Purpose: This video details how to teach Backing Up using a rear foot target as a starting point.
Equipment: Large platform, Rocker Board or Cato Bord. (Optional: Cavaletti poles and cones)
Targets: Backing up is a great exercise to teach rear end awareness, strengthen the caudal chain (muscles along the back of the rear leg), and teach spatial awareness. All dogs can benefit from this exercise, but those with a less angulated or straight rear benefit from specifically targeting the muscle groups used while backing up.
This exercise tutorial is a little longer than I normally prefer, but it covers the full progression of the exercise from the very beginning (one step backward), and finishes with Ron Burgundy backing up for almost 25 ft.
NOTE: This video also introduces BACK CHAINING. Back chaining is a training technique that breaks down complex behaviors that might otherwise be overwhelming, confusing or demotivating to a dog into simpler / shorter duration behaviors… and then combines them together like links in a chain. This method uses the final step in the process as the starting point. This ensures the dog receives a reward quickly (especially in the beginning), and always knows the location / position the reward can be expected, reducing frustration and improving understanding.
I use the rear foot target method for introducing this exercise. I find using a rear foot target brings clarity to the exercise, immediately reducing confusion between stepping backward versus sitting which can be a sticking spot for some dogs. Notice how I’ve selected quite a large target, which is slightly angled, and 100% stable and non-slip. Asking a dog to maneuver backward onto a small, unstable or slippery target, will usually result in the dog avoiding the target, becoming frustrated, and even untrusting of the exercise itself. A very large target is incredibly helpful. The target I’m using is 3 ft x 3 ft.
Watchpoints: Once the dog is backing up nicely alternating between the rear legs, and is being marked for the individual steps backwards, the rear foot target is easily faded.
I also use a barrier to teach Ron Burgundy how to back up in a straight line. I like to introduce the concept of staying straight early on in the training process, so that I don’t have to clean up the behavior later on once the dog has been rewarded for twisting to the side (which usually indicates one side is being used more).
Ideally, The alignment principles when executing the final progression would include…
- Head up
- Level top line
- Equal movement from both rear legs
- Contralateral legs moving in sequence/coordination
- Significant hip and stifle flexion/extension
- No hopping
- Maintaining a straight line of motion