. Dogs have different temperaments and different energy levels. When you’re just starting out with dancing, pick a song or selection of music, that is compatible with your dog’s energy level and enthusiasm. Start by picking music that lasts only 1 to 2 minutes.[10]
    • For example, if you have a very high-energy dog, you may need to pick music that has a fast beat. Whereas, if you have a low-energy dog, you may need to pick music that has a slower beat.
  2. 2
    Design a routine to go with the music. Once you’ve selected the appropriate music, figure out what specific tricks and moves you want to perform with the music. If this is your first time creating a dance routine with your dog, keep it simple. Once you’ve selected the move, and the order you want to perform the moves, break the whole routine down into smaller, more manageable chunks.[11]
    • Each chunk, or section, of the routine should include only a small number of tricks. If it’s a difficult trick, you may want to break that into a chunk of its own.
  3. 3
    Start your routine with a pause. If you’re planning a routine for competition, or you want to add a little drama to a routine for other purposes, start your routine with a pause and not movements. The purpose of the pause is to provide the audience with a split-second picture of you and your dog together.[12]
  4. 4
    Make sure your routine includes movements in all directions. For routines in competitions, you’ll have a limited amount of space to perform, but you will need to use as much of it as possible. When travelling across the dance floor, you should move in all possible directions — forwards, backwards, sideways, diagonally, in circles, and angles.[13]
  5. 5
    Create sections of your routine where your dog moves on his own. Parts of your routine should include movements where you stand still and your dog moves on his own. These parts offer a great opportunity to showcase your dog and his abilities.[14]
    • If you’re planning a routine for competitive purposes, check the rules to make sure such movements are allowed. Some organizations require the human to continue moving throughout the routine.
    • The opposite of this step should be avoided, where a part of your routine requires the dog to stay still and the human to be the only one moving. Your dog should always be the centre of attention.
  6. 6
    End your routine centre stage. Every routine should end with you and your dog at ‘centre stage’ or the centre of the dance floor. If you’re preparing a routine for competition, you should also make sure you end your routine facing the judges. If your routine is simply for an audience, then you should end your routine facing the main portion of that audience.[15]
    • Once the music has ended, step forward and bow to the judges or the audience. Pause for a moment and then move
  7. 7
    Practice each part of the routine with your dog. Once you have your routine broken down into small pieces, practice each individual section with your dogs. In order not to overwhelm your dog, practice each section in the order they’re to be performed. Once your dog has mastered one section, move onto the next section, until you’ve practiced the whole routine.[16]
    • Even though you may move on from one section to another, you’ll want to keep practicing all the previous sections with your dog periodically.
    • At this stage of development, you’ll probably want to practice without the music.
    • Try to practice a part of the routine at least once a day.


  • Always make sure you have your dog’s full attention when working on a new trick. This means you may want to practice the trick in a location that doesn’t have anything else that might draw your dog’s attention. Once he’s perfected the trick, then you can attempt to perform the trick in a more distracting environment.
  • If your dog isn’t motivated by food, try using one of his favourite toys to lure him in the directions and positions you need him to go. His reward, when performing the trick properly, is to be able to play with his toy.
  • Canine freestyle competitions should be about the dog, not the human. While it may be tempting to dance up a storm yourself, your routine should showcase your dog and his abilities. Your movements should be synchronized to the music and should cue your dog to perform his tricks.[17]
  • The costume you wear for competitions should complement your dog and not detract from his appearance. Your costume should also not draw the eyes of the audience (and judges) away from your dog.
  • The following organizations specialize in canine freestyle and may be of interest if you’re planning to enter dancing competitions with your dog:

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Categories: Dog Tricks