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Ask a Trainer Question Answered

Author: Andrea Miller | Date: May 29, 2012

Here’s the next round of answers for our Ask a Trainer feature on our new website. It’s your chance to get dog training advice from the pros at AnimalSense. Stay tuned for more questions & answers, and if you have a burning dog training question, just “Ask a Trainer”!

I’d like help teaching my 5 month old puppy some spatial awareness with people. She is underfoot, runs into people often and all-around clumsy. She is extremely active and busy, so this can be dangerous with others around. I usually only worry about myself on stairs with her. Please help before more people are taken down.

Puppies can be active critters, so it’s important to teach them spatial awareness, or help them be able to judge the location of themselves in relation to the objects around them. Sometimes, it can take a little while for them to learn where their feet and backsides are!

Stairs can definitely be a dangerous situation with puppies. Teach them to “Stay” at the top and bottom of stairs when you are going up or down. Then use your recall to call them to you.

There are many fun games you can play to help your puppy increase her spatial awareness:

  • Ladder Leap. This will help teach your pup where her feet are and how to put them in the right place. Take a ladder and lay it on the ground. Start with your pup at one end and place a treat between the first two rungs. Once she steps into that space, give her the treat and put another one between the next two rungs. Keep doing this until your pup has made her way through the ladder. Don’t worry if she goes slow. That just means she’s thinking more about feet placement, especially the back feet which need to be placed by feel instead of sight.
  • Commando Crawl. This exercise teaches your pup where her head and back end are. Start from a down position. Hold treat in front of dogʼs nose and slowly move it forward, keeping treat low to encourage dog to crawl forward. When you get even a small amount of forward movement, say “crawl” and give the treat. Progress to more and more movement before saying “crawl” and treating. Fade away food lure and use hand motion to initiate movement. Finally, add the verbal cue “crawl” before the movement. You can also sit on the ground with your feet together and knees bent up and use a treat to lure your dog to crawl under your knees.
  • Zig-Zag Through Your Legs. Put your foot up on a chair and ask your dog to go “through” your leg – when he does, say “yes” and give a treat. Practice until your dog is comfortable with this. Next, with your dog on your left and a treat in your right hand, take a large step forward with your right foot. Hold the treat under your right leg and ask the dog to go “through” from your left to right. Repeat with dog on your right, stepping forward with your left leg, holding the treat under your left leg and asking for a “through.” Each time, say “yes” and give a treat.
  • Agility is very helpful for body awareness. Your pup will be exposed to jumps, inclines, open and closed tunnels, weave poles and the seesaw. It’s great for confidence building and for dogs that love to problem solve. Check out our upcoming Intro to Agility class in Oak Park starting in June.


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