At the moment we’re loving this adorable mirroring trick by YouTube user Emily, under the name “Dog Training by Kikopup.” In this video, Emily shows how she taught her too-cute-for-words dog how to mirror her actions by looking left and right.
Watch the video first, then we’ll go through a step-by-step tutorial on how to teach your dog this mirroring trick that’s actually a lot simpler than it looks.
Before You Start
This mirroring trick may be simpler than it looks, but it’s certainly not for beginners. Your dog will need to have mastered a few basic commands before you can go ahead and teach this new trick.
Here’s what you and your dog need to have established and mastered before you start with this trick:
- To begin with, the basic commands of “sit” and “down” are essential for this trick to be taught.
- Even more important is that your dog is confident and comfortable staying in either the sit or down position, particularly while you stand behind them. Many dogs feel uncomfortable having their human standing behind them, and will shift their position so they have a better view. If your dog has this tendency, take the time to teach your dog to look forward and reliably stay in that position, even while you move behind them.
- Clicker training is used extensively in this mirroring trick, and is an excellent way of training your dog by reinforcing good behavior rather than punishing undesirable behavior. Simply watching the way the dog in the video eagerly responds to the clicker rewards show just how effective clicker training can be.
- Food rewards are also necessary, as they go hand-in-hand with clicker training. Have a pile of your dog’s favorite treats nearby, and always keep a small supply in your hand so you can swiftly reward your dog following each click.
How to Teach Your Dog to Mirror Your Actions
With the basics established, follow these steps to teach your dog the cute trick shown in the video:
- This trick can be performed in either the sit or the down position. Ask your dog to sit or lay down, then ask them to stay in that position.
- Walk behind your dog. If your dog is not used are you walking behind them, reward them for staying in that position.
- Move from one side to the other and reward your dog for turning their head either right or left, depending on which side you move to. It can take some time for your dog to realize that they can see you simply by moving their head to either side. Some dogs will be inclined to crane their neck and look upwards to see you, but once your dog realizes that it’s easier and more comfortable to see you by turning their head to the side, they will soon get the hang of it.
- Once your dog is reliably looking to the correct side depending on which way you move, make your movements subtler. Rather than taking a step, work towards simply leaning to one side or the other, always rewarding your dog when they turn their head the correct way.
- Next, try facing the other way, so that you are essentially back to back with your dog. This is where the true “mirroring” aspect of the trick comes in.
- The next progression is to add a verbal cue. Simply say “left” or “right” before you move, making sure that you are choosing the direction from the dog’s point of view, not your own. For example, if you are back to back with your dog and you turn your head to the left, you would say the word “right” because your dog would need to turn their head to the right in order to see you. You are, after all, mirroring each other.
- Finally, you will get to the stage where your dog can look the appropriate way with nothing more than a verbal cue, without any movement needed from you.
The final part of the video shows an advanced variation for dogs who have already learned how to cross their paws.
Other Uses for The Mirroring Trick
There is no doubt that your dog will look adorable performing this trick, and you’re sure to get plenty of compliments from your audience as they marvel at how clever your dog is and what an undeniable bond the two of you share. But it’s also important to remember that, in teaching your dog this mirroring trick, you’re also teaching them how to differentiate left from right and how to turn their head the correct way with nothing more than a voice command.
Just as children need to learn left and right from a young age, it is incredibly beneficial for your dog to understand how to differentiate between the two directions. Imagine you’ve thrown a ball or stick for your dog to retrieve, and while you can see where it landed, your dog is baffled as to its location. Maybe it’s hidden by tall grass or bobbing away in the ocean. Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could tell your dog to look left or right as appropriate to help them locate their toy?
Your dog understanding left and right could also potentially have life-saving benefits.
Perhaps your dog is about to cross a road or pathway and is unaware of a driver or cyclist heading their way. If you don’t have time to get to your dog before disaster strikes, you could issue the command for your dog to look left or right as needed and draw their attention to the approaching hazard.
Have you taught your dog to mirror your actions? Does your dog know how to look left and right? Let us know in the comments below about your experiences, or if you’re planning on teaching your dog this trick.