How to Teach Your Dog to Army Crawl

Your dog needs a strong "down" before he can learn to "crawl."
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Dogs love learning new tricks. With the right motivators, a positive attitude and a little creativity, you will never run out of new things to teach your pup. The “army crawl” is a fun trick that asks the dog to lie down and crawl across the floor as if he is ducking under a fence or dodging enemy fire. It’s an intermediate-level trick that requires a strong working relationship and an understanding of some more basic commands.

Teaching Down

Before your dog can learn to crawl, he has to learn to lie down. Teaching the “down” command is relatively straightforward. First, hold a small treat in your hand and let your dog smell it. Slowly lower the food to the ground; the dog will follow the treat with his nose and lie down. Say “down” as the dog lies down and reward him with the treat and praise. Release the dog by saying “release” or “OK,” and then start from the beginning. Once your dog lies down on command, he is ready for the next step.

Starting Small

With a treat in hand, ask your dog to lie down. Once he is down, hold the treat near the ground (at nose level) and slowly move it away from the dog. If he begins to crawl, immediately reward him with a treat and praise. The most important thing about teaching new behaviors is remembering that they begin in increments. Your dog will not perform his first crawl by traversing your living room; you need to reward the smallest in correct behaviors to reinforce the association.

Adding Distance

Once your dog has a grasp of the short crawl, it is time to add distance. Place a treat a couple of feet away from your dog and ask him to lie down. Guide the dog across the ground toward the treat with your finger. If your dog has started to form a basic understanding of the crawl command, he should crawl along the path you trace. If he stands up, withhold praise and start again with the treat a little bit closer.

Going Verbal

When your dog has a firm enough grasp of the exercise that he will crawl along the path you create with your finger, you can add a verbal cue to the behavior. Say the word “crawl” one time as he performs the action and reward him for successful completion. Reset the dog in the “lie down” position, cue him to crawl with your finger and say the word “crawl” again. Repeat this process until your dog crawls on command. Remember introducing a verbal cue before the dog can reliably reproduce the action weakens the command and slows training.

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