Thursday, January 5, 2012

January Training Challenge: Back Up

Back, Back, Back the truck up!

For our first 30-day training challenge of 2012, Hurley and I will be perfecting "Back up".  The practical uses for this are numerous.  He's in my face?  Back up.  Not in heel position?  Back up.  Too close to his food bowl?  Back up.  About to be sprayed by a skunk?  For doG's sake, BACK UP! 

I foresee this being used a lot.

The verbal command will be, duh, "Back up."  The hand signal will be my hand gesturing away from my body.  We will videotape this at some point so that you know what "my hand gesturing away from my body" looks like.  If I were talented at drawing or even using Adobe products (hell, Paint could probably do in a pinch), I could illustrate what this looks like but alas, I have no such talents so your imagination you must use. 

My goal is to get Hurley to back away from sit and stand positions, in front of me or beside me.  I'd love to add distance (he backs away even when he's not right by me) but am unsure if we'll get that far in 30 days.  Maybe someday we will spend an entire walk walking backwards.  That would drive him insane and therefore, makes me giggle thinking 'bout it.  I could totally be that crazy lady in the 'hood who walks her dog backwards!

To start out, I ask Hurley to sit in front of me.  Once he's in sit position, I step into him while extending my hand over his head (that's the "my hand gesturing away from my body") and I say "Back up" once he starts to move.  When he moves his back paws, he gets a good boy and a treat.  Two days in, we are still at this stage.  He is offering a backup each time though and not sidling to the side or offering a paw so he's beginning to understand.  While conventional wisdom dictates not adding a verbal command until the behavior is down, I find that Hurley and I work better when I start out with both hand gesture and verbal command.  It's not always appropriate, depending upon what we're training, but it's worked well for us heretofore so I'm sticking with our unconventional way of doing things.

Step 2 will be to remove me stepping forward from the sequence and simply use the hand gesture and vocal command.  To get there, I will be fake stepping forward towards the end of our training sessions over the next couple of days.  Fake stepping means I just lift my leg as if I'm about to step forward but not actually step into him.

After that, we will be working on from a standing position, on a taut leash to get back into heel position and from a distance. 

Wish us luck! 

And don't forget to comment with any tricks you would like to see Hurley learn this year.  We're still working on the list! 


  1. Oooooh this command would come in handy for us. Good luck!

  2. this sounds like it will be quite a useful command. i like that it covers a variety of situations with one cue instead of each situation requiring a different word/gesture. good luck!!

  3. Sage & I are constantly working on behavior too. We'll have to try this one!

  4. I love your choice for your first 30 day challenge! You're right that it could be very useful.

    Sounds like you're making good progress.