As we all know, many dogs are very expressive with their front paws and are easy to teach all sorts of front-paw-centric tricks. Even many shy, reactive, and anxious dogs love to use their front paws to interact with the world.
Back paws? Not so much. Many reactive dogs actually have little consciousness of their back paws, and are nervous about using them. This is why training that involves the back paws can be used in building confidence and ultimately helping the dog feel more secure in his body and even overcome some of his reactivity.
When I coach Reactive Dog class at Your Dogs Friend, each dog practices using a PVC ladder that makes them more conscious of paw placement. This helps them feel more grounded in their bodies, which diminishes anxiety and reactivity.
We have worked with training a "Scoot"--getting the dog to back up, ultimately onto a different surface.
- Have dog standing in front of you
- Lean forward slightly
- If dog steps back, however tentatively, click and treat!
- Withhold clicks and treats until dog is taking a step back
- Add hand signal like you're shooing away something. Then add verbal cue like "Scoot!"
- Place board, book, carpet scrap, or any different surface behind back paws. Click and treat when back paws touch the alternate surface
Be very patient! Sometimes those back paws would like to go anywhere besides on a novel surface. Stay positive and don't get frustrated.
The next step? Maybe we'll be as brave as Tena at Success Just Clicks, who has trained her dog to back up onto a tree trunk--yes, a vertical tree trunk! That's some serious back paw confidence-building. What's your favorite back paw confidence building trick? Or are your back paws just fine the way they are?