Watching a dog crawl along the ground while its tummy gets a good rub, can send a variety of messages to dog lovers. At first glance, the reaction could be one of endearment - a cute little attention-seeking trick. Then there is the submissive dog trying to crawl into your heart and body space. The army crawl could also be an opportunity for your dog to have a good all satisfying scratch on its tummy. However, in the final analysis there could be serious underlying medical problem. It would be wise to pay attention to the army crawl and decide if it is just a cute trick or, based on other signs, is there a medical problem to be aware of. The muscle strengthening benefits of the army crawl are worth considering, and with the help of a trainer, you could explore the healthy side of the army crawl.
The Root of the Behavior
Dogs grew up knowing how to crawl. Their first movements were crawling to their mothers to get their milk and warmth. They were very dependent on nourishment and care for the first few weeks of their lives. The army crawl leads to becoming a cute trick when the pup is growing up and is part of his new home environment. If your dog crawls along the floor towards you, with the sweetest look on his face, you react and give attention to this endearing action. Training Fido to do the army crawl is not too difficult with a treat or two. The army crawl, for bigger dogs, is a good addition to agility training. Facing the tunnel and other low-lying obstacles requires a confident army crawl to get through to the other side. This crawling action uses muscles and helps to tone the core strength of your dog. Not all breeds of dogs are suited to these exercises, but with some expert advice you can decide if you are able to teach your dog the army crawl. If you notice that your dog is crawling around on his belly, and did not pursue this behavior before, then it would be advisable to check the possibility of there being a medical problem.
Start by looking at your dog’s tummy. If there are signs of a rash or bites and scratches, then it might be a skin irritation. It could be an allergy, or perhaps fleas have moved in, and they are biting your dog in a very sensitive area. In the winter, dogs can get very dry skin which may become itchy and a good tummy rub just helps to relieve the irritation. You may want to check your dog’s food and add some more natural oils to the diet or speak to your vet and see what can be done to relieve the itch. The act of army crawling could be associated with submissive behavior and sometimes a separation anxiety. When you come home and find your dog has destroyed your favorite slippers while you were out, you may be upset. Then he does an army crawl to greet you to get back into your good books! This scenario with destructive behavior could indicate a separation anxiety. The army crawl is just the attention seeking mode your dog has decided will reach your heart in the most endearing manner.
Encouraging the Behavior
Playing up to the army crawl trick at random times is no cause for concern and added to your dog’s repertoire of tricks is an engaging behavior. However, if you notice this is becoming habitual and your dog appears to be in pain there could be a larger underlying factor involved. A visit to the vet will help you to understand the medical syndromes attached to crawling on the ground and not being able to walk on all fours. Hip dysplasia affects certain breeds more than others and your dog’s inability to walk correctly will depend on the severity of the disease. There are also knee conditions such as luxating patella that could contribute to your dog’s restricted movement and cause him to army crawl. Dogs enjoy crawling under the covers and being close to you in a warm cozy spot. Certain breeds of dogs love tunneling and getting to crawl under the blankets is a natural behavior for them. The army crawl during a storm to the further reaches of your bed or under the bed helps with the fear some dogs have of storms with thunder and lightning.
Other Solutions and Considerations
There are several connotations to this behavior from the clever trick to the disturbing medical reasons. It is wise to be informed of all the possibilities and recognize your dog’s body language or signaling as it is called. Dogs have signals for many things and being able to read them makes life better for you as a dog owner and your dog. Fido may just be dragging himself across your nice clean carpet in a bid to add his precious scent to the mix. Fido could have a serious medical condition or just an irritating rash. Knowing the signals your dog uses to share his well being with you is the key to happy dog relationships. The army crawl can be taught with physical benefits for your dog, but in all situations, if you are not an expert, it is best to seek advice before enthusiastically going ahead with something that may not be suited to your breed of dog.
The army crawl for dogs has its merits. Do you love boot-camp experiences? Join your dog on an agility course and see how much fun you can have together. Outdoor activities with the right breed of dog and owner are very exhilarating. Some folks will say you are "barking mad" but your dog will salute you and say, "yes sir!"
By a Rhodesian Ridgeback lover Christina Wither
Published: 03/16/2018, edited: 01/30/2020