How Do I Teach My Dog Left And Right?

Did you know that you can teach your dog directions, such as left and right. It isn’t as difficult as it may first seem. Teaching your dog the difference between left and right can be quite important.

Especially if you take your dog with you on your bike rides or are you jogging partner.

Or if you are training your dog for agility competitions, you could tell your dog to jump over the left or right obstacle. Instead of pulling on their leash, you can tell them where to go instead.

This article will tell you how to teach your dog the commands left and right. 

How Do I Teach My Dog Left And Right

Setting Up

This trick may take a while to learn, so don’t rush anything. Also when you want to start teaching your dog this command, make sure that your dog is well rested.

You don’t want to start teaching your dog something new when they are tired from a long walk, otherwise they won’t be able to properly concentrate. To set this exercise up, you will need to set up targets. Traffic cones are a great thing to use as your targets.

This is because they are big enough to see and come in bright colors for your dog to notice them. These targets could be a cone, or just something for your dog to touch.

However these targets are going to be the same distance away from each other. This will help teach your dog left and right.

Step One

First you need to teach your dog to touch the target that you have set up. It is up to you how you teach your dog to do this.

It could be teaching them to touch it with their paw, or their nose or to go around the target itself. If you need to put a treat under the target to help them, that is fine. 

Tell your dog to go to the target, Once it touches the target, click when you see this contact.

This is when you can treat your dog, but this should be done a short distance away from the target. Repeat this process, until your dog has figured out that by touching the target they will get a treat. 

Step Two

Once your dog has begun to understand that by touching the target that they get a treat. This treat should be given a short distance away from the targets.

Now you need to start increasing the distance from the targets. You should start moving further away from the targets, but still sending your dog out to the targets.

Once you can send your dog to one of the targets from a distance of about 12 paces. This is where you can start adding a cue. For this cue, you will need to point with your entire hand in the direction of the target that you want your dog to go to.

This may take a few tries, but eventually your dog will begin to learn and understand to go to the target that your hand is pointing too. 

Step Three

Now it’s time to move the targets a bit further apart to make a really clear choice. Put your two targets about three feet apart from each other. Then you should make a triangle with these targets. However you should only be about 2 feet from both the targets. 

Again send your dog to one of the targets with the cue that you have no set up, by pointing with your entire hand to the target. Once your dog has touched the target, click and treat your dog when your dog is back in front of you. Do this again with your other target. 

Keep repeating this little sequence a few times, to build confidence in your dog that they are doing the right thing. If they do go to the wrong target, don’t worry.

Just wait a couple of seconds and re-point to the target that you want them to go to and treat once they have touched the target and come back to you. 

Once your dog is comfortable, at this stage, you can start to distance yourself a little more from the targets. Be careful not to go too far away from the targets.

This is because your cue is still a little unclear at the moment as you are only pointing your hand. However your dog may have worked out that pattern you are doing at this point, so the distance doesn’t matter too much.

However, just try not to go too far, otherwise your dog may struggle to understand which target you are pointing at. 

Step Four

Now that your dog is understanding to go to the targets by pointing at them. You can now add and teach them a more convenient cue.

At this point, before you send your dog to a target, say either left or right and then point to the target that you mean. Complete this step a couple of times, so your dog gets used to saying left and right. 

Step Five

If your dog begins to anticipate which cone to go to when you say left or right, then it is time to start fading the hand pointing cue out.

Try pointing less, or only use it when required, if your dog is not sure which target to go to. This may take a while, but your dog will get there eventually. 

Step Six

Once the pointing has been completely removed, you can say that your dog knows left from right. However they may have worked out the sequence you were using to teach them.

If your pattern was to go left, right, left ,right and so on. Then now is the time to mix it up a little. Try sending your dog to the right cone twice or three times in a row, then to the left. Try to make a random pattern that your dog won’t expect.

Also, at this point you can begin spacing the targets further or closer apart. You can also change one or both the targets.

If you train your dog in agility you can set up two jumps and send your dog over the left or right jump. Or you can ask your dog to retrieve something from the left target or from the right target.

Either way you can make this exercise as personal to you as you want, once your dogs the difference between left and right.

Why Is This A Good Thing To Teach Your Dog?

A dog that understands the difference between left and right is great for agility competitions. However it is also great for herding animals, water dogs and for retrieving.

Knowing the difference between left and right is really handy for service dogs. Also if you are out walking whether on a trail or not, if your dog is off the leash you can direct them better and make it easier also.


It isn’t too difficult to teach your dog between left or right. It just takes some practice and making sure that you are very clear with your cues.

Try not to rush your dog with the cue changes, otherwise this may confuse them. Be clear with your cue and make your targets something that your dogs know what they are.

If you follow all the steps listed above, then your dog will know their left and right before you know it.

Daniel Johnson