Fun with the Hind Paw Lift

When you and your dog have mastered the Hind Paw lift you can start having some fun with the behaviour


It’s now time to move to a more advanced trick!  Over the coming topics you are going to teach your dog to raise one of its hind legs on command. This is more difficult to teach than giving a front paw as it is not something that a dog would naturally do (well not unless your dogs is a male and is answering a call of nature!). This is why in the previous week we started to introduce tricks that included hind paw movements, so your dog developed the awareness of his hind legs.

Emily and Leo demonstrate the final behaviour in the following brief video.

Reverse Weave

If you are up for a challenge combine together two tricks rather than chaining them. Combining the “Reverse” and the “Weave” you can train your dog to walk backwards whilst at the same weaving between your legs.

The Reverse Leg Weave is a visually impressive trick once you have mastered it, but it’s not actually too difficult to train, when you have already taught your dog to weave and to reverse.

The main challenge in this trick is to teach your dog to repeatedly turn its back end whilst reversing. As your dog reverses, you will need to lure it so that it turns its head to alternate sides.

Whilst you dog is reversing,  you need to lure it to turn its head away from you each time which will result in your dog’s wrapping around your legs.

For example, to get your dog to turn its back end to the left lure your dog so it turns its head to the right and vice-versa.

Remember to say Yes or click as soon as your dog manages to change direction with its back towards your leg. To start with, keep your criteria easy: your dog will need to have so encouragement.

The methodology is easier to see in action rather than being described in words. In the video below, Robyn and Vera clearly demonstrate how to do the trick.

Tickle to Tip/Tap

Let the challenge begin, it is now time to teach your dog to give a hind paw on command.

The way you are going to do this is to tickle one of your dog’s hind paws whilst keeping its attention and luring its weight forwards.

To way to encourage your dog to lift one of its hind paws is by tickling the paw.  I find that the best place to tickle is right at the back of its paw. As soon as your dog lifts its paw as you tickle it, mark with your Yes command and reward.

After you have worked this for a while and your dog is happily lifting its paw when you tickle it, start associating a word to the behaviour. In the following videos with Manouk and Leo we associate the word “Tip” to the behaviour.

By continuing to tickle the paw you are encouraging your dog not to transfer some of its weight back on to this paw. The aim is for your dog to be able to lift a hind paw and then keep it in the raised position. To do this your dog need to learn to transfer its weight on to its other three legs so that it can remain in a balanced position.

When your dog is mastering its balance in the 3-legged position, start to fade the tickling so your dog learns to offer the trick only with the “Tip” command.

Note: Another location that some dogs will respond to being tickled in their groin, so try this if your dog is not responding too well to you tickling around its paws.

Stage 2 – Stepping over a pole

The next trick is to get your dog to step back and forth over an obstacle, such as a cavaletti pole, with only one of its hind legs. If you don’t have a cavaletti pole a bamboo cane resting on top of a couple of jam jars will do just fine.

  • Lure your dog so that it steps over the obstacle with its front paws
  • Ask your dog to walk forwards and at the same time subtly lure your dog forwards. Your dog will gently shift its weight towards its front paws, and this will encourage your dog to move one of its hind paws forwards. In doing so it has to step over the pole. Mark the behaviour with a Yes command and reward.
  • Now ask and lure your dog to “Reverse”. Again, be subtle with the amount of luring, as all you want is for your dog to move the hind paw it previously moved forwards, back over the obstacle.
  • Keep repeating this exercise but remember to do this from left to right and right to left so that your dog learns the behaviour with both of its hind paws.

Stage 1: Reverse – Touch

The first trick is going to be to teach your dog to reverse to a touch position so that your dog learns to be careful of where and how it must position its hind legs.

  • Using a raised platform, ask your dog to perform its “Touch” trick and then lure it to walk forwards off the platform.  This is important so your dog knows where the platform is located
  • Now ask and Lure your dog to perform its “Reverse” trick. As your reaches the platform it will need to lift its hind legs on to the platform.
  • Continue luring and asking for the reverse so that your dog continues to walk backwards across the platform and down back on to the floor.

In performing this sequence of movements your dog will need to concentrate and learn to appreciate where it is placing its feet. Always start by going forwards over the equipment, your dog needs to be aware of the equipment.

For the purposes of this trick it is much easier to use the shaping technique for the “Reverse” as you are going to be facing your dog most of the time.

Reverse – The End Result

With practice you will be able to ask your dog to reverse and have it walk backwards away from you. This takes time to achieve, so please persevere. How far away from you do you think you can teach you dog to reverse?

