How To Teach Your Dog To ‘Shake Hands’

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.

Getting Started

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

Unusual Trick - 300 x 250Once 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.

Training Tips

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.

10 Comments

  • Elaine

    Reply Reply November 12, 2015

    Great tips! Dogs seem to like giving their paws after they learn this one and it’s so cute. 🙂

  • Jean Dion

    Reply Reply November 12, 2015

    I taught Liam the pug to shake just like this. But I used a clicker to help shape the command. And, once he had the whole thing down, it was super easy to morph that trick into a high-five and a high-ten! Shake is a great building block, and you’ve described the technique perfectly. Love it!

    Jean from Welcome to the Menagerie

    • The high-five and high-ten are great, and you’re right- really easy to do once you have mastered this!

      I find it’s a great way to show off your pup’s obedience to any visitors as well 🙂

  • Barbara Rivers

    Reply Reply November 13, 2015

    Yay, the paw shake (we call it “high 5”) was one of the first things our pups learned 🙂 They also know the “high 10” version of it where they are in a sit and lift up both of their front paws -really cute to watch!

    • Thanks for your comments Barbara.

      This is one of the first tricks we taught our dog as well, it really is a great way to ease into obedience training whilst having a lot of fun at the same time!

  • Pamela

    Reply Reply November 13, 2015

    I can’t tell you how many people have come up to Honey and asked her to give them her paw, as if all dogs are born knowing how to “shake hands.”

    Finally, I taught her to high five just to keep those people from being too disappointed. 🙂 And the good side effect is that Honey really likes it.

  • Lindsay

    Reply Reply November 15, 2015

    All I did to teach shake was physically pick up the paw and actually shake hands while saying “shake” and then giving a treat. My dogs have always seemed to catch on, but your way makes a lot more sense.

    I also do a cute trick where I have a treat in one fist and close both fists in front of the dog. I say “which one?” and they have to paw or nose the correct hand to get the treat.

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