In narrow passages, with many dogs or on summit hikes with steep downhills, it can be very comfortable to have taught the dog to walk behind you. Text and photo: Therese N. Andersen
Trip with dog on trail
The easiest way to learn a “behind” command is to use natural obstacles that make the dog naturally walk behind you. Narrow paths where the dog has to jump out into the heather to get past, paved paths in the snow or generally passages where it does not get past you so easily are a good arena to start learning. This will be a good help, until the command has established itself in the dog.
Have the dog behind you on the leash, stand still, say the command “go behind” and give a treat. It is important that you give the treat behind you so that you can strengthen the dog’s position (behind). If you constantly give the treat next to you, or in a way that makes the dog come forward, it will be more difficult for the dog to understand what “go behind” means when you lure the dog out of the position you really want it to be in. . Then you just take a few steps and are quick to reward the dog before it tries to walk past. Repeat the “go back” command every time you start walking. If the dog is constantly pushing forward, you should wait with the command word. But if you are good at timing your reward, you will quickly be able to reinforce “go behind”.
Make a barrier for the dog
If the dog tries to walk past you, just hold out one hand or something that blocks the dog and tighten the leash so it does not pass. Just slowly move the dog back to the position behind you. Then you continue to train the dog to walk behind you by rewarding it for both standing and walking behind you and that you repeat the command often. When the dog begins to understand that it should not walk in front of you, let it go longer and longer before serving a reward to the dog. Sometimes you can even reward the dog with a “please” to actually go ahead again. But in the beginning, it should get as many rewards as possible behind you.
For some dogs, it may be easier to walk calmly, if you also walk calmly. For example, down steep slopes you can walk calmly and restrained yourself. Take one step down and reward your dog for waiting. In this way, the dog learns that when there are steep mountain slopes, and you walk at a leisurely pace, it should do the same. You can of course also use the “go behind” command, but you may also want to reward the dog for mastering steep terrain and not race down in front of you. It can be potentially dangerous.
Variation in dog training
Once the dog has received many rewards for walking behind, and has begun to gain an understanding of the command, you can start walking elsewhere without the “support” of the trail or snow. Many will find that it is considerably more difficult than with the barrier on the sides. But feel free to make the transition gradually. For example, if you have learned the command with very high vegetation around the path you have trained on, you can try to find a marked path that is still narrow, but only with less high vegetation. Then you can use it on wider passages as the dog starts to get good. Gradually increase the number of steps you take before the dog is rewarded and varies between terrain type and generalize command. Good trip!