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Do you remember the old Lassie episodes where Lassie has to crawl through mud and under obstacles? Lassie was always determined to save her owner, Timmy, no matter what injury or obstacle stood in her way. In real life, Lassie was a very well trained Collie, who had been trained to perform all types of fun tricks to show off on the big screen. German Shepherds are very intelligent breeds and, like Collies, can learn how to do many different tricks. Imagine your German Shepherd crawling under obstacles or pretending to be a heroic, injured dog, determined to get help for the person he loves.
Not only is crawling a fun trick to show off to friends, it can also be a great trick to incorporate into an obstacle course for your dog. Having your dog perform agility-like obstacle courses can be a lot of fun and can be a great way to mentally and physically stimulate an intelligent, driven dog like your German Shepherd.
While training this, your German Shepherd might be eager to go through a tunnel or under a table, but your dog also might be nervous about going into such an enclosed space. If your dog is nervous, be patient with him and keep practicing, but let him take his time warming up to it. Encourage him happily for every new attempt, and continue to replace the treats that he ate with new ones to encourage him to revisit the space. Do this until he has worked his way through the entire enclosed space and is completely comfortable, before moving onto the next steps.
If your dog has ever shown any form of aggression toward you, you should not attempt to train this trick. Because this trick requires you to be in your dog's space and it involves placing your arm by your dog's head, it could put you in a vulnerable position with an aggressive dog. If your dog is friendly though, then simply remember to have fun together while training!
To get started you will need lots of small, tasty treats. Ideally, treats that your dog can eat quickly to keep him moving forward while crawling. If you are using the 'Table' method then you will need a table no more than six inches taller than the top of your dog's head when he is in the 'down' position. However, the table should also be tall enough for your dog to be able to easily move under it at a crawl, without getting stuck. If you are using the 'Tunnel' method, you will need a tunnel short enough that your dog must crawl in order to pass through it, rather than simply walk through while crouching. However, this tunnel will still need to be large enough for your dog to be able to move through it comfortably at a crawl, without getting stuck. Lastly, you will need patience and a happy and confident attitude to encourage your dog.
The Table Method
Select a table
To begin, find a table that is taller than your Shepherd when he is in the 'down' position, but short enough that he cannot stand up under it. Place this table in an open area, where your dog can enter the table from both ends. With your table set up, place a line of treats on the ground. This line should begin in front of the table and end halfway under the table.
Offer the treats
Encourage your dog in a happy voice to eat the treats. If your dog is hesitant then move the treats closer to the area in front of the table or choose more exciting treats, such as real meat. Repeat this until your dog will go at least partially under the table to get the treats without hesitating.
Increase the line
When your dog is comfortable getting the treats, increase the length of the treat line. Have the line start at the front of the table and end at the other side of the table, going all the way across the space under the table.
Now practice encouraging your dog to get all of the treats with the longer treat line. If your dog is hesitant and will not go all the way under the table the first time, just replace the treats that he ate and continue to encourage him to try again. Repeat this until he gains enough confidence to go all the way through. If your table is the correct height then he should have to crawl in order to get to the treats.
When your dog will go from one end of the table to the other, crawling underneath, begin to tell him "Crawl" right before you allow him to get the treats.
When your dog is consistently crawling under the table, decrease the treats by starting the line of treats at the halfway point under the table. Practice having him crawl under the table until he is comfortable with that also.
When your dog is consistently crawling under the table when you say "Crawl", then increase the amount of space that he has to crawl under. To do this, start the line of treats at the point where your dog normally exits the table and continuing it outward for two more feet. Have your dog crawl under the table like before, but when he begins to exit the table space, place your arm in front of the table, right above where his head will be, so that he does not stand up, then remind him to "Crawl". When he gets to the end of the line of treats, then tell him "OK" and remove your arm while you praise him.
Have your dog practice crawling under both the table and your arm until he does not need to be reminded to continue crawling when he reaches your arm, and until he does not attempt to stand up with your arm in place. When he has reached this point, then remove the line of treats, and offer him two treats after he is told "OK" at the end of this trick.
Remove the table
When your dog will continue crawling with your arm above him, without the treat line, and without attempting to get up until he is told "OK", then remove the table from the trick. Place your arm in front of him at a low enough level that he has to get down and crawl to fit under it. With your arm in place, place one treat on the floor on the other side of your arm and command him to 'crawl'.
Remove your arm
When he will crawl under your arm consistently when told to, then remove the one treat and begin to raise your arm while he is crawling, so he is not depending on it anymore. If he attempts to get up when you raise it, then lower it back down to remind him to crawl, and then repeat raising it when he is crawling again. Do this until you can remove your arm right after you command him to 'crawl' and he will crawl until told "OK".
The Down Method
To begin, get your dog into the 'down' position. You can do this by luring him to the floor with a treat, or by commanding him to "down" if he knows the command.
Slide a treat
With your dog in the 'down' position, touch a treat to the floor between your dog's paws but do not let go of the treat. When your dog becomes very interested in the treat, tell your dog "Crawl", and slowly slide the treat across the floor, away from your dog. Keep the movement slow enough that your dog can continue to sniff or lick the treat while you slide it.
