Among the many tricks dogs can learn, shake is one of the most popular. In this trick the dog basically gives his paw, just as if he wanted to shake hands. Success in training this trick depends on how motivated the dog is, the correct choice of rewards, the skill of the trainer and good timing. Most dogs respond well to treats, and will do anything for a tasty morsel of food.
Step-by-Strp: Training The Shake Command
Most dogs learn this trick quite easily. Dogs that tend to use their paws a lot in daily activities will be naturally predisposed to shake. Typically, these are dogs that are quite dexterous with their paws and are capable of opening doors or using their paws to ask for attention or play with their toys. With the help of tasty treats, any dog of any age can learn to shake in just a few sessions. There are a couple of ways this trick can be taught.
Muscle Memory Method
This method works best for dogs that aren’t much dexterous. In this case, the dog learns to shake by using the same repetitive motor skills without much conscious thought. Repetition after repetition, the dog shakes on his own with no further need for prompting.
- The dog is asked to sit. Shaking is easier if it’s taught with the dog is in front of the owner in a sitting position.
- The dog’s front paw is gently lifted and given a brief shake.
- The dog is immediately praised with a verbal marker such as “yes!” or a click of the clicker and is rewarded with the treat.
- The exercise is repeated over and over, until the dog starts lifting his paw on his own without your need to prompt in anticipation of the treat. When this happens, it’s a sign that the dog has developed enough “muscle memory,” and therefore, has started to associate the movement of the paw with the treat reward.
Manual Dexterity Method
This method works best for dogs that tend to use their paws to get something out of reach. Use this method if your dog paws at his toys or at you for attention.
- Show your dog you have a treat in the open palm of the hand and then close your fist so that it covers the treat.
- Wave your closed fist close to the dog’s nose so to tease him to get it. This should build motivation and a bit of frustration.
- Wait for your dog to use his paws to try to get the treat out of your hand.
- The moment your dog paws at your hand, mark it with a verbal marker such as “yes!” or a click of the clicker and then immediately give the treat.
- Practice several times so the behavior becomes more fluent and your dog should soon be on his way to shake more and more.
- Always start training in a quiet area with little distractions.
- Once the dog successfully paws several times in a row, the command “shake” can be added right before showing the closed fist with the treat or right before touching the paw to lift it. Repetition after repetition, the dog should start responding to the command alone and there will be no longer the need to touch the paw or hide the treat in the hand.
- Always be patient and calm. If you feel like you’re getting frustrated, take a break.
Dogs that don’t seem much enthusiastic about learning may just need higher value treats. Try using chicken, string cheese or freeze-dried liver.
If your dog shakes well at home, but then on walks refuses to shake, it could be there are too many distractions going on. It is best to add distractions gradually. Start in the home, then in the yard, then in a quiet area on walks, and then on walks with distractions.
Many dogs that learn to give paw may soon start using it to ask for attention. To prevent this form of attention-seeking behavior, it’s important to not reward the pawing behavior with any attention unless you have specifically asked for the dog to shake.
If your dog tends to wander off when you are trying to train him, put him on a leash.
There’s no shadow of doubt that the shake command is fun to watch and leaves an endearing impression on those who observe it. If you want to entertain your friends and make your dog to look extra smart, once he’s very good at the shake command, you can also train him to shake using the other paw, by teaching it in the same way.