Back It Up – Teach Your Dog to Back

Sally and Fli

By Sally Gordon
First Florida Freestylers Guild

Fli in a narrow "hallway"

Fli in a narrow "hallway"

Teach your dog to back up without luring, physically touching or putting pressure in his space. All you need is a dog “hallway”. I taught my 2-year-old border collie Fli how to back up when he was 7 months old using this method. You’ll need a wall, and a large solid moveable object for your other “wall”, and something to block the end. I started out using my dog’s crate, but you could use a large box, ring gate, baby gate, anything that is tall enough for your dog not to jump over, long enough to make a hall for your dog’s size and easy to move.

Place the crate close enough to the wall that it is wide enough for your dog to walk in only, but not turn around. Show your dog a treat and drop it on the floor inside the “hallway” you created. If your dog is on the shy side you may need to start with the treat just barely in the hallway with the goal to drop the treat all the way at the opposite end. The object is to get your dog to walk in to get the treat, then he must back out on his own to exit.

A lot of dogs don’t know how to back up, they are front wheel drive only and naturally turn around in a dead end. Teaching your dog this way means you are not luring the dog in the “hallway” or out of it, you are making him want to go in and then on his own, figure out how to get out by backing up, creating rear end awareness and muscle memory.

Fli starting to back up

Fli starting to back up

I clicker train my dogs, so as Fli was backing out of the “hallway” I clicked the act of him going in reverse and then rewarded when he was out. Be sure to click or use a Mark word while your dog is backing up, not when he is all the way out. Practice this in all areas of your house, inside and outside and at your training center too. Make sure you are also changing where you stand while he is backing up. In Dogwork, you can do backups in left heel, right heel, front and thunder positions so be sure to practice with your dog seeing you in these different positions, while he is learning to back up in his hallway.

Once your dog is comfortable backing up using your make shift hallway, add your cue word. I use “Back” for Fli and “Beep Beep” for my 11-year-old aussie Player. Then you need to start making your hallway wider and your walls shorter, this will be the start of you phasing it out. Also as your dog exits the “hallway” continue to ask for another step or two back before rewarding, so he doesn’t think once the wall is gone he doesn’t have to continue to back up if given the cue.

Keep it fun and your dog will love backing up.


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