The Ladder Command

Cassie had been tripping fairly often, at least once a day, falling on her face, or her shoulder, seemingly over nothing. I’d often stop and pet her and say, “That looks like it hurt. Poor baby.” I was afraid she’d really hurt herself one of these times, maybe even break her leg.

Cassie using the ladder command with Chipper watching.

Cassie using the ladder command with Chipper watching.

I mentioned this to Dr. Barcus at the Canine Center http://www.caninecentervet.com, and she asked which leg most often caused her to trip. It was Cassie’s front left, her “bad” elbow, where she had arthritis treatments a few months ago that unfortunately didn’t help. Dr. Barcus said that Cassie was probably not lifting her sore leg high enough since it hurt, and she was catching it on something, maybe a toenail, causing her to trip. Dr. Barcus has bad knees and said this happens to her.

She recommended having Cassie step over something very small to retrain her muscles to lift her paws higher. Cassie had been an agility dog when she was much younger, and I vaguely remembered an early training exercise involving having her walk the length of a ladder lying flat on the ground, not a ladder that expands. We have one in the garage to access the attic, so I took it out and trained Cassie the ladder command.

Cassie walks the ladder length 4 times, sometimes as a heel command, sometimes as a stay command part way through, or a come command. I always use the command ‘ladder come’, or ‘ladder heal’. She loves it, and the attention. Often she looks at me in the morning after our walk as if to say, “Well aren’t we going to do my ladder trick now?”

Within a few days I noticed her tripping episodes decreased substantially. I’ve been doing this trick about five times a week for the past two months and now Cassie hardly ever had a significant fall, and she’s happy to be training again.

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