Friday is Trick Day!

I tried to film today’s video outside to show off the ridiculously amazing weather we’ve been having but apparently my trainer is right and dogs just don’t generalize all that well. Grrr. I hate when that happens. The videos were cute but not exactly what I had in mind. So I’m stuck with the crappy indoor lighting once more.

Shiva kind of taught this one to herself. Over a year ago one of our other trainers showed this off with her border collie. I thought it was hilarious at the time but never intended on teaching it to Shiva. When we started working on the handstand – which we are still working on – Shiva started offering this behaviour all the time. It was annoying at first because she wasn’t doing what I asked. That was when I remembered how cute it could be with the right verbal cue.

Another silly little trick was born!

Are dogs usually ambidextrous or, like humans, do they have foot preferences?

Shiva is so left-centric. Most of her tricks she only does in the one direction and with the one paw. We’re working on a side-step move and I can only get her to go the one way. To the left. I don’t know if this is how she is hard-wired or if it is something I created. I also don’t know if I should spend the time fixing it or if it’s just not a big deal. In our obedience class, there is a dog that will only walk on his handler’s right side. While I think that might cause some problems for them, I don’t know if I should worry about Shiva only rolling over on her left side.

Does your dog have a favourite foot? Is this something I should be concerned about?

39 thoughts on “Friday is Trick Day!

  1. I don’t think you need to be worried about it. Silvia Trkman says to reward big time if they do try something with the “harder” side.


    • She does do some tricks with her right. She will spin both ways, wave with both paws, and she can run agility courses with me on either side. I am just grateful dogs have to enter the weaves from the left. It’s made it that much easier for us!


  2. That trick is HILARIOUS!

    I don’t think I’d be worried about her “left handedness” either. If you don’t think you’d both get frustrated by trying to go the right you can give that a try, but Shiva (and you!) seem to have so much fun with training that it’d be a shame to force it on her and make things less fun.


    • Thanks, that’s kind of the way I thought about it too. It’s not important for me to have her roll over in both directions though I think it would be that more of a challenge for her brain. Maybe if we run out of new tricks, I will think about it. But as you say, it should still be all about the fun.

      Have a great weekend!


  3. Shiva is such a crack up and so cute. I can never get over how focused and responsive she is. Beryl and Frankie are both left footed, but I only know about the front ones, not the back ones. I’ll have to take notice of Frankie when he pees, lol! Thanks for the giggle:) Have a great weekend.


    • She isn’t always that responsive. You didn’t see the videos I filmed with us outside. Many a time she walked away to sniff something on the ground or offered some other random behaviour. We need to work on our generalizing!

      Hmm, do you think their back paws would be different than their front? Shiva seems to prefer the left for both. That could be interesting…


  4. How cute. Not only an adorable trick but I’m sure there’s some kind of feminist statement in there as well.

    I’ve seen dogs trained to actually pee on command for the purpose of commercials. Is that the next stage?

    As for the left preference, when my dad was a child he was forced to learn to use his right hand. Kids were thought to be backward if they were left handed. If it’s ridiculous for humans, I think it’s ridiculous for dogs.

    And, it makes her more predictable for you. You know she’ll always go left. (Not that Shiva would ever be predictable…)


    • You know, I never thought about it that way but now I like it even more!

      Way back at the beginning I read in so many books that it is helpful to teach dogs to eliminate on command. It’s supposed to be fairly easy, if you can predict when they are about to go you can capture it and then eventually put it on a cue. I tried but I could never think of an appropriate word to use. Especially with children around. 😉

      Thanks for your comments. I think you are right.


  5. That’s a great trick! I am totally impressed!

    I do think dogs an be left or right pawed(?) Horses seem to be, too. One side is just stronger than the other. When conditioning a horse the weaker side is worked a little harder to bring balance, because balance is so important to movement.

    Happy, Waggin’ Tails, FUREVER!
    Stumpy and me


    • Aww, thanks!

