Teaching the "Back" Command...Please Help! - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-15-2014, 09:06 AM Thread Starter
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Question Teaching the "Back" Command...Please Help!

Xena is extremely smart...I know this! But for the life of me, I'm having the hardest time teaching her to back up. If there is any opportunity for her to turn around and move, she'll do it, if not, she'll sit, lay down or fall over. I know it has to be me who is probably confusing her, because she has had no trouble with any other training or the ability to learn commands.
Here's what I have tried:
I use a narrow area to start with, that opens up into a bigger space. She should want to move backward to get out, right? Wrong! Instead, she lets me move toward her until she is just about squished, at which point, (if she is unable to turn around) she sits down, rears up and literally topples over backwards.
When I move toward her, I give the "back" command, but she will sit down and do exactly what I mentioned above...now I'm afraid I'm going to confuse her "sit" command.
I've even tried putting her leash around her belly & gently nudging her backwards or keeping her from sitting, but she won't even so much as move one paw.
I've also tried placing one hand under her belly and one on her chest to move her, while giving the appropriate command...she may take one step in the right direction, but if I give that same command without making her do it, she won't budge!
Needless to say, I've put this one on hold until I can figure out what I'm doing wrong, to where she's not understanding what I want her to do.
If anyone could please train me in the areas that I'm failing, I know she can do what I ask of her! I'm sure it's not her fault, she's too darn smart...I know I've got to be missing something here...?
Thanks for reading my post!
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-15-2014, 09:20 AM
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Have someone behind her with a line and prong collar. You give the back cue and they start back pressure and anytime she gives an inch back you mark reward and release pressure. You might need to keep the reward out in front of her at first to keep her from turning around to walk to the person putting pressure on her.

Anyway steadily fade the reward out as you're upping the criteria of getting more backward steps and you should be off to the races. You'll of course need to fade the back pressure too. It shouldn't take more than 1-2 sessions. You just need to show the right picture.
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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-15-2014, 09:27 AM
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Have you taught her to stand? I do that before I try to back them up. Have you tried using any type of a touch pad to teach her to hold her front still and move her rear? That can make it easier. You can work from directly in front of her luring her left and right, then back.

Another thing I've done is heel in left circles, smaller and smaller till she's backing out of your way to maintain the position but that one is a little more dependent on them really knowing they have to stay in that heel position.
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-15-2014, 09:45 AM
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the way my wife did it to our dog. try teaching back at first while they are in a heel position and walk backwards with them on leash while the dog is against a wall. they'll be sandwiched between you and the wall and will have to back straight up. treat reward as soon as they start to back up. make them go a little further every time. when they are backing up that way, change so you're facing the dog but walk forward with them while saying back. lure them with a treat over their head if needed. again treat when they take the smallest step back and make them go a little further every time. after that your dog should just be able to back up with you standing in place. could take a few days to get it good.
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-15-2014, 11:37 AM
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I would start with teaching back in the heel position first also, the way scarfish described it. Use food in your left hand to lure her back as you move back. At first, start with a tiny step, and reward any attempt, no matter how little, to move backwards. As you use the food to lure her backwards, she might just try to follow with her head and fall over, or sit as her head goes up - ignore that, keep luring back until she eventually will try a tiny bum scoot to keep from falling over, or to get her body a bit more back - mark and reward!

Work up from that. Reward her as she figures out how to move her legs and body to go backwards in small increments - a bum scoot, a front leg moving back, a rear leg moving back before a sit and bum scoot, etc . . .

GSDs seem to be very poor at having rear-end awareness - you can do exercises with her that help her figure out how to move her rear independently from her front. Try googling Perch Work for videos on rear end awareness exercises. Those exercises will tie in with learning to move back.


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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-15-2014, 11:56 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you all for the advice! She does excellent with heel; might be trial and error type of training, and I may enlist the help of someone else, as Baillif has suggested.
Since the time we got her, for some reason, (and I'm sure it has something to do with her previous "owner"), she would lay down when we approached her. I used that in teaching her to lay down, and as her confidence has grown, she no longer automatically does it when approached, but beautifully so, on command.
I'm a firm believer in incorporating natural behaviors and responses into training...it just seems to work so well for us. Again, thank you!

Last edited by KellyR; 05-15-2014 at 11:58 AM. Reason: misspelling
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-15-2014, 01:06 PM
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I used leash pressure to teach it.

1. Teach dog to give into leash pressure
2. Stand next to dog in a heel position with the other side being a wall.
3. Slight pull on the leash backward and mark and reward.
4. Add "back" command to the leash pressure, mark and reward.
5. Stop leash pressure, just say "back", mark and reward.
6. Then slowly increase the # of "back" commands to make her go further back and changing it to where I'm standing in front of her or without the assistance of the wall.

My dog doesn't have good conformation with her legs so she tends to go crooked when going "back" (and even forward) but I noticed teaching her rear end awareness seems to help.

Another way is to teach her the "front" command where she sits in front of you. Then "stand" her and make her "back" as she stays in the "front-stand" position. I say "front" to my dog and move into her and my dog does it as she has to stay in the "front" position. This may not be the greatest way to teach it... not sure if the dog will get confused with the "front" and "back" but... I did this after I taught my dog "back" to give her advance notice that I'm going to be asking for "back" in a "front" position. Hopefully this isn't too confusing to read!
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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-15-2014, 10:36 PM
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I have done much he same a Scarfish has mentioned......It work for my GSD.

Also, we have a narrow space between one of our cars and storage, that is about 30' long....that space was perfect for this training as well.

I would have Maggie follow me out into the garage and then make her back up....

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― Will Rogers
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-16-2014, 04:29 AM
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I use a wall on one side and chairs on the other or a couch on one side and maybe a coffee table on the other side. I don't use a leash. I also have them in a sit position. I stand in front of them tell them back and move towards them while doing a hand signal. It's such a narrow area they really don't have anywhere to go besides backwards. I then reward with treats. It's never taken more then 20 minutes for them to learn it and get the idea.

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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-16-2014, 05:59 AM
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Here is how I teach the back command. When I am playing tug with the dog and he pulls back I give the command back' das good' back every time he pulls back repeat. Once he learns back' have him sit in front of you give the down command' treat. Say back treat' say back treat. I can make my dog sit ' down' back' all the way across the floor! Give it a try good luck. Bill

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