Backing Up

If your dog is comfortable with their flat mat, you can begin teaching them to back up. Even if you already have backup on cue as a trick, I’d like you to start from the beginning, so that we get the weight-shift onto the mat via offered backing up. 

You will need: 

  • A chair (one that your dog can get their head under to eat a cookie) 
  • A mat (the flat mat you introduced in the previous lecture) 
  • Lots of cookies (ones that your dog can easily see on the surface you’re training on)

 

Phase 1: Take a seat. Mat is about 1 foot in front of you. Mark & toss a cookie directly away from you on the other side of the mat. When your dog returns to you, he will likely touch the mat. When he does, mark & reward your dog on the mat and then mark & toss another treat to the same location. Continue this for one round of treats (about 10 reps). 

 

It’s completely ok to move to phase two in the same session, but stand up, move around, give your dog a short break before sitting down for another 10 reps. Or, be done for the day. You know your dog best, and training fatigue (mental or physical) is real. If you aren’t sure, it’s better to take a break and come back to this later. 

Phase 2: Take a seat. Mat is about 1 foot in front of you. Mark & toss a cookie directly away from you on the other side of the mat. When the pup returns to the mat, mark & drop the reward between your legs. When the puppy swallows his treat, he will likely lift his head back up. Mark & reward between your legs again. Continue this for one round of treats (about 10 reps)

The lifting of the head is the first movement of backing up, so we are going to mark and reward this for a bit. You may even notice that your dog is starting to shift their rear feet back when lifting their head. 

A couple of times, the treat bounced a little further than I wanted, but luckily, this pup already has it down! Notice that if he got too crooked, I reset him, or if he messed up the mat, I reset him. Keep in mind that backing up straight 


Take a break and come back later the same day or the next day before moving to Phase 3. 

 

Phase 3: Take a seat. Mat is about 1 foot in front of you. Mark & toss a cookie directly away from you on the other side of the mat. When the pup returns to the mat, mark & drop the reward under the chair. This will cause your dog to move forward off the mat, back toes barely still on the mat. Now, when your dog swallows their treat, you should be observing them back up onto the mat (1-2 steps). Mark & reward in position for backing up, and then mark and drop a treat under the chair again. Continue this for one round of treats (about 10 reps). 

This dog in particular was not good at moving her back feet when backing up, which resulted in a sit a lot of the time in these early phases. This is ok if it happens, I don’t worry about it at first. I try to mark early and/or feed in a way that encourages the stand, and it eventually goes away!

If at any point your dog turns around and steps forward onto the mat from under the chair,  toss the treat out away from the mat to reset, just like you did on the very first rep of each phase. 

 

Only move to Phase 4 if your dog is happy and confident with the wobbly board you’ve chosen. 


Phase 4: You should have consistent backing up when you set the stage appropriately for your dog. If so, we are going to repeat Phase 3, but with the wobbly board instead of your flat mat. You can warm your dog up with a few repetitions on the flat mat, but then remove the flat mat and place the wobbly board in its place. 

 

Take a seat. Wobbly board is about 1 foot in front of you. Mark & toss a cookie directly away from you on the other side of the board. When your dog returns to the board, mark & drop the reward under the chair. This will cause your dog to move forward off the board, back toes barely still on. Now, when your dog swallows their treat, you should be observing them back up onto the mat (1-2 steps). Mark & reward in position for backing up, and then mark and drop a treat under the chair again. Continue this for one round of treats (about 10 reps).

About Synergy Dog Sports

Committed to providing a supportive learning environment for learners at both ends of the leash, Megan works with each team as individuals, bringing them to the next level no matter which path you choose to take with her: in-person classes, seminars, online classes, or 1-on-1 coaching.