Teach Your Dog to Do a Handstand

Teach Your Dog to Do a Handstand

AKC GoodDog! Helpline trainer Erin Rakosky tells you how to teach a cool trick that will impress your friends -- a handstand!

Here are some simple steps to help teach your dog to do a handstand. Remember to take it slow and have lots of small treats ready. A clicker is very helpful to mark when your dog takes the correct actions. If you do not have a clicker, then use a “marker word” – a short word that you say in the same tone of voice to “mark” when your dog does the correct move (“yes” or “good” are two examples).

NOTE:This is a trick that I only teach to mature adult dogs. Since it places a lot of pressure on the front legs, a handstand is not safe for growing puppies as it could damage their growth plates.

  1. Start with teaching your dog to target an object with their hind legs. To do this, place an object, such as a book, on the ground. Place your dog in front on the book and wait for them to place a rear foot on it. You might have to walk into your dog near the book or move around your dog and the book to produce the rear foot movement. As soon as they do touch the book with a rear foot, click/mark and treat. Once they are putting one foot on the book, start waiting for them to put both back feet on the book, click/mark and treat.
  2. Once your dog is offering to place both hind feet on the object, move the object against a wall. Ask your dog to perform the behavior; some dogs are a little apprehensive at first since they feel the pressure of the wall behind them.
  3. After you are successful with your dog placing both their feet on the object against the wall, you can start to slowly increase the height of the object. If you are using a book, stack another book on top of it. I recommend adding a book per week. It is important that you take this step slowly. Your dog will be using new muscles, and you want to allow time for them to adjust to using them so they don’t become injured.
  4. Once you have added enough books that your dog is using his body to lift his hind legs onto the top of the stack, it is time to take the books away. When you take them away, cue the behavior the same way you would as if the books were there. If your dog makes any effort to lift their rear legs onto the wall, click and reward.
  5. Once your dog is lifting himself onto the wall, start requiring them to put their legs higher before you reward. It will not be long before you have a handstand!
     

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