Reverse – Shaping

The steps that you will use to teach you dog to reverse with shaping are:

  1. Ask your dog to stand in front of you
  2. Walk towards your dog so that it takes a step backwards
  3. As soon as the dog takes as step backward mark the behaviour with a click or Yes
  4. Throw a reward on the floor between your dog’s front legs so your dog must reverse further to get the reward.

Why should I throw the reward in between my dog’s legs?

Think of what you need to reinforce, this will help you understand where you need to place the treat reward. As you want to teach your dog to reverse, the reinforcement zone and hence the reward, needs to be further away from you.

If you were to reward from your hand, your dog would learn only to reverse with you, and you would never be able to get any distance in between you and your dog.

By placing the reward between your dog’s leg, you are giving value for your dog to step backward to get the reward. In addition, you are developing a sequence that facilitates the rehearsal of the behaviour:

  • Your dog does one step backward
  • You click and reward him in between his front legs (by throwing the treat),
  • Your dog steps backward to get to the treat
  • You click again and reward again

In the next video we’ll demonstrate the shaping technique to teach the reverse with Leo.

With time you will be able to “send” your dog to a reverse without moving.

Reverse taught with the shaping method helps the young dog understand that the reward does not always come from your hand. The result is that your dog starts to be more comfortable to answer to your commands away from you.

Tip: If your dog struggles to reverse in a straight line, try practicing against a wall or behind a sofa to help it develop the skill.

Reverse – Luring

To teach you dog to “Reverse” using the luring technique you will the following sequence:

To get your dog excited to work with place some tasty, high value treats in your hand and allow your dog to smell it.

  1. Tease your dog and make him follow your hand as a game
  2. Your dog should be trying to nibble your fingers to get at the treats

Some dogs get excitable very easily so you may not need to tease them much or they will be too aroused to wok. Others need more encouragement, and you may need to really tease them to get that excitement.

Some dogs get excitable very easily so you may not need to tease them much. Others need more encouragement, and you may need to really make the teasing game extra fun.

When you have your dog’s interest it is time to start luring

  1. Place the treat in your hand and make sure you dog is interested by it
  2. Move your hand backwards so that your dog must move backwards with you to follow the treat. You might want to be standing at the side of your dog. Mark, with the Yes or with a clicker, and reward your dog for that first couple of steps.
  3. When your dog starts to understand the movement, you can add the verbal cue to help them associate the behaviour with the word.
  4. When you dog has associated the verbal cue with the behaviour, you will be able to use the verbal cue as a command.
  5. With time start to fade the reward
    • Position the treat in the middle of your palm, under your thumb so it is not as obvious
    • Keep the same hand position but take the piece of food away

Leo is normally excited at the prospect of doing any sort of trick, so  in the video, we didn’t need to excite him with food to start with.

Fading the body movements

When you are confident that your dog has associated the word to the behaviour, the challenge is for your dog to be able to perform the entire trick just using the command.

To build to this finale, your need to fade your body movements so that you can remain in a single position when you ask your dog to perform the trick.

The key steps to fading your body movement are:

  • Choose a location to stand. This should be close enough to the step that you can reach over your dog’s head when its standing on the step. Use the command for your dog to start the trick
  • When your dog stands on the step, keep using your command and reward as soon as it starts moving around the step on its own.
  • When rewarding, place your hand so that your dog must face away from you to get the reward. As your dog knows that it must keep its front paws on the step it will have to move its back end around towards you to be able to get the reward. Keep using the command whilst you are doing this.
  • Slowly fade the number or rewards that you are giving by only rewarding when your dog does progressively larger turns. As you fade the rewards also start lifting your hand away from your dog, to fade the luring hand. However, still use subtle hand movements to encourage your dog to turning.
  • Keep building the distance that your dog moves until it can do nearly a full revolution coming round to meet you in a Heel and Side position.
  • Finally step back so your dog can do a full revolution without coming to a stop against your legs

We cover these steps in the final video for this Trick with Emily and Leo.

Once your dog has learnt this trick, you can use a wide variety of objects as the target for its front paws. It is a fun trick to practice whilst out on a walk where you can use tree stumps or rocks provided its safe enough for your dog to walk around them.

Another good challenge would be to use a football as a perch to encourage your dog to develop its balance skills with its front paws. However, be careful this is very difficult, so I suggest you gradually introduce an unstable perch before introducing the ball. I suggest you start by introducing a balance cushion that you gradually inflate more whilst your dog is gaining more experience and confidence with an unstable surface. Remember the more air in the balance cushion the less stable the perch it becomes, hence the more balance your dog will need to develop. Only when you dog is confident with the balance cushion can you introduce the ball.