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.

Feet – Fading the rewards

The last step is to start fading the reward. As with previous tricks you have learnt you dog should be able to do the trick without you having a visible toy or food.

If your dog is food focused, start reducing the frequency of the rewards.  You may also want to consider using a different type of food that has a higher value to your dog. Using a tastier treat less often can be used to offset not giving less tastier treats more often. In addition, hide the food pouch or surprise you dog by getting the food from a location it is not expecting.

For dogs that are toy focused, progressively use toys that are smaller, so they become less visible. Reduce to a toy small enough that you can hide it in your hand as, just as with food, your dog needs to learn not to only perform the trick when it sees the toy.

With time, for either food or toy, I start to change the frequency and type of the reward. I might reward once with a piece of food and the next time with just a voice praise or a cuddle. I make the type of reward unpredictable so my dog never knows when the super jackpot reward will be used.

With time, the trick by itself becomes a reward.

Feet – Increasing the Arousal

Remember the DUDE principle?

For each trick we start to develop in your dog the desire to work with you and try the trick, then until your dog understands and is able to perfom the trick you need to work in a calm environment with little distraction.

The next stage is Duration and Accuracy. Duration has already been introduced by adding a Walk to Feet.

Improving the accuracy for the Feet trick can be achieved by increasing the excitement of your dog.  The goal is for your dog to be eager to perform the trick. This will increase the speed of your dog to come in position and, in turn, it will require more self-control to achieve the position. As such your dog will learn to become more accurate with its positioning.

The other positive aspect of playing with your dog arousal levels is to get a sharper / faster reaction to come in position as soon as your dog hears the verbal cue.

Note: with Manouk we increased his arousal level with a toy, but for a food orientated dogs, this can be done by using a higher value food.

If your dog is too excited and can not perform the trick, you need to learn to only modulate its arousal to a level it can work. My advise is to revert back to a low arousal situation first and slowly build the arousal levels.

This is a second video illustrating Manouk try to control his impulse whilst working when more aroused.


Up to now, you have taught your dog independent tricks, but tricks start to look amazing when you can start chaining them together. Over the next 2 weeks you are going to start to do just that.

Chaining simply means following one trick with another one in a chain. Chaining is the secret to teaching complex tricks: you split the trick in smaller easier tricks and then you combine them together.

To start with you will need to reward for each independent tricks in the chain, but will progress to only rewarding the final trick.

Your first chained trick is going to be “Feet” which combines both the “On it” and “Middle” tricks.

To start get started

  • Turn your feet so that your toes are pointing inwards.
  • Use your Middle command to get your dog to come between your legs
  • As soon as your dog is in the middle position use your On It command to ask your dog to put its front paws on your feet.

You may find that when you ask your dog for the “On It” that it may only put one of its paws onto one of your feet. The quick tip for enticing your dog to place a paw on both of your feet is for you to subtly shift where you are providing the reward whilst still asking your dog for the “On It”. Try to give the reward high enough so your dog has to move his second paw off the ground to get the treat. If, for example, your dog has not placed a paw on your left foot, slightly lean and offer the reward to your left side. As your dog’s head moves towards the left for the reward its more likely to lift and place its left paw.

As your dog begins to understand that it needs to place its front paws on top of your feet, you can start decreasing the angle that you are turning your feet. Ultimately your feet should be pointing forwards with your dog still placing its paws.

When your dog clearly understands the required behaviour, start to introduce a word to associate to this. This word will become the single command that will replace both the Middle and On It commands

To introduce the word, ask your dog for the “On It” and as soon as it has both paws on your feet give the new word and reward.

The final step that you will add to complete the trick is for you to walk forwards whilst your dog has its front paws on top of your feet. I tend to have a verbal cue, such as “walk” to make sure my dog is getting ready to walk .

Emily demonstrates all these steps in the following video with Manouk.