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Training your small dog to do a handstand is incredibly fun. Maybe you've seen small dogs walking down the street on their front legs never touching their back legs to the ground, or maybe you would just like your little guy to do a handstand for a ‘Ta-Da’ and a treat and then move on to his next cute trick. Training your small dog to do a handstand is incredibly fun and with lots of repetition, fairly easy to do. This one is cute and exciting and will help to show off your dog's personality around other people. Have your friends and neighbors ask your dog to do a handstand for them when they come around.
This is an easy trick for small dogs to do because they have low body weight. However, your dog is going to need to learn how to stand on his front legs rather than his back legs before he can do a full handstand. Training your dog to build up those front leg muscles is going to be the most time-consuming and challenging aspect of this trick. Once you to have those muscles built and he knows how to shift his weight from the rear to the front of his body, this trick will be fairly easy and lots of fun.
Training your dog to do a handstand will require some repetitive training sessions. Keep these sessions short and simple while keeping your little guy engaged. Take some time at first to build up those front leg muscles before you move on to expecting your dog to stand on his two front paws. Be sure to have lots of treats around for these training sessions and be patient with your little guy, as he may tire easily during training.
The Book to Books Method
Place one book on the ground behind your dog. You may need to brace the book against something such as a wall or a piece of furniture so it doesn't slide out from underneath your dog, especially if you're working on carpet.
Hind leg to book
Have your dog touch his hind legs to the book. If he needs help, you can help him the first few times. This will take some practice and repetition to get your little guy to touch both feet to the book on his own. Be patient, and he'll get it.
Once your small dog touches the book, give him a treat and some exciting verbal praise.
Repeat these steps only add another book on top of your first once your dog touches the first after lots of practice.
Get your well practiced little dog to touch the two stacked books in the same ways you did with the first book. Practice this several times until he puts both rear paws on both books each time you ask.
Once your small dog can handle putting his rear feet on two books on his own, increase your stack of books by one book at a time until your small dog is standing on his front paws. This may be a fairly high stack of books.
Over time, your small dog will be able to stand on his front legs without the books. Increasing his practice one book at a time will strengthen his front legs. With lots of practice, you will be able to ask your small dog to do a handstand without the books.
Be sure to reward your small dog each time he is successful at standing on his front legs, even while he is training on the books.
The Gentle Lift Method
Training your little dog to do handstands starts off as a difficult trick because he needs to increase the strength in his front legs. So starting off with the reward is a great way to encourage your small dog to participate and engage in the training sessions. Give your dog a treat right off the bat so he knows he's going to have fun.
Gently lift your dog's hind legs just about an inch on the ground. Once you are done lifting his hind legs about an inch from the ground, he should have his weight on his front legs. Hold for a moment and place him back down.
Repeat and increase
Repeat lifting your dog's hind legs several times. Every three or four times you lift your dog's hind legs, raise his back end a little higher than the times before. Once your small dog is up on his front legs, even if you're holding the support of his back legs, set him down gently and give him a treat. Practicing this several times will help improve muscles and strength in his front legs.
Be sure each time you set your small dog down from strengthening his front legs you are offering him a treat. You will go through several small treats during one training session. Expect the first training sessions to be just improving the strength of his front legs in preparation to do a handstand on his own.
Once your small dog is used to you lifting his hind legs ever so gently and increasing the height at which are holding him, begin to name this trick. Tell your little dog he is going to do a handstand and then lift his rear legs, hold him for a moment so all of his weight is on his front legs, and then gently set him down giving him a treat.
After practicing this several times, begin to only slightly lift your dog's rear legs. Once you begin to put your dog into a handstand position by gently lifting his hind legs he should begin to take over and lift them on his own. Sit close by in case he tumbles over, but over time, with practice and strength building, your dog should begin to know what your expectations are and do it on his own.
Once your small dog is lifting himself into the handstand position on his own, begin to ask him to do the trick by command only. This will mean you're not starting the lift by picking up his hind legs at all; you are just asking him to do a handstand and expecting him to lift up his hind legs, stand on his front legs for a moment, and then earn a treat for being so incredibly cute.
The Train Target Method
Starting with your dog's back legs, you will need to train him to target. This will mean he will touch something with his back legs, putting all of his weight onto his front legs. Over time, with practice and training your little guy will learn how to lift all of his weight onto his front legs to do a handstand.
Back leg target
Place a target on to the floor behind your dog. This target can be a piece of paper.
Back leg touch
Hold a treat in your hand and move that hand near your dog's back leg, touching his back leg with the treat and then touching the target with the treat. If you need to assist your dog by gently moving his back leg to touch the target the first few times that is fine, just be very gentle and not pulling his back leg. This target should be a half a step behind him.
Treat your little guy once he touches the target behind him with his back paws. This is rewarding him for finding target behind him and touching it with his hind legs.
Repeat and practice
Practice this several times As repetitive as it may be, practice until your dog touches the target or piece of paper on his own without you having to help him or tap both his leg and the target. You can begin to give this skill a cue word such as "touch" or "target".
Move this target up against a wall or a sturdy piece of furniture. If it's a piece of paper you can tape it very low against your floorboards on the wall. Your goal will be to have your small dog touch the target with his back leg.
Have your dog touch his back legs to the target on the wall. This will take some more practice because you have moved the target. But if your small dog has been conditioned to recognize this piece of paper as a target, then he should understand what he's supposed to do. Be repetitive and practice a lot before moving on. Be sure to treat!
Slowly begin to raise the target from the floorboard on the wall up a little bit, forcing your dog to lift up on his front paws in order to touch the target on the wall with his hind legs. Again if you're using a piece of paper, just tape it higher to the wall.
Practice and name
Continue to practice getting your dog higher and higher, targeting his hind legs and forcing him to shift his weight to just his front legs. The higher you're able to aim his target, the straighter he will be in a handstand position on his front legs. As you are practicing, begin to name this trick, such as 'handstand.'
Give your dog lots of time to practice this trick. Over time, you should be able to eliminate the hind leg target and just ask your dog by command to do a handstand. With the weeks of practice behind you, his front legs should be strong enough to lift his back legs up into a handstand. Always be sure to give your little guy that treat once he does his handstand.
By Stephanie Plummer
Published: 01/23/2018, edited: 01/08/2021
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