Teaching your dog to give you her paw or to shake hands on command is a cute trick that is both impressive and endearing to onlookers. To teach this trick, some dog training is required, though you may not need to consult your professional to master it. Dogs who are prone to “pawing” (using their paws to play and/or to gain attention) are best suited for this trick, though other dogs can be trained easily as well. Once this trick is mastered, there are variations that can be taught, including the “high five” and the “wave.”
Start With Simple Training Steps
Let’s begin with some simple steps as instructed by well-known dog trainer Gerilyn J. Bielakiewicz in her book, The Everything Dog Training and Tricks Book (Adams Media Corporation, Avon, Massachusetts; 2003). For this exercise, you will need a good amount of yummy, strong-smelling treats and a clicker.
Determine what gets your dog to paw at you and utilize it to get her to lift her paw. If she is not prone to pawing, try scratching her chest, holding a treat in your fist at nose height, or touching her toenails with your finger. Try using your outstretched hand as a prompt. Once the dog’s paw is in the air, immediately click and treat. Your animal trainer can help you with perfecting your click/treat timing.
Repeat this process 15 to 20 times or until the dog is readily offering her paw.
Leave your hand outstretched for the dog’s paw and wait it out without prompting. As soon as she lifts her paw, click and treat.
If the dog is not lifting her paw after a few seconds, repeat a few more repetitions as described earlier until she associates lifting her paw with the click and treat.
Try connecting the cue (your outstretched hand) with the behavior (the dog offering her paw) by showing your hand and clicking and treating when the dog stretches out her paw.
Once the dog is offering the behavior on a regular basis, you can add the verbal cue “give your paw,” “paw,” “shake,” or whatever you choose. Remember to be consistent. Again, your local dog trainer can help you with choosing your training cues.
Practice this trick in a variety of places and under several different circumstances. If the trick is not working, simplify things once again by practicing at home with few distractions. Be careful not to overwhelm your dog.
Avoid repeating yourself over and over; give one cue, wait for the dog to respond, then click and treat.
If you are having trouble with any of the above steps, consult your trainer for dog training tips and advice.
If your dog is not responding consistently every time, try practicing more repetitions under low-stress conditions. Ask your dog obedience trainer for some simple advice and have him/her help you with your timing. Set your dog up to succeed and she will learn to do this trick consistently.