What is it?
Rear end awareness is your dog’s ability to use/move her rear legs independently of her front legs. Generally, when dogs move, their rear follows their front.
Why is it important?
Using and strengthening a dog’s rear legs improves physical fitness and prevents injury. It’s especially important if you have a working dog, or a dog that competes in agility trials or any event that requires a high level of physical fitness.
For example, at eleven years old Nikko, a live find search and rescue dog, has lost a significant amount of rear end strength. How can I tell? When he’s working the rubble pile, he has to use his front legs to pull himself out of holes. His back legs hang loose, and he can no longer use them to push himself up. To get his strength back will require consistent work on the part of his owner.
There are many ways to teach rear end awareness, but I think sit to stand is an excellent starting point. You don’t need any special equipment, and you practice in a small area.
Sit to Stand Defined
Sit to stand means that, eventually, when your dog is in a sitting position, you give the command “Stand!” and your dog’s rear legs pop up while his front legs stay in place.
Amazing! Your dog is standing!
How do you teach sit to stand?
I like to teach this exercise with a six-foot lead and a flat collar. Loop the lead through the handle and thread your dog’s rear legs through the loop.
Then, clip the lead to his collar.
It’s as though your dog is a purse, and the leash is the purse strap.
Once your leash is in place, have a couple of treats in your right hand. With your left hand, hold the leash close to your dog’s rear legs. Then, say, “Stand.” Using the leash, pop up his rear legs while at the same time hold the treat in your right hand in front of his nose. This will make him lean forward, so it will be easier to lift his legs. When he is in the standing position, treat him.
The first few sessions, you may well do all of the work pulling your dog’s rear legs into the stand position. But, as time goes on, you should decrease the pull on the leash. Instead of using the leash to lift her legs, the tension on the leash becomes a reminder for your dog to move her hind legs on her own. Eventually, hold the leash still, and your cue will be the word, “Stand!” as you hold the treat in your right hand in front of your dog’s nose. As soon as her rear legs pop up, treat her.
Once you stop pulling on the leash for ten sessions, remove it. The first time you try stand without the leash, your dog may not know what to do. You’ve changed the procedure! If nothing happens when you say, “Stand!” lean down and tap the spot in front of her rear legs where the leash used to be as a reminder. When her legs pop up, treat her!
I will say, it’s easier to teach this trick to a small dog! Kinsey is sixty pounds and the first few times we did this strength building exercise together, it took some muscle on my part! But, it was worth the effort because as a working dog, it’s vital that Kinsey maintains good physical fitness.
This is my absolute favorite type of trick. Not only does it stimulate your dog mentally, it also improves her physical fitness and prevents injury. So, grab your best friend and get started!