Dogs are the best. They’re always happy to see you, they love spending time with you, and they’re always up for a good game of fetch. But did you know that dogs can also be great helpers? Dogs can be taught to do all sorts of things, like shake hands or bring you your slippers. In this blog post, we’ll teach you how to teach your dog to shake hands. It’s a fun trick that both you and your dog will enjoy!
Teaching your dog to shake is a great party trick and one that is easily taught. You can even get the kids involved. In fact, most children over the age of 7 years can be taught basic training techniques and in fact many children are more persistent than adults when it comes to training the family pet.
A lot of the tips and tricks we are using are a focused version of the things taught in our article on training basics, and it may be worth taking a look to get an understanding of some of the general principles of training a dog.
What do You Need?
- 1 dog preferably with at least 1 front paw
- Small tasty treats that don’t take long to chew (use something high value such as bbq chicken or liver treats if your dog is hard to motivate, or train when he is hungry)
- Just 5 minutes each day
Steps on Teaching a Dog to Shake:
There is actually more than one way to teach your dog how to shake hands because, after all, not every dog learns in the same way.
The Hidden Reward Method:
- Assuming your dog can sit, the first step is to get him in position.
- Hold a treat in your hand and show him the treat (it may be useful to have the remaining treats easy to access in a pouch or pocket), then close your fist over the treat.
- Hold the treat, in your closed fist close to his foot, about 5cm/2in off the ground.
- If your dog stands up, ask him to sit again.
- If your dog lifts his paw even a little, or even shifts weight onto the other paw, tell him he is a good boy and give him the treat.
- Most dogs will bat at your hand to get the treat, so as soon as this happens open your hand to reveal the treat and tell him ‘good’ or ‘yes’, whatever your signal is for doing the right thing.
- At the same time your other hand should be held out flat to ‘shake’ when your dog lifts his paw, so you can grab his paw while he takes the treat.
- Reward him immediately when he does the correct thing, even if he only lifts his foot a little bit the first time.
- When he is reliably lifting his paw for a treat, add the word ‘shake’.
- Gradually phase out the treats, so he only gets a treat intermittently once you are sure he knows the trick.
The Wait & Watch Method:
- Ask your dog to sit down.
- When your dog is in a seated potion, hold out your hand with the palm facing upward. Your hand should be at the same level as your dog’s knee, so it will be easy for him to reach.
- Wait to see what he does….
Your dog may sniff your hand or give it a lick, but will eventually paw at your hand when you don’t move it.
- The moment your see your dog lift his paw, give him a word of praise and reward him with a tasty treat.
- Repeat those steps of ‘waiting it out’ until your dog begins to lift his paw as an instant response to your extended hand. When he begins to react, you can aid in your command word, “shake.”
Cracking Under Pressure Method:
- Ask your dog to sit.
- Using one of your fingers, gently the back of your dog’s paws, just below his dew claw.
- The light pressure will be a bit of a bother to the pooch and he will move away from it.
- As soon as your dog bends his leg or lifts his paw, tell him “good” and present him with a yummy treat.
Tips & Tricks:
Struggling? No problem!
Here are a few tips and tricks you can use to make the process of teaching your dog how to shake, that much simpler:
Always ask your dog to sit down.
A dog may have four legs, but he can still loose balance if one of them isn’t touching the ground. So, always ask your dog to sit before asking him to shake.
Always use the same command and praise words.
Our dogs can learn and understand several words, but it is confusing to a dog when you start mixing up words for the same trick.
Teach the ability to shake on just one of of your dog’s paws before moving to the other one.
Dogs don’t really generalize very well, so if you tell him to shake with his right paw, he is only going shake with his right paw. Switching the command from right to left will slow the training process, and frustrate your pooch. Once your dog has the shaking process down on one paw, then you can start working with the other one. Just remember, you will need different words of command for your dog to understand which paw you want him to life.
Only practice with your dog for 5-10 minutes per day, no longer.
Dogs don’t have a very long attention span and we, as humans, don’t have a ton of patience either. So, to avoid ending in frustration and annoyance, keep the training sessions short but consistent each day.
Always end on a positive note.
If your dog just isn’t getting it, stop the hand shake training and go back to a trick he does have down. You can try hand shake training again the next day.
Only use bite sized treats.
Unless you want to spend the majority of your training time watching your dog eat, you are going to want to pick a treat that’s small in size and not too chewy.
Reward your dog for Trying.
Even if your dog’s paw doesn’t quite make it to your extended hand to complete the shake, reward his efforts. Lifting his paw in response to your command still counts!
Teaching your dog how to shake is both fund and rewarding for all members of the family, but it’s important to remember to be patient. Just like people, some dogs are just a bit slower at catching on to new things than others and it is easy to lose patients with your dog. Just remember that practice makes perfect, and if you are diligent with your pup, he will eventually get the hand of it.
Clicker training is another great way to shape behaviors like ‘shake’.
Make sure to avoid some of the common mistakes when training a dog, listed in this article on what not to do when training a dog.
Or if you have a particularly stubborn dog, this is another way to teach ‘shake’.
You’re now ready to start teaching your dog how to shake hands! Remember, you can use one of three methods – the hidden reward method, the wait and watch method, or the cracking under pressure method. Whichever way you choose, make sure you always end on a positive note with plenty of treats. And don’t forget, use lots of praise too! Start by teaching your dog to shake one paw at a time before putting them together. Always reward your pup for trying so they know that they are doing a good job.