The principle of backchaining calls for teaching the last item first, then adding the next-to-last item and so on, gradually lengthening the chain of events and always reinforcing and ending with the same final target behavior. Backchaining is a wonderful way to break down many complex agility skills. Everything from ramps and contact-zone performance to sequencing and sending skills can be enhanced by the use of backchaining.
As a handler, it is important to remember to continue supporting your dog’s path all the way to the target obstacle. That requires more than just your voice or throwing a toy out ahead of your dog. Think of it as an upper body job, leaning forward to encourage forward motion and leaning back to draw your dog back to you. The farther your dog is to go without you, the stronger must be your upper body push toward the target. After you click, you may let down the pressure and throw a toy or run in with a treat, etc. As you backchain your dog’s skills, be mindful of backchaining your own handling skills as well.
Excerpt from the book Enjoying Dog Agility by Julie Daniels with permission from its publisher, Kennel Club Books, an imprint of BowTie Press. Purchase Enjoying Dog Agility here.