Canine Gym At Home: Back Up (Beginner)

By Lauren Tobin | Updated: July 1 2019

This month, we’re going to focus on Back Up, which is another movement that dogs normally don’t do on their own. However, if you’ve already taught your dog “Back Up” – awesome! We’ll start progressing the difficulty of the exercise. For everyone else, let’s start with teaching your dog that he can move forward AND backward. It’s a great body awareness and strengthening exercise (as well as a confidence builder!) once you start adding more difficulty to it. 

We love ‘Back Up’, because when your dog knows it, the exercise becomes a full body workout that you can use ANYWHERE! Eventually, we’ll add challenges, such as backing up over different objects, surfaces, and even up a flight of stairs! But before that can happen, let’s get a handle on the basics. 

For this exercise, you’ll need some type of object or mat that’s slightly raised. We’ll use this as a marker for the dog. He’ll learn that putting his back feet up on this object will result in rewards, so as we move it farther away from him, he’ll back up until he gets to it!  As for the proper height, it’s like the Goldilocks Syndrome: Not too high, and not too low, because initially we want to make this as easy for the dog to accomplish.

How To Teach It

  • SET IT UP: Place the mat/object behind your dog so that you can reward when their back feet touch the mat.
  • Step 1: Start with your dog’s rear feet on mat, and front feet on floor (lure your dog so he walks over the object, and stop just as his front feet are off it).
  • Step 2: Lure him forward so that his back feet take one small step off the mat.
  • Step 3: With the treat still in your hand, push into him until BOTH rear feet step back onto the mat.
  • Repeat this process several times.
  • Once your dog understands taking one step back is rewarded, challenge him by luring him a few steps forward, and then wait for him to take steps back (instead of pushing the cookie into him) to target the mat/object with his rear paws.


If your dog is sitting or lying down when pushing into him, you’re probably holding the cookie lure either too high or too low. Keep your hand level with the dog’s nose, so that he steps back rather than sits back. 

If he’s having a hard time moving in a straight line, no worries! Use a wall, or a few folding chairs, or create a chute by moving your couch away from the wall.

Happy Training!

Lauren Tobin


Lauren has her Animal Sciences degree from Penn State University. During college, she worked with both domestic and wild animals, and volunteered at a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center for 4 years of college and even interned at Central Park Zoo. She is a Certified Dog Trainer from IACP and is a Certified Canine Athlete Advisor for Canine Conditioning. She also holds her CGC/CGCA Evaluator for the AKC.

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