If you’ve ever witnessed a live Canine Freestyle Dance routine or watched one on You-Tube, then you are sure to have been awed by a remarkable trick called The Leg weave. This is a maneuver where the dancing dog gracefully weaves in and out of her human partners legs to the beat of the music. Although this trick looks complex, it is surprisingly simple to teach.
What it Looks Like
Your dog will weave in and out of your legs as you take steps forward.
Before You Begin
Gather your dog’s favorite rewards. Soft and stinky treats are ideal, however, if your dog is toy-motivated, a ball or tug toy works well, too.
Steps to a Wonderful Leg Weave
#1 Eliminate Distractions
As with teaching Poochie any new behavior, it is imperative that training takes place in an environment that is void of distractions. Take your dog into the quietest room of your home. Politely excuse any family or friends; this includes your cat, anyone incapable of imitating a statue needs to go! (Once Poochie is confident with her trick she’ll be able to perform with an audience, but it takes private practice first.)
#2 Ride an Invisible Pony
With your reward in hand, stand with your legs apart, you’ll need to look as though you are riding on an invisible pony, another reason why it’s best you do not have an audience to spare yourself of the constant reminders of this pose. Stand so there is plenty of room for your dog to move underneath you and between your legs. An easy task if you have a sheltie, doable with a retriever but, if you have a great dane, you’ll need to stand on your tippy toes and be very encouraging toward your dog. Dogs of any size can learn to Leg weave brilliantly. I stand only 5’ 2” tall and my darling 95 pound 27” tall Alaskan Malamute, Athena, could leg weave so expertly that onlookers regularly did double-takes as we performed our trick routines. Just keep your level of encouragement high and your dog will learn to love scrunching down and racing through your legs.
#3 Tease the Reward
Tease your dog a bit with the reward, you want her to be anxious to chase it, and lure her carefully in between your legs. Once she goes through reward her generously.
#4 Do it Again
Repeat Step 3 until your dog is confidently going through your legs; we want her moving quickly and not hesitating. Hesitation is a sign that she is not yet comfortable with the trick, and she’ll need a few more repetitions.
#5 Take it Up a Notch
Now that your dog understands the value of darting in between your legs, you are ready to take your dance moves up a notch. Have your dog on your right side with your reward visible in your left hand. Take a big step forward with your left leg and lower your reward so that she must go through and under your leg to earn her prize. Reward success at once! Now do the mirror image: with her on your left side and your reward transferred to your right hand, step forward and reward if she goes under your right leg. You’ll want to continue with this step until she is offering to go under your legs before you can even lure her.
#6 Dancing Time
Get your radio ready because it’s almost dancing time. Begin to encourage your dog to go under your left leg and delay your reward until she next goes under your right. Keep adding an additional step until she can weave 3-4 steps without a reward. If she seems confused go back to rewarding each individual weave and try again. Once she’s got her rhythm name the trick and say “Weave” as you go. She will be dancing up a storm in no time! Want to make your dog a Dancing Queen or King? Keep practicing and she can learn to weave for several continual steps.
Some dogs are nervous about going under and in between our legs. It’s not that your dog does not trust you; it’s that she just needs more confidence. Teaching your dog any trick, especially the leg weave, is a fantastic confidence builder. When working with a rescue dog I almost always teach this trick with the purpose of inspiring self-confidence in the dog. If your dog is a bit of a “panicky pooch” the key to success is patience. Sympathize with her. Realize that you would also be hesitant to weave under the legs of a bigger creature, such as a Llama, and take things slow. Start by rewarding her for simply offering to put one foot or maybe her head under you, you may want to up the reward value as well. If you are using dry biscuits, consider using boiled chicken instead. I sure as heck would not go underneath a Llama’s legs for a Saltine Cracker, a chocolate truffle on the other hand: “Look out, Llama, Tara’s coming in!” Remember: Keep your training sessions short, end on a success and have fun!
Tara Baggerman, Trainer & Owner of Caliber Canines Positive Dog Training