December 3, 2009

Training a Backstall

A backstall is a trick most usually used in disc dog competitions. The dog jumps onto the handler's back and stands up. After this, you can also train your dog to jump onto your back and then vault off to catch the Frisbee.

The steps used in training one are as follows:

Step 1: Train the dog to jump onto a wide stable object, such as a couch or bed. Pair it with the command of Hop Up! until the dog will jump onto the object at the command. Pat the object to encourage the dog to jump on top of it. Click and treat for 1 or 2 paws at first, then require all paws on before a treat is given.

Step 2: Then have the dog jump onto a different, smaller object that isn't as stable but is still safe. You could use a stool, the top of the dog's crate, or anything like that. Put a bath mat or something similar on top of the object so that the dog doesn't slip off. Once the dog can do this regularly, move to step 3.

Step 3: This step is similar to step 2, except in this step you remove the bath mat so the dog learns to steady it's self when jumping. Make sure you stand in front of the dog at first so that the dog can't slip off and will instead brace on you until it learns to land better. Click and treat for jumping onto the object on command.

Step 4: Once you can get the dog to jump onto every safe object it is asked to on command, move onto this step. Go back to using the couch or bed. Once your dog has jumped onto the couch or bed, get on your hands and knees and using your farthest away hand, lure the dog onto your back with the treat. As soon as the dog puts any foot on to your back, click and treat. Continue to do this step until you get 2 feet on your back with the command Hop Up! from both the floor and the bed/couch.

Step 5: After you get 2 feet with the Hop Up! command onto your back, then keep encouraging your dog until you can get the dog to jump up with all four feet, even if the dog is sloppy and lays across your back instead of standing up. Keep your back straight and don't move! Click and treat for 4 paws on your back, even for just a second. Keep working with your dog to get all feet on your back, then gradually raise yourself higher and higher until your dog can jump onto your back from you standing straight with your back flat. Then make sure to keep your back flat and encourage the dog to stand up on your back (it is best to try this at a lower height first).

Ta-da! The Backstall! It is easier than it looks to train, even though it may take weeks/months to get it down well.

It is a good idea to wear a thick sweatshirt or vest during this trick to help keep scratches off your back from the dog jumping.

NOTE: Some owner/dog combinations may be unable to work out this trick due to the fact that you wouldn't want a large dog jumping on your back and that smaller/older/disabled dogs wouldn't be able to jump the full height up to your back. Some owners might also be too tall or have too small of a back for their dogs to jump onto. Make sure your dog is healthy and contact your vet if you have any questions about your dog's health before doing this trick. Always make sure the dog stays on your back until you have lowered yourself and released the dog with OK to avoid injuries.

Here are some pictures of Mya training for her backstall. She can jump onto my back with me standing up, we just need to work on her standing up more (and I need to keep my back flatter!). Holding my arm out is a signal for her to jump.

Have fun with training the Backstall!