      Right, that’s definitely a good idea. In agility practice I try to work on the side she struggles with more often than the side she doesn’t. Of course, since it’s more rewarding for me to work on the easier side I am not always good at this. But it will only help our performance in the future.


    • Heh, the dog that inspired this trick was actually a male. He seemed to understand the difference between peeing and performing the trick. But maybe you’d only want to do it outside, just in case.

      She does sometimes. I like to think she circle-wags when she is super-happy and relaxed but I don’t know what kind of meaning there actually is behind specific tail wags. Maybe I need to do some research.


  6. Great trick! If I could teach Luna to walk on her front feet like she does while peeing, on command I think I would have to throw a party. Maybe now would be a time to try and teach since she is in heat and peeing more.
    But in any case, I have the same problem with luna and tricks outside.. Outside to her has always meant a couple things, walk, play, or exploring/hiking. So to get her outside and doing tricks is not easy as she just wants to hunt for things. This has recently been brought more to light as a slight issue because we started agility outside, and she didn’t exactly want to focus. Soooo out came the yummy treats, hopefully she won’t get spoiled. I am going to try and make a point to work her tricks outdoors more often to challenge her.
    As far as her preferring a side, she totally does. She spins more freely counter clockwise, and hesitates more with her clockwise spins. She paws more with her right, but that may be because I ask her with my right.. now I am starting to teach her to hand me the paw that corresponds with the hand I ask with. And when she plays dead she ALWAYS lays on her right side. It can make switching directions in tricks harder, but nothing to be worried about. Hopefully it won’t mess us up much with agility, I think she will force me to get creative. She is a smart girl for sure, sometimes I think I need more brain to own her.

    Lol, sorry for wordy responses… kinda get on a roll.


    • Luna walks on her front paws only while peeing? That’s so weird but what an awesome opportunity to put it on a cue! Shiva has hopped a little bit but so far that’s all I’ve gotten. She will go up reliably on the wall, we just have to work harder on taking the next step. It’s hard with so many other things on the training list!

      Agility is a lot harder for us outside as well. Since most of the trials out here take place indoors it’s less of a huge deal but I know it is important to work in as many new environments as possible. Shiva’s number one problem has always been focus. Especially in new places with new smells.

      In agility, as long as she can run with you on either side, and as long as you work on off-side weave entrances, you should be okay. I haven’t found Shiva’s left preferences to be a huge deal in that area.

      I definitely am not smart enough for my dog! Luckily I am attending a seminar tomorrow called “Outsmarting Rover.” Hopefully I will learn some great tips to share!


  7. I thought the trick was great! I don’t think it matters one way or the other which foot she uses. I’m not sure about my dogs, I will have to check if they have foot preference. Sampson will be easy because he does lift his leg to pee. 🙂


    • Thanks! I am so glad you liked it!

      Some dogs the preference may be less noticeable, I am not sure. Shiva will use her right paw, it just takes a little more brain power.


  8. That trick is pretty cute! I love her helicopter tail!

    I never noticed this before we got Lilac, but I think some dogs really are “left-handed” and work better with one paw or the other. Lilac is so much that way that she used to make a 270 degree circle at the top of our steps before going inside, and back in the days when she could get on the couch, she always laid on it backwards. It was so odd to me, but that’s the best explanation for it that I have. She’s always been, ahem, quirky and that’s just another example of it.


    • Thanks!

      That’s very interesting. I’ve never seen a dog get on a couch backwards before and I’ve wondered about the circling before entering or laying down. That may explain it.

      Quirky is an excellent word for Lilac. She has no doubt given you a lot of experience!


  9. this is such an outstanding trick. i just watched that video five times in a row. as for the left thing . . . maybe she should get together with derek zoolander, who could only turn right . . . perhaps they could fill each other’s inadequacies?


  10. Whenever Rikki is jumping up on our laps or giving us a toy, he ALWAYS comes from our right, like he doesn’t know how to jump on the left side of us.

