4. Stand Still (Stand Stay)

Exercise 4.2 - There's two more feet back there!

In this exercise we explore some wonderful exercises to mentally and physically stimulate our pups with the main goal of developing rear end awareness.


Dogs don't have much natural rear end awareness and, if not taught, it can cause them to be out of balance when performing certain basic body movements and exercises.  In any activity like jumping and turning they need the rear portion of their body to follow through with the activity they are doing for proper form to avoid stresses and strains and potential injuries. 


A dog that doesn’t have good rear end awareness often appears to be a little gangly, the dog may fall or miss his step often, all of which can lead to small internal injuries of the joints, muscles and/or connective tissue.  Over time, this can lead to more serious injuries, causing pain and discomfort to your dog along with time and money spent on the care and treatment of the injury.


All dogs benefit from having a good awareness of where the back feet, legs and rear portion of their body is at and it’s especially important for any sort of activity or dog sport where the dog may be jumping or turning at speed.


In this exercise we explore some really fun training activities you can do with your dog to not only help improve rear end awareness but also increase the bond between you both, build confidence and make sure your furry friend keeps fit and healthy!


1. Paws On, Bottoms Up


We’ve already taught our dog to put his front paws up on a balance disk or similar bowl or box (Paws On).  This in itself is a good exercise as it shifts weight to the rear limbs and engages the core muscles.


Now we can build on this behaviour and teach him there are two more feet back there!


  1. With your dog standing with his front paws on the disk gently lure him forward and watch his back feet carefully.  
  2. Mark and reward any touch of a hind foot on the disk. 
  3. Working gently and patiently encourage your dog forward until he is standing with his back feet on the disk or platform (Bottoms Up!).
  4. You may need several sessions to teach your pup this activity depending on how confident he is, just go at your dog’s pace and have fun.


2. Back Up


Teaching your dog to back up is a great way to improve rear end awareness! It also opens the door for several other impressive tricks and exercises you can do with your dog! The key is to be patient and take the time your dog needs to back up straight! 


  1. Invite your dog to come close with an open hand gesture low down in front of you 
  2. With your dog standing in front of you and with some treats in both hands close your fists so your dog can only lick but not eat the food and take a small step towards your dog. 
  3. As soon as your dog takes a step back, mark with either a clicker or a verbal marker (Yes!) and then reward. 
  4. Remember to keep the marking and the reward separate as you will need to take the presence of food out of the picture at some point. 
  5. Keep doing this a few times and then see if you can get 2 steps, then 3, etc. The important part is making sure your dog is backing up in a straight line. 
  6. If your dog’s head is not straight, they will tend to back up at an angle. If your dog continues to angle, either just work on 1 foot moving at a time for a few days and/or train against a wall.


Once he has the hang of backing up just a few steps we can combine walking backwards with the Bottoms Up exercise as shown in the video.  We can walk the dog gently forward off the disk and then by carefully placing the treats nearer the disk we can teach him to walk backwards back on to the platform.  This really gets that doggie brain thinking!


3. Pivoting on a balance disk or perch


Pivoting is one of my favourite exercises – we’re going to teach your dog to keep his front feet on the disk and pivot around with his hind feet.


Pivoting is beloved by obedience trainers as it helps the dog learn to turn very precisely. 

In obedience competitions when you do a 180 degree turn you have to turn very precisely and walk exactly the same line back.   


That aside, this is also a fantastic physical exercise for your dog.  Not only does it improve hind and awareness it also strengthens the core and abductor and adductor muscles of the pelvic limbs and aids in the development of the small stabiliser muscles used when turning.  Remember to teach this in both directions to ensure good balance and awareness both ways.


  1. While you are standing in front of your dog with some food in your hand, slowly take a step around the disk and wait for your dog to move his rear feet – then mark and reward! 
  2. If you move to the right, your dog’s rear feet should move to the left. 
  3. Some dogs may find this hard to begin with so be sure to be generous and mark and reward the effort!  Even if your dog only picks up one foot or moves one foot – mark and reward that! 
  4. It won’t be long before he is moving his rear feet each time you take a step around the disk.