How to teach a dog paw

Fun with dogs
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Teaching your dog how to give you their paw on demand is a simple but impressive dog trick that doesn’t take long to learn. The process of teaching your dog to shake your hand can also be a fun way to bond with your pooch, start your dog training and will be sure to impress your friends and family when they visit. What’s more? Mastering the paw shake technique will pave the way for you to teach your dog more complicated skills. After all, dogs love to learn new tricks!

Here’s how to teach a dog to give paw from the comfort of your home:

Choose a treat that your dog loves

Stock up on your dog’s favourite treat and make sure you have some nearby when you start teaching your dog to shake paw.

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Treats are a key part of the process and will provide a tasty reward for your dog as they work towards mastering the paw trick, along with using a simple verbal command. Eventually, they’ll be able to do this without receiving a treat each time.

Find the perfect area to train your dog

Choose an area in your house or garden to teach your dog this new trick and for consistency, use the same area each time you train your dog. Try to find a clear space with minimal distraction to help them focus on the task in hand (or should we say paw!).

Choose a verbal command and stick with it

Select a simple verbal command that you will use each time you ask your dog to give you their paw. Through using this command in training, they’ll learn to recognise it and eventually shake your hand on demand when you say this. Something such as ‘shake’ or ‘give paw’ will work well.

Teach your dog to sit (if they can't already do this on command)

If your dog can’t already sit on command, teaching them how to do this should be fairly simple. It’s much easier to teach them to give paw if they’re already in the sit position. Hold a treat in front of them and as they reach for it and gently press down on their backside to encourage them to sit. Once they’re sat, reward them with a treat. You should practise and repeat this until they do this on command using the word ‘sit’. A couple of times a day should be plenty.

Tickle the back of their foot

Back to teaching a dog paw. Make sure you have a treat in one hand to entice them into action. When your dog is sitting down, gently tickle the back of one of their front legs. Your pooch will react by moving their leg towards you. Reward them with a treat when they do this.

Encourage your dog to reach his paw towards your hand

Once they’re used to you tickling their foot and being rewarded for reaching their paw forwards, hold your hand out (make sure to open your hand) and encourage your dog to reach towards it. You can demonstrate what you want them to do by pointing to your hand or placing their paw in your palm initially. Reward your dog with treats as they reach further towards your hand until they eventually lift their paw to reach your hand without much input from you.

Start introducing your verbal command

Once they understand what you want them to do, introduce your chosen verbal command and start using this while holding your own hand out. When your dog understands and responds to the command, reward them with another treat. After a few training sessions, they should recognise that when you hold your hand out and use the command, you want them to give you their paw. Once they’re able to do that, you can try moving your hand up and down with their paw in your palm to replicate a handshake. Gradually, reduce the number of treats you’re giving to your dog as you’re practising this until they’re confident at doing it without reward.

Make the paw shake more challenging

Now your dog has mastered how to give you their paw, you can mix things up by practising this in different areas of the house or outside with other distractions such as noise and people. They may be able to do a paw shake with their other leg, or you may need to repeat the steps to teach them to give their paw with the opposite leg. To make it easier, you can use your opposite hand too so they start to recognise that they should give you the paw closest to your hand. You can also encourage them to hold your hand for longer durations each time and then test whether they’ll repeat the paw shake with other family members.

Practice makes perfect

You should keep your training sessions short and sweet, but practice the paw shake daily for around ten minutes until your dog can shake your hand on command.

Gradually, you should phase out the treat until they can shake your paw without needing a reward.