Forwards, Backwards

Forwards, Backwards is a strategy to use when your dog pulls ahead out of the reinforcement zone or for when they drive to get to a tree to sniff or a puddle to drink etc. and you don't want them to pull you there or for them to get there and reinforce the pull themselves. When walking a dog is in the mindset of moving and has the expectation to do so. One of the most recommended strategy is to make the dog sit when they start to pull ahead, "teaching them that if they pull they don't get to go where they want and that all walking will stop". The issue with this is that because the dog has the expectation to move, when you make your dog sit you create a frustration in them that is counter productive to the learning process. You will find you will get a yo-yo affect to the behaviour where you are stopping and starting constantly because the moment you take off again to start walking your dog launches ahead with the pent-up frustration. 

Every single time your dog practices pulling, the behaviour is getting stronger. Your dog is learning that when they pull they go forwards and get to where they want to go. It is important that you correct this behaviour every time but in a way that keeps your dog moving and flowing and shows them what you do want them to do. Your goal is to teach your dog that they can get to where they want to go, they just can't pull you there.


The premise of Forwards, Backwards is that when your dog moves forwards out of the reinforcement zone, you are going to keep moving but backwards away from them - so the two of your will be moving in opposite directions. It is then up to your dog to re-focus on you otherwise they will physically hit resistance on the end of the lead. Only once they have re-focused will you then encourage them back into the reinforcement zone facing the wrong way and then glide them around in time with your body to face the same way that you were originally going with your dog now back aligned in the reinforcement zone correctly. From there you will then flow straight into your Finger Boop or 1,2,3 Treat Game to hold your dog in a nice loose lead.   

This game is the most mechanically challenging for the human. There are many intricate steps that need to perfectly align for this game to flow smoothly and for your dog to feed off it. Film yourself doing dry runs of the steps before introducing your dog. Think of this game like driving a manual car. It takes work and time to learn but then becomes muscle memory that you can't forget. 

Step 1: Out of reinforcement zone - The moment your dog moves ahead out of the reinforcement zone or you feel resistance on the lead, start to walk backwards and for every step you take count in your head. Generally on the third step back is when your dog re-engages and walks back towards you (if they don't however, continue to walk back until they do re-engage). 

Step 2: If they resist, keeping walking backwards - If you need to walk more then 3 steps you will likely hit the end of the lead and come to a resistance. That is okay. Do not stop or pause when this happens instead keep walking and what ever resistance they are putting on the lead you can do the same to keep walking backwards until they re-engage and walk towards you. It is like you are saying "Okay you can smell that but I am going this way". 

Step 3: Stick your lure hand out towards your dog - The moment your dog walks towards you, stick out your non-lead hand with fingers pinched and use it as a lure to guide your dog back into the reinforcement zone. They will be facing towards you.


Step 4: Step Backwards - As you are luring your dog and they are just in front of you (roughly an outstretched arm length out) step backwards with your leg that's on the same side as your lure hand as your dog moves headfirst into the reinforcement zone as stated in the above step. Even though you have stepped back your weight is still shifted forwards. 

Step 5: Backwards lunge while you U turn your dog around - Continue to lure your dog now back behind you and loop them around like a U turn back into the reinforcement zone this time facing the same way with their head in line with your leg. As you loop them around behind you, shift your weight onto the leg you just stepped back and do a backwards lunge in time with your dog looping around so your hand, leg and dog flow in sync.

Step 6: Step forward in-time with your dog - As your dog's head comes in line with your leg (your dog is facing the same direction as you) step forward in time with your dog.


Step 7: Start finger boop or 123 game - Time that foot landing with starting the finger boop game by sticking out your index finger or starting your 1,2,3 Pattern game (you will learn this week 3) by saying 1. If you are doing the finger boop version, bridge the boop. If you are doing the 1,2,3, Pattern game don't bridge and release the treat on 3. 

*If you don't want to move into a game bridge your dog the moment they hit the reinforcement zone facing the right way and keep walking while you reward them. 

* Handy Tip - To help train this behaviour at home throw a couple of treats down on the ground and let your dog move towards them until they pull on the lead. The moment they pull out of the reinforcement zone or you feel resistance start this game.