Teaching your dogs tricks is a great way to build the bond between the two of you, and are a great way to spend some quality time together whilst learning something that will be sure to impress your friends! Shaking hands is something that we humans do on a regular basis to greet people and to convey trust. A great little trick to teach your dog, and one that is very simple to train, is getting him to ‘shake hands’ with you by offering his paw.
In today’s article, we take a step-by-step look at the best way to train your dog to offer his paw for a hand shake.
At the start of the exercise, make sure that you have some of your dog’s favourite to use as a reward.
Stand a few paces back and have your dog sit in front of you. When he does so, praise him, but don’t give him the treat just yet. Instead, get his attention by placing a treat in between your thumb and palm in such a way that it is clearly visible to him. Make sure that he is not able to jump up and grab the treat before you have completed the exercise.
Once you have your dog’s attention, close your hand into a fist and move it in front of him, allowing him to smell it, but not see it. After a little while, most dogs will start to paw at your hand in an attempt to open it and get at the treat.
Reward Your Dog
As soon as your dog paws at your hand, open it up, allowing him to get the treat and give him lots of praise.
Repeat this process several times, taking a break after four or five repetitions. Keep your training sessions short and frequent to increase the chances of success.
Associating A Verbal Command
Once your dog is pawing at your hand every time, you can introduce a verbal cue that he will learn to associate with giving you his paw. When your dog touches your hand with his paw, give the command “paw” or “shake” before praising him and rewarding him with the treat.
After you have repeated the command a few times, start to use it before your dog offers you his paw. As you move your hand towards him, say “paw“, rewarding him with a treat and lots of praise when he does so.
Removing The Treats
The final part of the paw-training exercise involves gradually reducing the rewards so that your dog will learn to offer his paw even in the absence of a visible incentive. It’s a good idea to start by rewarding him every other time he obeys the command as opposed to every time. Continue to give him lots of verbal praise, gradually reducing the number of times that you reward him with a treat until you are confident that he will obey the command without being incentivised.
Be consistent. Choose a phrase that you wish to associate with your dog offering his paw, and stick with it. Don’t change from ‘paw’ to ‘shake’ halfway through the training, as this will just confuse him. However, what you can do is associate a different word with each paw- for example ‘paw’ for his right and ‘shake’ for his left.
Mixing it up. As it’s a relatively simple command to train, teaching your dog to shake hands is a great interlude between training other commands. During a break from teaching him to lie down for example, a short 5-10 minute session of paw shaking can be a good way to keep the momentum going whilst preventing your pup from getting bored.
Patience is a virtue. Although this is a simple trick, patience and persistence are still required. You’ll need to repeat the steps a number of times before your dog fully understands the command- and if he doesn’t get it right away, keep calm and stick with it. Never yell at your dog or pull at him if you get frustrated- if he isn’t responding simply take a break and try again later.
Introduce distractions. When you are confident that your dog has the ‘shake’ command nailed, you can start to try it out in different scenarios with external factors. Try it in a room with children, friends or family members, or when you’re out at the park. The more situations and environments that you practice the command in, the more ingrained the behaviour will become in your dog’s mind.