Backchaining is a process that occurs in a dog training sequence when you train a dog to do a series of activities by teaching the last one first. This is effective because the last one is the one that has a reward attached to it as you teach it.
For example, for many years I have taught my dogs that they have to hear me say “Okay!” before they can eat their meals. They have to sit and stay before I say okay. Eating the meal is such a strong reward that every dog has quickly learned this sequence of sit, stay, and wait for the magic word. I don’t even have to ask them to sit with a word. Often they sit before I can say it or even glance at them.
So… recently Lola got an abscess on her belly, and it began draining. The veterinarian gave us an antibiotic cream in a small tube, which we were to poke into the hole in her skin and squirt a bit, then rub some into her skin. When she said to do it twice a day, we decided it would be easiest to remember if we did it before Lola’s breakfast and dinner.
Lola didn’t much like being messed with that way and at first we had to chase her around the house. But by the third day, she was staying in the dining room as I got the food ready before I did the ointment. The next day, she started lying down and even presenting her belly for her treatment, and so it continued for the week we had to do the procedure. It didn’t matter whether I was feeding or my husband was, the routine was the same.
The week passed but I’m sure you can see what happened… we now have a new part of the meals ritual! Lola presents me with her belly and I rub it.
Who’s training whom? This is not the first time that I have wondered that, and it’s a great reminder of the power of back chaining. I would have to say that Lola has taught me the belly-rub part!