How to Train Your Older Dog to Walk Backward

Medium
2-4 Weeks
Fun

Introduction

Have you ever watched a video of a really brilliant dog performing tons of amazing tricks? Do you remember that trick where the owner tells the dog to "Take a step. Now back up. Take another step. Now back up"? The trick ends with the incredibly patient dog finally getting the toy. The toy that he was staring a hole through while he walked toward it and away from it over and over again.

Were you not impressed while you watched the clever dog? Now imagine your dog being that dog. Walking backward is a fun trick. It can be combined with many other tricks to make your dog look especially brilliant, and it is a trick that even your older dog can likely learn.

Defining Tasks

Walking backwards is not only a fun party trick, but it is also quite useful when you need your older dog to move out of a space. It can also save you from having to pick up an older dog that cannot turn around. .

When training your older dog to walk backwards you will need to keep the sessions short enough for your dog to not get too tired. You will also need to be aware of your older dog's compromised balance, and be sure to go slowly enough for him to figure out where he needs step, so that he does not trip. If your dog is vision or hearing impaired, you will need to work especially slowly. 

If your dog is vision impaired you will need to give your dog the time sniff the treat as you lure him with it, so that he can keep track of where the treat is. You will also need to be very gentle if you are using the 'Hallway' method" When you step toward your dog , very gently brush up against him and allow him time to become aware of your presence and to decide to step backward.

If your dog is hearing impaired you will need to turn your lures and steps into hand signals and cues. To do this, when it is time to phase out the treat lures, simply remove the treat from your lure hand but continue to use your hand as if you still held a treat. With the steps, simply skip over the instructions to remove the steps and continue to use them.

Expect this command to take between two and four weeks. If your dog struggles with balance or has limited eyesight, you will need to allow more time and to work especially slowly to give your dog time to learn.

Getting Started

To get started, you will need lots of small, soft treats and patience. If you are using the 'Hallway' method, you will also need a narrow hallway or other long space that is enclosed on both sides, to practice the training in. You may also need a leash if your dog will not stay with you. If you are using the 'Chair Blocking' method, you will also need between six and ten chairs and a space large enough to form two lines of chairs close together. If your dog is large, aim to have ten chairs. If your dog is small six chairs will be enough, although you can add more.

The Hallway Method

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Step
1
Go into the hall
To begin, you will need a narrow hallway or long space that is enclosed on either side. Bring your dog into the space and have him face you and stand directly in front of you.
Step
2
Take a step
With your dog in front of you, facing you, take one step toward your dog. If he takes a step backward, praise him enthusiastically and offer him a treat. Touching your dog with your leg is OK but he careful not to step on his feet while doing this. Do not use this method with timid or aggressive dogs.
Step
3
Keep him there
If he tries to turn around or run past you, coax him back to the front of you or block him from going around you. Then repeat your step toward him. Keep your attitude upbeat and your body language relaxed. You can add a leash if you are struggling to keep him close to you.
Step
4
Add command
Once your dog has successfully taken a step backward when you stepped toward him, add the command. To add the command, repeat the process again, but this time, as you step towards him, tell him to "back up". When he takes a step backward, praise him and offer him a treat.
Step
5
Repeat
Practice stepping toward your dog while telling him to "back up" until he will do it with ease.
Step
6
Add steps
Once your dog has mastered a single step, begin to add more steps. To add more steps, command your dog to "back up", then take two steps towards him so that he has to backup two or three steps. While he is moving backward, praise him, and when you stop stepping towards him offer him a treat. Add one more step every time that he masters the new number of steps.
Step
7
Phase out your steps
Once your dog has mastered taking several steps backward, phase out your own steps. To do this, tell your dog to "back up" and lean forward as if you are going to take a step, but do not lift your feet. If you dog takes a step backward immediately praise him and offer him four treats, one at a time. If your dog does not take a step backward, wait ten seconds, then take a step towards him. Praise him and offer a treat when he backs up.
Step
8
Repeat
Practice this sequence until your dog will back up when told to, before you take a step towards him. When he will do that, stop leaning towards him also, so that he is depending only on the command.
Step
9
Increase steps again
If your dog stopped taking multiple steps backward when you phased out your own steps, increase the steps again by repeating the process that you did earlier. Only reward your dog for one more step than he was taking before. Practice each new number of steps until your dog has mastered that number before adding additional steps.
Recommend training method?

