They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. However, if you have ever been involved with rescue dogs, you know that this is a lie. Old dogs, young dogs, puppies, and even grumpy dogs can be taught a new trick. It doesn’t even need to be a standard sit, stay, or come. In fact, you can teach an old dog plenty of cool tricks, like the army crawl.
Setting the Foundation
Although you can teach any dog how to army crawl, you can’t just launch into it. What you need to do is build a foundation with your dog. For instance, if you are teaching this trick to a puppy, you want to establish basic commands before you start teaching trick commands.
For older dogs, especially if they have been recently adopted, focus on bonding and reaffirming basic commands before you put expectations on your new dog. When you build a foundation of bonding, your dog is eager to please and will have fun learning the command.
If you have the foundations in place, make sure your dog is proficient with down before you move on to army crawl. If he hasn’t mastered down (lay down) yet, don’t start teaching army crawl until he has.
Setting the Stage
When you are teaching a dog any command, there are certain things you should do. For the army crawl, you will want to set the stage.
First, teach the army crawl in a room or outside where you have plenty of room to maneuver. If your room is cluttered or small, the dog won’t be able to crawl very far and it will be harder to teach the command.
Second, place your dog on his leash. The reason why you use a leash is to give the dog a cue that he is working. When he is leashed, he knows that he has to pay attention.
Finally, make sure you have no distractions in the room. Separate all other pets from your training space and make sure it is just you and your dog. Once your dog learns the command to army crawl, then you can introduce distractions.
Teaching the Army Crawl
The first step to teaching the army crawl is to start with bait training. If you are not sure what bait training is, it is when you take a great smelling treat into your hand and lead the dog into position by moving the treat. The dog will naturally follow the treat in an effort to get the reward.
To do this, follow these simple steps:
One: Place the treat in your hand
You want to cup the treat so your dog can smell it but can’t take it from your hand. Remember, you don’t want the dog to receive that reward if he has not earned it. Some dogs can be sneaky and lick a treat from between fingers so I like to cup it and let the dog smell it from the back of my hand.
Two: Give the command “Down”
Holding your dog’s leash, give the command down. If he knows the command, you should not have to lead him into a down. If he doesn’t, review down before moving on to army crawl.
Three: Give the command “Crawl”
I always use crawl but you can use whatever command you’d like. Give the command and point your finger down at the ground.
Using the hand with the treat, place it near your dog’s nose and then lead him along the imaginary line you have drawn. I like to point with the hand holding the treat I am baiting with since his focus will be on that hand.
Four: Correct him
I don’t care how many times I have trained this command, every dog, the first time they do this, will stand up to walk forward. When he does, correct your dog and place him back into the command. Don’t hold him down so he crawls as the command will become a negative experience with him.
Instead, simply keep placing him into a down. This is where the leash is important because your dog simply can’t wander away if he is sick of training.
Five: Reward when he crawls
After you place him down a few times, your dog will begin to understand that he needs to move forward without standing up. The second he moves forward, even a few inches, reward. “Good crawl! Good boy!” Be enthusiastic and always give praise before you give him the treat.
Six: Repeat, repeat, repeat
Continue training the army crawl until he is crawling for several feet. As he learns the command, you should reduce the number of treats that he receives during the training. And he should be going further distances in his army crawl to receive a reward.
Follow Through on the Army Crawl
Once your dog understands the command and is doing the army crawl well, you can follow through with removing the baiting. Instead of leading the dog with the food, you lead him with your finger, drawing that line you want him to crawl.
As you have already set up the foundation for that hand signal, your dog will follow it even if he isn’t being baited. As his proficiency grows, you can start adding things such as distraction to the training.
Eventually, your dog will be eager to army crawl on command— much to the delight of friends and family. I have to admit, nothing is cuter than my 180-pound Mastiff army crawling. Except, of course, the large smile on her face when we all sing her praises. So teach your dog this fun trick and not only enjoy the fruits of your training but the bonding experience you get to share with your dog.