Join the trick training challenge -“Wiz” on cue

by Nancy Freedman-Smith

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UPDATE—- Just to be clear. Nothing is supposed to come out when the leg goes up.

I love trick training. (love! love! love!)  It is well known that the  more  we teach our dogs, the more they can learn. Training tricks teaches us to be better trainers. To teach our dogs we first need to figure out how our dog’s learn,  and we also need to learn how to break behaviors down in small steps and chain them together to achieve our goal.

Welcome to the hind leg lift challenge!  Below you will find some simple directions and a video I found on You Tube to get you started.  I based the way I worked my dogs on the video below, but your actual millage may differ.   If you teach it differently, we would love to hear about it.


Let’s get a little  competition going.  Can you teach your dog to lift a rear leg?  All are  welcome to join and the winner gets bragging rights!  Please share with the group by posting your  progress in the comment section of this blog post. Links to your video encouraged.  The more people who give it a try and tell us about how they taught it, the better chance others will have of teach it to their dogs. Hind leg lifting on cue is a highly desirable behavior if you ever hope  to do print and movie/commercial work with your dog(s).  You can bet you will impress the heck out of family and friends.  Did I already mention that trick training is  fun for you and your dog?

I tried teaching this a few years ago  to my dogs Charlee  (at the Bridge) and Finney.  I stopped before we had it on cue and proofed in  public,  due to medical issues with both dogs.     I often referred to Charlee and Finney as the  tortoise and the hare. Charlee was always super quick to try to out think me, and throw as many behaviors at once as she could.   Finn is a  cautious learner,  and he is  not a big risk taker, but when he gets something, he  nails it.  Finn likes and needs very clear information,  Charlee was a (very!) free thinker and I adjusted my learning style to fit each dog.  I pulled Finn from this trick when he hurt his  knee  running, and Charlee had to stop when she developed vertebrae issues that came with age. This is a trick for the fit.

My new dog Beck has attempted this a few times and he is starting the challenge with just a little bit of a head start.  He has been  lured onto our  fireplace and then marked with a clicker and  rewarded  for only one hind leg on.  Then I backed him up to the fireplace and clicked/treated when  his hind leg lifted while reaching for the fireplace step.   I used an ottoman on one side and a crate on the other to make a straight path. Once he did well with that, I gradually added books for height    He is doing well with back up and understands it is his job  to reach up for height and I just started shaping duration of the leg lift.   Beck favors using his left hind.  You should be sure to note if your dog has a preference.

Smart little bugger that Beck is, he figured  out the “game”  much quicker than the two dogs I tried to teach a few years back. It is hard to know whether he is more clever than the other two, or if I  am better at  giving him better information, now that I understand clearly how to teach it.   I suspect it is a little of both. Beck is a blast to worth with by the way.

I like to think of training as games that  dogs can win.

As a bonus, teaching this trick and any trick will also teach your dogs to THINK. Trick training , reinforces target skills, increases hind end awareness and for those of you with athletic dogs of a certain build, it is the first step in teaching a handstand.

Remember not all dogs should be taught all things, and you should take your dogs age, conformation, fitness level etc into consideration before teaching this. You should check with your Vet before embarking on anything that is stressful to your dog’s bodies.

Capturing is another way to teach this.  To capture a behavior,  all you do is  “mark” when you dogs lift their legs nautrally. If your dog lifts their legs to pee  outside, either use a clicker or a verbal marker like “yes!” and and follow right away with a treat. Charlee was  my second leg lifting female dog. She, like Beck  also kicked to spread her scent and that is a hilarious behavior  to “capture” and put on cue. Bonus points for for hind leg kicking.  We know a little Min pin who will go to a person on cue, and lift their leg as if to pee on them and then turn and pretend to kick dirt on them.

Now that is my idea of a great  trick!

My two dogs Finney and Beck have totally different learning styles and I need to adjust my way of teaching to accommodate them both.  Finn is nursing an old  rear knee injury, so he won’t be playing this round, and  Beck is so quick that I would not dream of trying to teach him something new until I have had at least one cup of coffee, so  my brain can try to  keep up with him!

Your dog(s) will learn at their own speed, don’t expect lightning! This trick will take some time. If it was easy to teach, everyone would be doing it!

YES YOU CAN TEACH AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS!!  Please be sure that your older dog is not in pain.   Training improves the bond with your dogs.  If you would like to post videos, we would all love to see them.  I will feature the best ones in a future follow up blog.

Trainer tips.

 You first need to teach your dog to back up. You can do this with a lure.  Put a cookie right in front of your dog’s nose and while your dog is standing just lure it backwards.  Here is the key…you will need to keep your hand low, and under their breast bone,  or your dog may sit.

Shape, don’t lump!   Be sure to reward the smallest increments of success.There is no way that you will have success teaching a hind leg lift if you do not break the behaviors  down into small steps, and reward along the way.   Don’t be stingy! But at the same time, don’t make your dog fat. You can measure out their food ration and use that for training.

Good luck!  Happy training, and I look forward to hear from you.


Special thanks to Ernie, the 4 year old Jack Russell Terrier cross who shared his cute image and trick skills for this post.  His Mom tells me that tricks helped to take Ernie from a scaredy dog to a confident dog.   By the way, Ernie  can also  left a front and rear together leg on cue! 

dogs pee
photo: © Tatyana Vergel