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Shake-a-Paw Dog Trick

The Shake-a-Paw dog trick is loads of fun, and best of all it's quick and easy to learn.

The goal is to have your dog appear to shake your hand at your verbal (or visual) request. It's a great trick to show off in front of your friends and once you've mastered it, you can move on to some more advanced "paw" dog tricks.

What You'll Need When Teaching Shake-a-Paw

  1. A training clicker.

  2. Some of your dog's very favorite treats which will provide the motivation for your dog. In the video below I use small pieces of cheese which my Shih-Tzu Macy loves.

  3. A dog who has been "clicker charged"


Building The Shake-a-Paw Dog Trick

The shake-a-paw can be put together in a number of ways. You can use targeting, capturing, free shaping, luring and more... but to be honest, you don't need to understand what any of these terms mean. The shake-a-paw is a relatively straight forward dog trick to learn - there's no need to over-complicate the process.

If your dog already uses his/her paw for activities such as playing with a ball or pawing at you to give him/her a belly rub, then teaching the shake-a-paw will be very simple.

Shake A Paw Dog Trick Step-by-Step

Basically we start out with a very simple first step, which will be easy for our dog's to learn. We then slowly progress and build upon this first step until we have the complete behavior.

It took me and Macy a couple of days to work our way through the following steps. It may take you and your dog a little longer, but who cares, you'll be having fun anyway. If at any time the following steps are unclear simply go back and watch the video again.

NOTE: Depending on you and your dog, you may be better off starting at Step 2 rather than Step 1. You know your dog better than anyone, so it's your call.

Step 1
With your willing dog sitting in front of you grab his/her paw, hold it for a second then click and immediately give the treat. Repeat this many times over a few short, sharp training sessions.

Your goal with this first step is to clearly demonstrate to your dog the behavior you are looking for. It will get your dog familiar with picking up his paw and placing it in your hand.

Step 2
We now build on the first step, but with less prompting now. This may seem like a step backwards to you, but I can assure you it's not.

Don't grab your dog's paw now. Try to get him to move his paw by tapping his leg or patting the floor in front of him. Even a slight movement of the paw is worthy of a click and treat at this stage. The timing of the click is important, you should aim to "click" just as your dog's paw begins to show any sign of movement.

Continue to practice this step until your dog offers his paw each time you place your hand down in front of him.

Step 3
Now we've got the basic behavior we want and your dog is performing it with a high level of reliability, we can add our cue word to it. I use "shake" but you can use whatever word you desire - just pick a word and stick to it.

All you do is say "shake" a split second before lowering your hand down in front of your dog's paw (the same as you have been doing in Step 2). This step will build an association in your dog's mind between you saying "shake" and the act of him picking up his paw and placing it in your hand.

Step 4
Your dog should now be offering his paw as soon as you say "shake" and present your hand. The basic behavior has been learned, so now it's time to fade the clicker and the treats. Do this slowly over a number of short training sessions. Continue to click and treat sometimes and other times with-hold the click and treat. Remember if you do "click" you must produce a treat - that's the deal you have struck with your dog, don't break it.

Fade the clicker and treats over a number of repetitions until your dog is comfortable and compliant without the clicker being in your hand.

Step 5
You're pretty much done now. All you have to do is polish the trick up a bit and strengthen it, this is sometimes called "proofing".

Some of the things you can do to proof the shake-a-paw are:

  • Take your trick on the road. Practice in different locations with different distractions at play.

  • You can now teach your dog to shake with his other paw if you choose.

  • You can drop your visual cue (outstretching your hand) now and rely solely on your verbal cue word.

  • The shake-a-paw dog trick can be used as the foundation for teaching other paw tricks such as the "high five" or "wave".

  • For more specific information about clicker training, check out this great resource.




Some other pages you may be interested in:

Learn some more cool dog tricks.

What is the best dog food to provide to your dog for optimal health, wellbeing and longevity?

Why is clicker training so effective and my very favorite dog training method?



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Please consult the services of a Professional Dog Trainer, Behaviorist or Veterinarian before implementing any of the advice contained on this site.