Teaching "Center" Trick

Add a New Trick To Your Dog’s Repertoire: Teaching “Center”

The only bad thing about HOLI treats is that our dogs learn new things almost too quickly. A great rainy day activity for our pups is learning a new trick! Today we're going to learn how to do the "Center" trick from trainer Tess Marty—a simple, and adorable—trick!

It’s so important for both you and your dog to view training as fun. If it’s not fun, regular manners are going to feel overwhelming and mundane. Think of how often dogs will offer “paw” when you just ask them to sit! It’s because it’s fun for them, and they know that you think it’s fun too. We normally give a bigger reinforcement with tricks because they’re cuter than a “leave it” when they’re after a chicken bone on the ground.

We asked dog trainer Tess Marty to explain the steps to teach “center,” which is having your dog stand between your legs.

"First, I always like to give a benefit to teaching a certain trick. Of course, trick training can be just for fun, but a lot of tricks have behavioral benefits we don’t always think of! Take “paw” for instance. If your dog loves giving their paw, they’re more likely to want to sit and give paw to strangers instead of jumping because it gets a better response from humans! Center is a great trick to help in overwhelming situations. One of my clients does center whenever she is around a yappy dog, because it gives her something to focus on instead of barking back at the dog (German Shepherd Things). It helps her feel safe and protected.”

To Teach Center:

It’s not too realistic for our dogs to pick up on a bunch of steps at once. That’s why we’re going to shape this command by teaching it piece by piece.


Get In Position

Start by taking your dog's favorite HOLI treat and luring them to your side, like you’re about to walk them in a heel. You can do this in a few ways. We’ll be using our left side to make explaining easier, but you can choose your right if that’s more comfortable.

  • Take the treat in your left hand with your dog facing you, and take a large step back with your left foot, bringing your hand with it. Your dog will likely follow your hand and step back with you. Loop them around towards you and step forward, bringing them with you.
  • Take a few steps forward with the treat in your left hand next to your hip and your dog on the left side. They will likely follow next to you.
  • If your dog is in front of you, turn 360° with the treat by your side, and have your dog circle around with you. This will bring them next to you instead of in front.

Double Fist Your Treats

Yep. That’s right. Take a treat in each hand, so that your dog can follow easily. In your left hand, with your dog by your left side, keep them in a heel position. With your right hand, put your hand between your legs with your feet apart and get their attention on your right hand and take the left away.  

Usually if you just use one treat they get confused when you move it from your side to the middle, and follow in front of you, so having the second treat already there helps them to stay on task.

Show them the treat in your right hand in between your legs, and have them follow behind your left leg through the center.

Your Choice!

This part is entirely up to you. You can either have your dog sit in between your legs (great for riding on the subway!), walk in between your legs with you, or even step and balance on your feet! This is also a great start into weaving. Treat them while they’re in position, too, so they know the right thing is going in between your legs and pausing, not going through, otherwise you’ll have a dog that just bolts through your legs and sits in front of you!


Make sure you always release your dog from a command, to let them know they don’t need to do it anymore. This leads to consistency and lengthier durations of time on commands. It tells the dog “you’re all set, I don’t need to you do this anymore, you can be free.” Some popular release words—if you don’t have one already—are “free,” “release,” “all set,” “all done,” etc. Be sure to use a word or short phrase instead of “good dog!” because that is just reinforcing praise, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re done, it means they are doing a good job. Make sure you add your release word into every command from this point forward—it’s an excellent safety cue.

We recommend HOLI chicken treats for training this trick. They are easy to break up into small pieces and are super high value!