Most of the foundation for the backside behavior is done stationary with little to no help from body cues. We want the dogs to understand the verbal cue even though we will try our best to help them with physical cues on course. When choosing a backside cue make sure it is a very audible cue that is easy to repeat and sounds very different than any other cue. I use “get back” but I really have to put emphasis on the “GET” to make it easy for the dogs to hear. I think “push” is a good cue as the “shhhh” sound is easier for the dogs to hear but it is your choice which cue to use. If the dogs are new to backsides you are going to start so close to the jump that there is not much of a choice for the dog, pattern them a bit then move further back to give them more of a choice. It is very important that there is a bar on the jump as this is what determines front vs back to the dog. Wing jumps are much easier to teach on as there is more of a visual barrier for the dogs to see and go around. Work on a low height and work both sides as you start to move closer and closer to the center of the jump. If they are getting good with this skill make sure you throw in a few “downs” or “hup” to keep them honest and not just assuming.
Commitment to the Bar
When training the independent backsides, I really want to teach the dogs that “get back” means to go away from me to the back of the jump and ALWAYS commit to the bar. Most handling systems first cue the push to the back THEN cue the commitment to the bar. I want my verbal to take care of the entire behavior so that I have fewer responsibilities as a handler and can maximize my efficiency on course.
In this lesson we will start to piece together the send to the back and the commitment to the bar. I use a multiple wrap on the backside to train this for a few reasons, first, it helps to put value for taking the bar and gets the dogs thinking about commitment rather than chasing the handler, and second, it really conditions the dogs to slow down and collect as they come around the backside in anticipation of the multiple wrap which will help them to have a safer, easier approach on the backsides. With this exercise you can hopefully see the importance of having your multiple wrap on an independent verbal cue. To progress you can add more speed and motion into the backside while trying to maintain the nice tight multiple wrap.
Backside – Proofing Motion
One important thing I want to emphasize when I am teaching the “get back” is that unlike how others train the behavior, a “get back” for my dogs means go to the back AND take the jump, always. I find that most people just teach the dog to go around to the back and then rely mostly on physical handling cues to get the dog to commit to the jump such as an arm change, shoulder rotation or front cross. Again, I want to put as much responsibility on the dog so I can just focus on being efficient and staying ahead. The other reason I love this skill is that it guarantees the dog is always taking the tightest line regardless of handler position and timing. Watching dogs from other systems there is usually wasted time and hesitation as the dog drifts to the back then waits for the arm change to take the jump. If proofed and trained well, this is a great skill that will allow you to gain some ground and stay ahead of the dog.
This lesson we are just going to focus on adding motion with a shoulder rotation which is usually harder for the dogs than you would think. Don’t be surprised if even at the easy stages the dog wants to flank or run past the bar -this does take some learning and skill for the dog and I would definitely advise dropping the bar down to a low height. It is again a matter of sending and leaving, never standing still and doing your best not to hesitate or decel to help the dog come in. If you need to make it easier, it’s always better to change the direction you run towards. In this lesson your goal is to work to the point where you can send and run ahead but parallel to the wing. Remember good dog training is all about communication – make it very obvious to the dog exactly what they did well (taking the jump). Most of you could improve your verbal marking or if you find it easier you can use a clicker.
If you have proofed motion on your get back then you have the freedom to change sides while the dog is committing to the back side. The nice thing about the blind cross vs the front cross in this situation is that the blind cross will keep you moving forward with zero footwork yet you can easily change sides. To make this efficient you want to be able to keep moving past the plane of the jump so it is important that you have trained that independence on your “get back” verbal. The dog should not see the blind happen; they should just land and see the handler ahead presenting one arm or the other.