I just started this with my girl. What I did first was have her stand in front of me and then I'd sort of step into her. Any step or slight shuffle backwards, I mark and reward. We are still at this stage, granted I haven't practiced this much since we aren't even doing RA until the end of this month. I want her to understand what it means to step back before I try multiple steps in heel. I can get her moving backwards in heel if I push a treat on her nose, but she doesn't really make the connection. She has very little hind end awareness so it will be slow going for us. We're also working on the tight left pivots.
Like Lies's dog, my Abby also doesn't know where her back end is at most times. *laughs* We did a lot of walking up and down stairs and over small obstacles to try and get her to become more aware of her back legs and where they're at.
When I taught her to walk backwards, I put her in the heel position and held a reward up for her to look at. Then, instead of going a step forward and rewarding, I told her to heel and took a step back. She backed up a step and sat. Okay, good start - if I can keep her bum off the ground. Tried it again - heel, and a step back. I would click her for stepping back, but before putting her bum down, and eventually she got that I wanted her to move backward, not step back and sit.
The only problem we're having is that she doesn't back up entirely straight most times. It's something we're still working on, but she does enthusiastically move backward.
I was taught pretty much the same technique that Historian mentioned in her post, but was always told to have the dog next to a wall so that they were in between you and the wall and the only way they could move was back or forward. That way they couldn't swing out when you were trying to teach them to walk backwards.
I have dogs who back up beautifully in heel position, and I mostly shape the backing behavior with a bit of luring at first if necessary. My chow, Khana, was praised by judges all through Rally Excellent - I was told numerous times that she was the best backing dog of all the excellent level dogs. The majority of dogs I've seen in competition don't back well at all and I don't really think it's that hard of a behavior to train.
I really focus on heel as a position and not just a movement throughout the training and that helps tremendously with the backing up, left pivots and stepping sideways. Because my dogs think of heel as "have my shoulder/neck next to Mom's left leg, facing forward", they make a big effort to stay in that heel position regardless of where I move. While I do actually teach them commands that mean "shift your rump back" for the pivots, and "back up" for the backing, it comes fairly naturally because they have a big desire to be in heel position already.
Before I teach my dogs to back in heel position, I teach them to pivot their hind ends. I do this because I want them to have an idea of moving the hind end independently of the front end. And I also teach them a "back up" command where they are in front of me, and I have them back away. At first I can just step toward them and as soon as they shift weight back, I mark the behavior and reward. Initially I don't even expect a step - just a shift so that they are leaning backwards with the weight more on the hind end. And then from there I build into a step back, and then more steps back. I sometimes use a touch stick to help them understand that they can back up without me moving toward them (they're first taught that touching the end of the stick gets a reward, and then I move the touch stick so it's over the dog's head and when they step back to touch it, I mark and reward).
Once they can pivot at least 270 degrees (with me turning in place and the dog backing around), and can back up straight in front of me, I start the backing in heel position. Depending on the dog, I may do as Historian mentioned and use a treat over the head of the dog (or the touch stick) to get the first step. I'm very careful not to swing my left shoulder back, because that's a cue for the dog to swing the rump behind me - but, if they start to swing the rump out, I can get them to bring it back in by pulling my shoulder back a bit and using the "get back" (my pivot command).
The dog gets rewarded for even the slightest movement backwards at first (sometimes just for shifting the weight back, which is the first indication). I think that most dogs learn to back crooked because people rush the training. Rewarding for each tiny increment is going to make the behavior solid and correct.
The reason I rarely use any sort of wall or table or chair to make the dog back up straight is because that becomes part of the scenario to the dog, and most of the dogs that I've seen trained that way end up not having the best back-up. We've tried it both ways in the classes I teach and the general consensus has been that the wall ends up taking longer because after you teach the back, you have to re-teach it without the wall. So now I never use those in classes and the dogs are learning great without having something to block them.
I remember back when I first started teaching my dogs to back up and pivot - way before rally become popular. We just got tired of the normal heeling and I wanted to do more. So we started trying all sorts of things. Khana has been so much fun, as she will now heel on both left and right and do pivots, backing up, etc. on both sides. I've never had a dog that was so flexible in heeling. It's fun!
I taught my GSD Carlie to walk backward. The command I use is “reverse”. I started her with a harness and patrol lead. To help keep her in position, I used a long chain link fence at the local park. I had her in a heel between me and the fence. I walked the length of the fence, stopped, took hold of the harness on her back between her shoulder blades with my left hand (using it like a handle) and used my right hand on her chest. I said “reverse” as I applied pressure to the harness (gently pulling backward) with my left hand and applying pressure to her chest with my right hand. I used my legs to somewhat keep her “sandwiched” between my body and the fence. She picked it up rather quickly.
She reverses from the heel position anywhere asked now. The fence was the first step in helping her understand what I wanted.
Lola backs up in heel position. I don't know how she learned that but then again I got her a couple of months ago and she's 3. Someone has worked with her before. I thought it was pretty cool that she already knew that.
Cosmo is not a treat motivated dog. I use them but he doesn't get "excited" about them. I have tried lots of different kinds toesee if I could find one he really loved, but no luck. I use "reverse" as the command, as "back up" is already used for something else. I think I will try Traci"s idea of the harness and lead, that might help him to back straight without turning. Thanks all.
I use a wall or fence to start teaching the back. I use "BackIt". Since the dog should know Heel, I use a real exerated backward movement with my leg at first. My female one female ques off my knee, so it is easy with her.
What we used in French ring 2 weekends ago was a person walking toward the dog with a broom sweeping the ground just in front of the dogs toes to get the dog to step backwards... Not grand movements with the broom, just tiny sweeping movements with lots of praise when the dog steps backwards, while repeating "bye" which is the cue for the dog to heel backwards.
Originally Posted By: workingdawgsWhat we used in French ring 2 weekends ago was a person walking toward the dog with a broom sweeping the ground just in front of the dogs toes to get the dog to step backwards... Not grand movements with the broom, just tiny sweeping movements with lots of praise when the dog steps backwards, while repeating "bye" which is the cue for the dog to heel backwards.
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