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  • Liz MacHaffie

Rear Foot Targeting and Back Ups




Here's one way you can teach your dog to target a short platform with their back paws and even walk backwards! We use this for so many reasons, including helping dogs develop hind end awareness, building confidence, and teaching more advanced tricks!


Before starting, some dogs need to investigate the platform. Let them walk around it, sniff it, maybe even get their front paws on it a couple times! We're going at our dog's pace!


Step 1: Put Your Back Paws On This!

  • Set your platform on the ground. It should be nice and secure/non-slip! Leave enough space behind it that your dog can chase a reset cookie several feet away.

  • Sit or stand on one side of the platform, just far enough away that your dog's back feet are likely to be on the platform if they're eating cookies from the floor in front of you.

  • Throw a reset cookie to the other side of the platform, so that when your dog turns around, they're likely to walk over it to get to you.

  • As they walk up to the platform, offer the treat. Try and stop them by putting the cookie on the floor when at least one back paw is on the platform. Give multiple treats, one at a time, and then say "Okay!" and throw another reset cookie.

  • If your dog's foot slips off at any point or if they get off the platform, you can release and reset.

  • Repeat, working your way from 1 back foot to both back feet. Build on success! If your dog is making mistakes, make it easier.

  • Once your dog is readily putting their back feet on, you can add a cue word! Say it as your dog finishes their reset cookie and is going to move towards the platform. ("Back feet!" "Two on!" "Target!" or whatever words you like.)

  • Then, add some duration by having your dog stand there a little longer between cookies. Try and see if you can work your way up to your dog standing on the platform for at least 15 seconds with 5-10 seconds between treats.


Step 2: Lean Back!

  • If you'd like to train your dog to back up, this is how we start!

  • With your dog in position on the platform, put one cookie on the ground where you normally have them. After your dog eats it, put a second cookie down a couple inches further away from them.

  • You should notice that they need to reach forward to eat it, and then they slightly shift their weight backwards when they are done. This weight shift is what we want to reward. So, after your dog eats the "forward cookie", mark the moment they shift their way backwards with "yes" or a click and give your treat in the original position.

  • Repeat, gradually making the "forward cookie" further and further away. You should see bigger and bigger weight shifts as you do.

  • Give your dog a break and/or reset if they come off with a reset cookie!

Step 3: Back Up!

  • Once your dog can readily shift their weight back, it's time to encourage them to bring one of their feet off the platform! (And then reward them for putting it back!)

  • To do this, set your "forward cookie" far enough away that your dog juuuust has to step one foot off the platform to reach it.

  • Wait to see if they try to move the paw that is off the platform anywhere up or backwards. If they do, mark and reward right away!

  • As they're successful, you can move that "forward cookie" even further out, so they now need to get both back paws on the platform, and then build to multiple steps!

  • Add in your chosen cue once your dog is backing up readily! "Back" "Back up" "Beep beep beep"


Tips

  • This is an extra challenging behavior for many dogs. (And people! This takes some extra skill!) Keep sessions short and sweet, think 30 seconds to maybe 2-3 minutes at most.

  • If your dog is extra large, it can be helpful to have a mirror on the ground so you can see what their back legs are doing.

  • If you don't see the progress you'd expect, take a short video to send to us! We'll help you out!

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