Obedience Foundations – Left Pivot

As a rally obedience instructor I really stress to my clients to try their best to teach a “proper” left pivot. You’re asking what is a proper left pivot? PIVOTS are PIE PLATES! Can I say that enough? PIVOTS ARE PIE PLATES! That means as the person doing the pivot you should be turning in a area that takes up a pie plate (dish/pan). The proper pivot should have the dog pivoting on their front legs and pretty much not moving their front feet. The back end should move to the right as you turn left. The biggest “issue” that most dogs have with this turn is that they have no clue that they can control their back legs. What most dogs do that have not been taught with the pivot broken down is then kind of circle back into place. It sort of looks like a finish. It is not pretty, not totally correct.

Now breaking down the pivot even means breaking down what behaviors you need first before trying to teach the pivot. The first thing you need is a tuck sit. What is a tuck sit (another post another video 😉 but quickly it is a sit when the dogs front feet stay in one spot and the butt moves forward towards those feet to sit. The second thing is a kick back stand. A kick back stand is once again the front fee stand still (see a pattern!) and the back legs move out into a standing position. Then the third thing is that the rear end can move with the front feet staying in the same general space. I taught this by doing the stool rear end awareness work.

Now lets put some things together. First can your dog do a tuck sit & a kick back stand in heel position? If not work on that. Use an environmental “prop” to help your dog be correct. An environmental prop is a wall, table or something that gives your dog fewer options to be wrong on position.

I like to take the two sits out of the pivot at first. I’ll add them in once the actual pivot is happening. I will put the dog into heel position standing and work the on the dog “parallel” parking behind me. I will not move my feet. I want to dog to be able to do the behavior without my movement being part of it. Usually the best way to get the parking is using a “big fat lure” (thanks Emelie Vegh Johnson). Put the lure (cookie magnet) on the dogs nose so they can nibble on it – while they are standing. Keep your upper arm attached to your body and with a wrist twist turn their head to the left, I mean really to the left. Click and treat the moment their butt moves right. Continuing doing until their are able to move their butt right all the way behind you and are facing 90 degrees left while you are still facing forward.

Now that you have the butt movement part you can actually add the last sit first. That is the “easy” sit. So from a standing position have the dog park behind you with the turning the head left, when they are back there have them sit. This should be a tuck sit so they don’t get out of position. The way you know that they have done a tuck sit is that their mouth/nose should not move much if any off the cookie magnet.

Then the final part for the dog is that you add in the first sit to stand. I actually will cue it as a stand if the dog has a nice solid kick back stand on cue. Then turn, then sit. Notice I still have not moved. :) I would keep working on these parts without moving until your dog is doing all 3 part smoothly on the cue of your left shoulder going backwards but your feet not moving. Now you have built in a silent double cue (and legal!) that is clear as day to your dog but won’t get you in trouble in the ring.

Now that it is all smooth and being cued off your shoulder you can add your foot work in to the behavior. Remember pivots are pie plates and you better not step off your pie plate.

Here is Miss Rizzo’s start to a pivot. She has all the parts but it is not smooth yet. Notice no cues either verbally or with my body yet.

Enjoy teaching a beautiful left pivot.

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