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Have you ever been to the circus and watched the little dogs walk around on their hind legs? They dance with one another, push mini baby carriages, and generally impress and delight the crowd. There is something very funny and cute about it. Perhaps you have never seen such an act before but you have watched a Canine Freestyle competition, where an athletic Border Collie balanced on her hind legs and awed the crowd with her walking and dancing skills. She moved in rhythm with her owner and held the trick for an impressive amount of time. The impression stuck with you, and made you want to teach your own pup such a trick.
Teaching your puppy to "Stand Tall" is a lot of fun. Your pup can really show off her skills with this trick, and teaching this trick is the first step in teaching your pup how to walk on her hind legs. Just like the circus dogs or the dancing Border Collie, your pup can likely learn this trick with your help.
The difficulty of this trick will mostly depend on your puppy's own athleticism and balance. Some puppies will naturally have an easier time balancing on their hind legs than others will. Generally, you can expect this trick to take between two and four weeks to train. If your puppy is not naturally built for exercises that require balance, or if he is heavier set or has short legs, then this trick might take longer for him. Be patient with your puppy and do not rush him. Your puppy will probably need time to build up the necessary muscles required to stand on his hind legs, and that will take practice overtime.
Be careful while teaching your puppy this. If your puppy is less than one year of age, then his joints and bones will still be growing and he will be much more prone to injury. Minimize any jumping as much as possible, and while you are practicing this be careful not to let your puppy fall backwards. Also, only practice this on a surface that has good traction and is not slippery, such as an area with carpet or grass.
To get started you will need lots of tasty, easy to eat treats. You will also need a calm location with good traction on the floor, such as a carpeted or grassy area--as well as patience, awareness of your puppy's abilities, and a positive attitude and willingness to have fun.
If you are using the "Tempt" method, then you will also need good balance and the ability to stay standing with your puppy's weight against you. If you are using the "Tug" method", then you will need a long tug toy that your puppy loves and a stable wall in your calm location.
The Raise Up Method
Go somewhere carpeted
To begin, grab some treats and go to a calm location where the floor is not slippery, such as a carpeted or grassy area.
Raise the treat
When you and your buddy are ready, then show her a treat and touch the treat to her nose. Tell your pup to "Stand tall", and slowly raise the treat upwards and toward her back, so that her front paws lift off of the ground while she is following the treat.
Reward with the treat
As soon as her front paws lift off of the ground, praise her and give her the treat.
Practice on two legs
Practice raising the treat and rewarding her for balancing on her hind legs, until she can hold the position for several seconds.
Raise the treat higher
When your pup can balance on her hind legs, then tell her to "Stand tall" and move the treat upward and toward her back, forming a slight arch. This time when you raise the treat do not stop the treat when her front paws lift off the ground, instead continue to raise the treat until she is standing up on two legs.
As soon as your pup stands up, even if she immediately falls back down after, praise her and give her the treat. If she does not stand up, then reward any efforts at standing up and practice this trick until she can stand up.
When your pup will stand up when you raise the treat, then hold the treat for slightly longer while she is standing, before you praise her and give it to her. Start with only a second or two, and then add time, one second at a time, as her balance improves. Do this until she can remain standing for several seconds.
When your pup can balance on her hind legs, then remove the treat from your hand and simply use your empty hand to make an upward motion, as if you still have a treat in it. Reward her for responding to your command and your hand signal even without the treat in your hand, by giving her a treat from behind your back. Practice this until she can do it consistently.
The Tempt Method
To begin, grab some easy to eat treats that your puppy loves. Go to a calm location with a non-slippery floor.
Tempt with the treat
Show your pup the treat and then raise the treat to the front of your body, right out of your puppy's reach. Tell him to "Stand tall", and then wiggle the treat to tempt him to use your body to stand up on his hind legs.
Reward with the treat
When he stands on his hind legs, praise him and give him the treat, and then after a few seconds tell him "Off" to communicate to him that he should get back down now.
Repeat tempting your pup to "Stand tall" by using your body for balance, until he can hold his balance on his own for a second when you move to the side a bit.
When your pup starts to balance on his hind legs on his own, then tell him to "Stand tall", and hold the treat above him and away from your body, so that he cannot use your body for balance while reaching for it. As soon as he stands up on his hind legs or attempts to stand up, then praise him and give him the treat.
Practice "Stand Tall" with the treat away from your body until your pup can hold the position for five seconds. Feed him an additional treat every second that he holds the position for while practicing this.
Remove the treat
When your puppy can stand on his hind legs for at least five seconds, then place your treat into a different hand behind your back, tell him to "Stand tall", and then hold your empty hand above him as if you have a treat. When he stands up, then praise him and give him the treat from behind your back. Practice this until he will do it consistently without a treat in your hand above him.
The Tug Method
To begin, grab a long tug toy that your puppy loves. Go to a calm location with a stable wall and a floor that has good traction, such as a carpeted or grassy area.
Play with your pup
When you are ready, begin to play with your pup with the tug toy by the wall. When he is holding onto the toy and having fun, then carefully pull him toward the wall with the tug toy. Tell him to "Stand tall", and then move the tug toy up the wall, so that your pup places his front paws onto the wall.
As soon as your puppy places his paws onto the wall, then praise him and give him a treat, or allow him to have the tug toy for a second if he prefers the toy.
Repeat telling him to "Stand tall", raising him onto the wall, so that his front paws are against the wall and he is balancing on his back paws, and then praising and rewarding him for standing. Do this at least twenty times or until he shows signs of being able to balance without the use of the wall.
Practice without the wall
After you have practiced "Stand Tall" against the wall, then hold the tug toy above your pup's head, slightly out of his reach, and far enough away from the wall that he can only use the wall a tiny bit for balance. Practice this until he can stand on his own, without using the wall. Continue to reward him for standing tall when you practice this.
Practice without a toy
When your pup can balance without the wall then remove the toy from your hand, tell Fido to "Stand tall", and then raise your hand above him, as if you are holding the toy still. Reward him for standing up when you do this. If he will not stand up without the toy, then practice with the toy for longer and try this again periodically, until he will consistently do it without the toy in your hand.
By Caitlin Crittenden
Published: 05/14/2018, edited: 01/08/2021