Teaching your dog a trick is a great way to deepen the bond between the two of you. It also stimulates your dog mentally, which is a wonderful way to enrich his life no matter his age. Moreover, dog tricks make for wonderful entertainment at family gatherings. Everyone who sees the trick performed will want to try it with your dog.
Read on to discover how to train your dog to shake.
One of the all-time favorite dog tricks is shaking hands. You don’t need a lot of equipment. Time, patience and love of your pooch are all that is really required. Having a few packages of his favorite treats on hand doesn’t hurt either.
Before you and your dog can start performing tricks together, you need to develop a trusting relationship. It’s also important to introduce elementary obedience training. Essentially, if your dog comes when he’s called, sits on command and knows to leave objects alone when told to do so, he’s probably ready to begin learning tricks like shaking hands.
If your dog has not mastered basic obedience cues, now is a good time to get started with easy dog tricks. Enroll him in an obedience training course. It will probably be a wonderful experience for both of you. You’ll receive a much greater understanding of your dog and what motivates him, and your dog will benefit from knowing exactly what you want when you issue certain commands. Some dog owners seem reluctant to try obedience training with their dogs. They might argue that it stifles a dog’s personality. However, this is not the goal of obedience training. Good training allows pet parents to have enough control over their pups to keep them safe in any situation. Telling your dog to stay and knowing that he’ll obey when he’s just about to run into a busy street is a practical method for keeping both of you safe.
Obedience training also lays the groundwork for learning tricks like shaking hands. Through training, your dog learns to listen to verbal cues and is also introduced to the concept of being rewarded for proper behavior. It’s important for pet parents to understand how to reward behavior before beginning training their dog to perform tricks. For instance, it’s necessary to refrain from providing a reward when your dog doesn’t perform the precise behavior you’re looking for. Doing so will only confuse him and make it even harder for him to master a trick.
You’ll need to have a good supply of a treat your dog really enjoys as you begin teaching him to shake hands. It’s best to find a small, bite-size training treat because he’s less likely to get overfed during training.
Follow these steps if you want to know how to train your dog to shake.
1. Get the Treats Ready
Fill one of your pockets with your dog’s favorite training treat. Place one treat in your hand, grasping it between your thumb and the palm of your hand.
Your dog’s obedience training will come in handy right off the bat. He should be able to sit without needing a food reward. Also, make certain you’ve got his full attention before you begin.
3. Hold Out Your Hand
Chances are good that your dog has already noticed that you’re holding one of his favorite snacks. The smell alone should be all the cue he needs. Start with a bit of distance between you and your dog so that it would be difficult for him to snatch the treat from your hand.
4. Allow Your Dog to Sniff the Treat
Your dog will definitely want to sniff the treat, especially since it’s one of his favorites. Don’t let him have it yet. He’s likely to become a bit more persistent. Often, this means that he will lift one of his front paws onto your hand.
5. Give Him a Reward
Now that your dog has put his paw on your hand, he deserves a reward. Do not give him the treat that you have in your extended hand. Instead, reach into your pocket with your free hand to give him one of those treats. Having this supply in your pocket makes it easier to practice the trick a few times without having to pause to get more treats.
6. Repeat for Success
Some dogs figure out very quickly that placing their paw in your hand yields a reward. Others need a bit more time to catch on. However, your dog responds, always be patient and make the process of learning the trick fun. No dog learns to shake hands on the very first day. Instead, this is a matter of introducing a new behavior and then letting your dog get the behavior cemented in his head. Practice definitely makes perfect.
Set aside between five and 15 minutes each day to work with your pup on these initial steps. Daily repetition seems to be the key to making progress for most dogs. In fact, some dogs are ready to move on to the next steps within just two or three days.
7. Try It Without Treats
Once your pooch is really consistent about placing his paw in your hand when a treat is offered, it’s time to stop rewarding him for the behavior every time. It’s usually beneficial to reward him every other time for a few practice sessions. Eventually, you’ll start only giving a reward every third or fourth time. Offer plenty of praise whenever he completes the behavior without receiving a treat. Dogs absolutely love your approval, so a few affectionate words are usually a really good substitute for a food reward.
8. Work Toward Consistency Without Treats
After providing intermittent treats for a few sessions, see how well your dog does without any treats at all. Place your hand palm up, extending it slowly toward your pup. He should automatically place his paw in your open hand. If he doesn’t, then it may be necessary to try a few more sessions with intermittent treats.
9. Begin Using a Verbal Cue
Choose a one or two word command that you will use consistently when you want your dog to shake hands. Either “shake” or “shake hands” typically work really well. You want to keep these commands short and to the point. Most importantly, it’s got to be consistent. It’s far better to always say “shake” than it is to use two or three different commands on a regular basis.
Extend your hand as you normally do for training, then try your verbal cue. Repeat the extending motion and the verbal cue, if necessary, until your dog places his paw in your hand. Now is definitely a good time to offer a food reward. You’ll probably have to repeat this step in the training process several times. However, most dogs do not need as much time to learn to respond to the verbal cue as they needed to catch on to the basics of shaking hands.
10. Start Using Fewer Treats
Now that you’ve begun giving your dog food rewards every time again, it’s necessary to start scaling back. Use the same process you used before, providing treats every other time and then every third or fourth time.
11. Watch For Your Dog to Initiate the Trick
At this stage in the training, your dog may very well choose to initiate shaking hands himself. This is a positive indicator that he really understands the behavior, and that there is likely to be a reward for engaging in it.
12. Give Your Dog a New Challenge
Chances are good that you will want to show off your dog’s new skill in company at some point. This means that there will be distractions going on at the same time you want your dog to focus. Have a few training sessions during which you ask someone else to walk through the room or make sure your kids are playing and making noise nearby. Practice shaking hands while these or other distractions are going on to teach your dog to stay focused on the behavior. This will make it much easier for you and your dog to give a great public performance.
13. Introduce Other Family Members
Your spouse, kids and others in your household should all be able to easily shake hands with the dog now that he is performing the trick consistently. It is not necessary to begin again at step one. Simply tell each family member what the verbal cue is and how to hold out their hand. Your dog should be so well trained at this point that he will be able to consistently perform the trick no matter who says the verbal cue. Letting him practice with other people before making his debut is a great way to better ensure that he won’t get stage fright or feel confused if other people ask him to do the same trick.
14. Step Into the Spotlight
If you’re going to be having a gathering of friends and family, it’s the ideal opportunity for your dog to show off his newly acquired skills. Try a couple of practice runs during the day before the party to make certain that your dog has really got this trick solidly in his mind.
Although you and your dog have practiced shaking hands with distractions going on around you, having a full house may be more distractions than your pup can handle. Try to make certain that everyone has arrived and been seated before demonstrating the trick. This limits distractions and better ensures your chances for success. Once your dog has successfully shaken hands with you a couple of times, invite others to give it a try. Kids especially love being able to do a trick with a dog.
Above all, keep an eye on your dog’s feelings as you both learn how to shake hands. If he’s showing any signs of frustration or disinterest, that’s ok. There’s no need to press him to comply when he’d rather go for a walk or have a nap. Try shortening the training sessions. Also, if you’re scaling back on the treats, try offering alternative rewards instead. Encouraging, affectionate words are always welcome, and so are play sessions or snuggling on the couch.
Remember that learning to train your dog to shake is supposed to be fun for both of you. If either you or your dog aren’t enjoying the process at the moment, take a step back and do something else. There’s always tomorrow to try again.