The Treat Luring Method

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Step
1
Show the treat
To begin, show your dog a treat and hold that treat a few inches in front of your dog, at the height of your dog's eyes.
Step
2
Raise the treat
Once your dog is focused on the treat, slowly raise the treat a couple of inches, keeping the treat where your dog can see it. You want the treat to be at the height of the top of your dog's head but not higher.
Step
3
Pass the treat over your dog
With your dog focusing on the treat, slowly pass the treat over your dog's head and then neck. Be sure to go slowly enough for your dog to follow it.
Step
4
Reward
If your dog takes a step backward to keep his focus on the treat, praise him enthusiastically and give him the treat. If your dog turns or nips at the treat, pull the treat away and repeat the pass until your dog takes a step backwards.
Step
5
Add command
Once your dog will take a step or two backwards to follow the treat, begin to tell your dog "back up" as you pass the treat over his head. Continue to praise and reward every time he steps backwards.
Step
6
Remove lure
Once your dog will immediately back up when you say "back up" and begin to move the treat, phase out the lure. To phase out the lure, first hold your fingers together without a treat in your hand, as if you are pretending to hold a treat in hand. Second, tell your dog to back up, then wait ten seconds. This will give your dog time to think. Third, pass your empty treat hand over your dog, like you did before with the lure. Do this until he will back up before you pass the treat over him. If he backs up without the lure, praise him enthusiastically and offer him a treat.
Step
7
Add steps
Once your dog will consistently take a step backwards when told to back up without the lure, add steps. To add steps, only reward your dog when he takes one more step backwards then he did before. Practice each additional step until he has mastered that number before adding another step.
Step
8
Practice makes perfect
When your dog can take several steps backward, you have mastered backing up. Congratulations! Continue to practice this trick and add more steps if you would like.
Recommend training method?

The Chair Blocking Method

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Step
1
Set up chairs
To begin, set up two lines of chairs in an open area. Leave enough room between the two lines for your dog to pass through but not for him to be able to turn around.
Step
2
Lead your dog through the chairs
Get your dog comfortable with the chairs by leading him through the chairs with a treat. Do this until he will walk through the chairs easily.
Step
3
Stop
Once your dog is comfortable with the chairs, lead through the chairs again but this time, stop him right before he is able to exit the row.
Step
4
Pass a treat over him
With your dog stopped, slowly pass a treat directly over your dog's head. Hold the treat in place over your dog's shoulders. If your dog backs up to get to the treat, enthusiastically praise him and give him the treat.
Step
5
Add command
When your dog will back up to receive the treat, add the command. To add the command, repeat the process of leading him through the chairs, stopping him, and passing a treat over him. This time when you pass a treat over him, tell him "back up". Do this until he will back up every time you tell him to and pass the treat over him.
Step
6
Phase out the lure
Once your dog will immediately backup when you say "back up" and begin to move the treat, phase out the lure. To phase out the lure, first, hold your fingers together without a treat in your hand, as if you are pretending to hold a treat. Second, tell your dog to back up, then wait ten seconds. This will give your dog time to think. Third, pass your empty treat hand over your dog, like you did before with the lure. Do this until he will back up before you pass the treat over him. If he backs up without the lure, praise him enthusiastically and offer him a treat.
Step
7
Add steps
Once your dog will consistently take a step backwards when told to backup without the lure, add steps. To add steps, only reward your dog when he takes one more step backwards then he did before. Practice each additional step until he has mastered that number before adding another step.
Step
8
Remove chairs
Once your dog can back up all the way through the rows of chairs, begin to remove the chairs. To do this, remove one set of chairs from the end of the rows. Practice having your dog back up through the rows of chairs and through the empty space where the last row previously was. Continue to remove one set of chairs from the row at a time as your dog masters backing up into more and more empty space.
Step
9
Practice makes perfect
When your dog has mastered backing up the entire length of the removed chairs' space, you have mastered the backing up trick. Congratulations! Continue to practice this trick often and add more backward steps if you wish.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

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