Sometimes our dogs can do weird things. If you’ve ever seen your dog crawling on its belly like an army soldier, you may have asked yourself if this is a cause for concern.
Understanding the roots of this type of behavior is essential to realizing whether or not it might be time for a trip to the vet.
Of course, there are a few different reasons why dogs might drag themselves across the ground on their bellies. It could be a form of submissive behavior, designed to look cute and get brownie points.
Another less-promising possibility is that they could simply be scratching themselves. If your dog is doing an army crawl in order to relieve an itch, then you will need to determine if there is some kind of medical condition causing the itch.
Luckily, this is rather simple. Typically, the army crawl behavior does not indicate a serious medical problem.
On the other hand, the army crawl is actually a good exercise for many dogs. Especially if your dog is large, it might do them some good to learn to repeat this trick. It can help them get under tight spaces if needed. and also helps them build strength.
The reason behind the crawl
Dogs are very vulnerable when they start out as puppies. Some of their very first movements in life revolve around crawling. They need to crawl up to their mother’s in order to stay warm and be fed with nourishing milk.
Because of this vulnerable initial state, many dogs retain the crawling behavior as a sort of cute trick. If your dog is a regular crawler, you may have noticed them crawling across the ground with puppy-dog eyes in order to get something out of you. This behavior is reinforced when you make a big fuss and reward them for being so cute. It can become a good exercise trick for your dog to perform.
Training your dog to army crawl as a trick
If you want to train your dog to crawl on command, this is fairly simple, especially if they already exhibit this behavior. It’s as simple as giving them a treat whenever they do it.
If it is a new behavior you wish to teach your dog follow these simple steps.
- Put your dog in the down position. This is easy if they already know the down command.
- Kneel next to your dog in the down position and hold a treat just in front of them.
- As they crawl forward to reach the treat give a verbal cue such as “crawl”. You can place your hand gently on your dog’s back to ensure they stay in a down position while moving forward.
- Continue to practice with a treat in your hand until they can crawl forward a few feet at a time.
- Once they understand what is required you can place the treats on a table or in your pocket. Give the verbal cue or hand signal and give a treat once they have done the trick. This is so they will learn to do the action on command rather than needing a treat as a lure.
The number of repetitions needed for your dog to master this trick will vary from dog to dog. Practice daily and keep the sessions short. In no time your dog will crawl like a commando.
Benefits of the army crawl for dogs
The crawling action uses a lot of muscles in the dog’s legs that normally don’t get much exercise. The army crawl is great for developing core strength and aids in joint flexibility. It can even help bigger dogs with agility training and such.
It can also come in useful if the dog ever needs to crawl into an enclosed space. This could be helpful in competition, or if your dog ever has to drag you out of a fire to save your life.
Causes of the army crawl behavior in dogs
If your dog suddenly starts to exhibit this behavior with no prior history, it could indicate a deeper issue. If you want to tell whether or not there is a medical reason underlying your dog’s army crawl behavior.
Luckily, this is fairly simple and straight-forward. Army crawling is rarely a cause for urgent concern. It typically has something to do with some sort of irritation. Accordingly, the first step to determine what’s going on is to look at your dog’s belly.
If your dog has some kind of rash, then he is definitely doing the army crawl in order to alleviate his itching. If you see red, irritated looking patches, then this could be the issue. Typically if you ask your vet, they will be able to give you something to treat the rash.
Another possibility is bites or scratches. If your dog is a bit of an explorer, it’s possible that he got accosted by some sort of stinging caterpillar or another bug. These bites should go away after a while, but you may want to use a relieving cream of some kind so that they don’t get further irritated.
If it’s some kind of bite, you shouldn’t be too concerned unless you live in an area with known poisonous insects. Typically, this won’t be an issue. If you do live in an area with poisonous insects, you should get the bites checked out immediately.
Typically, a lot of itchy bites indicate an infestation of fleas or other nuisance insects. If you own a dog, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on what fleabites look like. You should also be prepared to take the necessary precautions against fleas.
If your dog does have fleas, then you should be able to get away with an over-the-counter flea solution. If your problem persists, you may need to go to the vet for something more intense. In extreme cases, pest control may be necessary for your home or domicile.
Another possibility is allergies. While it is rare for dogs to be allergic to things like animal dander or pollen, it’s possible that their skin might get irritated by certain materials or chemicals that they rub against by accident.
If this is the case, treatment is very similar to a rash. The irritated area should be easily recognizable, and you can treat it with over-the-counter creams. More intense irritations can be solved with vet recommended products.
If the irritation reoccurs after treatment, consider eliminating certain materials or chemicals from your routine around the house.
Another possible reason is to cool themselves in hot weather. Some dogs will spread themselves out and lay their belly on a cool surface such as floor tiles.
One last possibility which is more psychological rather than a medical issue is separation anxiety or a fear-based behavior. We mentioned before that crawling is an infantile behavior in dogs. When dogs become anxious, they may engage in army crawling behavior as a sort of coping mechanism against their anxiety. If they are weeing while doing the crawl it is a fear-based behavior.
In cases like this, the only thing you can do is identify the source of their anxiety, and rectify it. For things like noise anxiety, this can be easy to confront. Actual separation anxiety, unfortunately, is a little more complex.
At the end of the day, army crawling is generally not a cause for urgent concern. In fact, if it is not caused by some medical concern, it can even be beneficial for your dog. The key here is to pay attention to your dog and make sure it is not the result of skin irritation or a similar cause.
Another reason for the army crawling may be behavioral such as anxiety or submissive behavior if they are scared. If they are weeing while doing this.