When your dog moves forward by even a couple of inches while trying to get the treat, praise him and give him the treat. If you dog tries to stand up, either place your arm over him, so that he touches your arm and lays back down, or if he has risen all of the way, then lure him back into the 'down' position with a treat or command him to "down", then repeat sliding the treat.
Repeat the sliding process until your dog begins to crawl forward a few inches at a time, without trying to get up. Continue to reward forward attempts whenever you say "Crawl", requiring him to crawl gradually farther and farther by a couple of inches at a time, in order to receive the treat.
Space out the treats
When your dog can crawl forward two feet without attempting to stand up, then place the treat farther away. With your dog in the 'down' position, place the treat on the floor one foot away from your dog and tell him to "Crawl". If he crawls to the treat, then praise him while he is moving, and right before he reaches it tell him "OK" and allow him to eat it. If he attempts to stand up in order to walk over to it, then remove the treat and place him back in the 'down' position where he started, then try again. If he still attempts to get up after multiple tries, then go back a step to luring him with the treat. After several successful sliding practices, then try placing the treat away from him again.
When your dog can crawl forward without you moving the treat in front of him, gradually increase the distance that he must crawl before receiving the treat.
When your dog can crawl several feet, remove the treat from the ground. With the treat removed, tell your dog "Crawl". If he crawls without seeing a treat, then praise him while he is moving, and after three feet tell him "OK" and place a treat between his paws for him to eat. If he does not crawl, then remind him what to do by placing a treat on the ground after seven seconds has passed. Repeat this process until he begins to crawl before you have placed the treat.
When your dog will crawl without seeing a treat, then you have taught the 'crawl' command! Continue to practice until he will crawl every time that you tell him. You can also add distance to this trick by gradually increasing the amount of distance that he has to crawl before being told "OK" and rewarded. Increase this distance by just a couple of inches at a time.
The Tunnel Method
Set up your tunnel
To begin, select a tunnel that is short enough that your dog cannot stand up while inside, but tall enough that your dog can still move through it in the crawl position and will not get stuck. After you have selected your tunnel, then set it up in an open area.
With your dog in front of the tunnel entrance, place several treats inside of the tunnel, in a line from the entrance to the exit. Tell your dog "Crawl" and encourage him in a happy tone of voice to eat the treats.
If your dog crawls all the way through the tunnel then praise him enthusiastically and repeat the entire process. If your dog will only go part of the way in before backing out, then replace the treats that he ate each time and keep practicing until he will go all the way through. It may take him many attempts before he will go all the way through. Be patient, this is normal.
Move treats further
When your dog will happily go through the tunnel without hesitation several times in a row, then move the treats further away. To move the treats, begin your line of treats halfway into the tunnel. When your dog has mastered that, then place your treats only at the exit of the tunnel. Remember to tell your dog to "Crawl" every time that he lowers his body to enter the tunnel.
Extend the crawl
When your dog is crawling all of the way through the tunnel before receiving the treats at the end, then increase the distance that he must crawl. To increase the distance, extend your line of treats at the exit outward by two feet, into the open space. Place your arm right above your dog when he exits the tunnel, and remind him to "Crawl" as he eats his line of treats. Praise him for continued forward movement. When he reaches the end of the treat line tell him "OK" and remove your arm.
Space out treats
Practice having your dog crawl through the tunnel and under your arm until he continues to crawl without having to be reminded, and he does not attempt to get up until he is told "OK". When you have reached that point, then space the treats out again. To space the treats out, begin the line of treats one foot away from the tunnel's exit and practice having him crawl all the way from the tunnel's entrance to the end of the treat line. When your dog is doing well with that, place the treats two feet away from the tunnel's exit and practice having him crawling that far. When your dog is doing well with that, then remove the treats from the floor and practice having your dog crawl without any treats in sight. While your dog is crawling without any treats in sight, when he crawls to the place where the treats used to end, place a treat between his feet and tell him "OK".
When your dog can crawl without treats in sight until he reaches the place where you tell him "OK", then begin to remove your arm. To remove your arm, gradually lift up your arm while your dog is crawling under it. If your dog begins to stand when you do this, then remind him to "Crawl" and lower your arm back down to stop him. Practice this until you can quickly remove your arm after he starts to crawl and he will not attempt to stand while it is gone until he has been told "OK".
When your dog will continue to crawl without your arm over him the entire time, remove the tunnel as well, so that he is crawling in open space. To remove the tunnel, place your arm in front of him for him to go under and command him to "Crawl". After he begins to crawl, remove your arm and praise him while he continues to move. When he has gone three feet, then tell him "OK", and place a treat between his feet.
When your dog no longer needs the tunnel and only briefly needs your arm to begin crawling, remove your arm entirely, and simply tell your dog to "Crawl". If he will not crawl then wait seven seconds. After seven seconds, give him a hint by lowering your arm down. Practice this until he crawls before you have lowered your arm. When you have reached this point, then your dog has mastered the 'crawl'. Congratulations! Maintain this trick by practicing it often.
Written by Caitlin Crittenden
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 01/30/2018, edited: 01/08/2021
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