    It kinda reminds me of Nikita and how she would use one of the deck’s stairs as an exit and once as an entrance and she would ALWAYS pace the same direction, right? 🙂


    • Really? That’s so weird, I didn’t know that. Rikki is an odd little guy, though, that’s for sure. I hear he reached his goal weight! Yay for the Rikster!

      I forgot about Nikita’s habit of only ascending the stairs on the one side. I assumed at the time it had to do with the fact that she was used to only having one entrance/exit. When they put in the second, she didn’t quite understand. You’ve given me more to think about now… Why did she always pace in the same direction?


  11. Too cute! Dogs definitely have their routines like humans do (I always think of it like how you always put your pants on the same leg first, right?).


  12. I just burst out laughing at my desk! That Shiva is so darn cute. Love! The new trick!

    I never really thought about it before, but I guess Koly favors the left too. I blame myself-I’m right handed and so I have trained him that way.


    • That’s what I was wondering! Since I am right-handed I thought maybe it was my training style that made her favour the left. But perhaps that’s not solely the case. Or maybe – and I am just hypothesizing here – dogs have evolved to favour their left because humans often favour their right?


  13. Omg hahahaha!!! don’t you just LOVE when tricks work themselves out that way?! That’s how Elli learned to wave with both paws. She was doing it for an apple I was eating. 🙂

    Oh gosh, definitely don’t be worried about the whole “the horse can only run one way around the track” type of thing. Just SUPER reward when she does it with the other foot. I taught Elli her clockwise “Spin” and asked for it wayyy too often before teaching her “Twirl” (counter clockwise), so she would Twirl backwards for quite some time. Now, she can Spin, stop, twirl, twirl, stop, spin, spin, stop, twirl, stop — just keep at it! I have no doubt you and the Shivster will pull through!


    • That’s so funny. Whatever works, right? Sometimes the best tricks come from capturing a moment.

      Shiva will spin in either direction, she will also wave with both paws, though she definitely finds it easier to wave with her left. The tricks that are harder are things like rolling over and playing dead as she will only ever roll to the one side. Also she always only looks to the left when we play the “where’s your tail?” game. I’ve decided it’s not important. I am sure I could train her to roll to the other side but there are way too many other things I want to work on first!

      Thanks for the comment!


  14. Now that’s a trick! Maybe Shiva is gender confused and wants to be a boy? Hmmmm

    I never thought about Jersey being left or right “pawed” I think that she prefers her right paw, since that is the one she usually gives me for shake a paw (the only trick that she will do )


    • Do dogs really even have gender? I guess we humans often give them one, when we dress them in pink or blue and refer to them as pretty or handsome. But I like to practice gender-neutral dog ownership. 😉

      Jersey is stubborn is she? We’re currently training in agility with a gorgeous Viszla who reminds me a lot of Jersey. I love to watch her run.


  15. I’m working on the handstand with Charlie also! he can do it against any wall now, the trouble is getting him to leave the wall…

    My trainer said that dogs are right paw or left paw just like we are right or left handed. Charlie is right pawed!


    • That’s where we are as well. The last step is going to be the hardest. I think I may wrangle my PH to help out this time.

      Cool! Good to know. It makes sense when you think about it.

      Good luck with your training!


    • Thanks! When we started training, I used to only walk with Shiva on my left because it was easier for me. I held the leash in my right and kept the treats in my pocket on the left. But when we started agility I learned how important it was to work with her on both sides. It really depends what you need and what suits your lifestyle, I think. If Reba’s loving the left and it’s not causing you any difficulties, then why add the extra stress?

      You have a great weekend as well!


  16. LOL silly trick. I would be afraid that my dogs would take my request literally. Chessies are like that!

    Yes dogs definitely are either right or left “handed”. We work on it all of the time when training for hunt tests. They will naturally choose to spin one way or the other when sending them on a “back” and will prefer for example, a right “over” to a left “over”. Can be an issue as Storm just demonstrated when she refused to take a left “over” cast in her last hunt test which cost her a qualifying score. What we do is to recognize it and try to train with it in mind. We try to give “back” casts so that they can easily choose the right direction and as far as the “overs” we practice both directions, a lot.


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