Teaching your dog to crawl is one of the funnest, cutest and easiest things to teach. It’s also a great way to create confidence and to bond with your dog.
Put your dog in a down position. Position yourself in a kneeling position right beside them.
Gently rest your hand on the lower end of your dog’s back, right above their hips. Get a treat and hold your other hand on the floor in front of their nose.
Say ‘crawl’ and slowly drag your hand with the treat in a straight line along the floor away from them. Encourage them to follow with their nose and front paws. Keep your other hand gently on their back to ensure they don’t try to get up. But don’t use pressure. You’re just reminding them to stay down, not forcing them. The first efforts are key. All you’re doing is teaching your dog that the word ‘crawl’ means forward motion on their belly. At the very first sign of movement from your dog to follow your hand, offer praise and give them the treat.
As your dog starts to get it, slowly increase the distance before they get the treat. By now your dog should be making an effort to crawl forward with all fours. Again, keep your hand gently on their back end to make sure they don’t rise. If you’re having a hard time getting your dog to keep their belly on the floor, decrease the distance to the last time you had success.
Once your dog knows what you’re asking, and is successfully crawling forward at least two to three feet without raising their bellies, it’s time for you to re-position yourself. Have your dog in the down position, then place yourself about 4 feet in front of them. Kneel down on the floor and ask them to ‘crawl’. If they crawl the whole way to you, give the treat and praise ‘good crawl’. Slowly increase the distance.
As you progress getting farther and farther away from your dog with success every time, start switching it up. Stand 10 feet away and ask them to ‘crawl’ to you. And change locations. Go outside in your yard and repeat the lesson. Start asking your dog to crawl under a tree branch or a park bench. Anything you come across that’s low enough.
**Dogs think in pictures. So once you change the location it’s very possible your dog will act as if they have never heard the word ‘crawl’ before. Remember, you have changed the picture. So once you start changing locations you will need to start from scratch the first time or two.
Once your dog has mastered this lesson it’s time to get rid of the treats. Continue practicing with your dog but only use treats every second time. Then every third or fourth time until you’ve weaned them out entirely.
I believe every now and then you can still give a treat as a nice surprise. Just not as an expectation. Otherwise guess what will happen when you run out of treats? Treats are great for making a dog feel good about learning and keeping them focused. But you don’t want to fall into the trap of your dog thinking, ‘I’ll only do it for a treat’.
Teaching your dog anything relies heavily on patience and consistency. As long as you’re making it clear to your dog what you’re asking, you shouldn’t have a problem with this lesson. And remember, NEVER set your dog up for failure. If you expect too much too fast they may get discouraged and become defiant or low confident. So don’t push your dog too fast by showing them twice then inviting 10 friends over to see what your dog can do. If they’re not confident with their new found knowledge they’ll feel bad if they fail. They want to please you. So if something’s not working it is likely something you are doing wrong!
Written by Brenda McBurnie, Certified Dog Trainer and Natural Nutrition
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