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Cool Dog Trick - "Take A Bow"

Take a bow is a very cool dog trick to teach your puppy.

The "bow" is not only a fun dog trick but it also has a worthwhile practical application as well. When your dog is in the bow position other dogs interpret this as being a submissive posture and one that encourages play. This is great if the tension between two dogs needs to be eased. Also, if you have any people around who may be a little nervous at the sight of your dog then a well timed "take a bow" can work wonders at putting them at ease.

Most of all the take a bow dog trick is simply a fun trick that is very appropriate to finish off any "performance" by your dog. What performer doesn't finish off a great show by bowing to his/her adoring fans?


How To Teach "Take A Bow"

There are two excellent methods for teaching a solid and reliable "take a bow". When deciding which method is going to best suit you, always keep your dog in mind. Try to make it easy for your dog and work with his/her natural traits, instincts and behaviors.

Technique 1: Capturing
In order to utilize this first technique your dog must already naturally perform the behavior you wish to put on cue. In this case it would mean that your dog stretches out into a bow like position when he/she wakes from a nap.

If you have a dog that naturally stretches out into the "take a bow" position (like my Whippet, Pocky) all you need to do is capture/pinpoint the stretch by marking it with a "click" and then reinforce it by tossing a tasty treat to your dog. This will ensure that your dog offers the "bow" more often, at which time you can begin to put it on verbal cue.

Technique 2: Targeting / Luring
This is the method I used in the video below to teach my Shih-Tzu, Macy the "Take A Bow". Using a target stick and dog training clicker you slowly build the trick/behavior piece by piece using baby steps. Then when we have the behavior established we attach our verbal cue to it.

Take A Bow Step-by-Step

Below is an example of the step by step way we put the "take a bow" dog trick together. It may take you and your dog a few days or even a few weeks to work your way through the following steps. Eventually you'll have it on cue - ready to be called upon anytime the both of you wish to "show off" in front of your friends. It doesn't matter how long it takes to perfect the trick - tricks are purely for fun, it is not a race.

As with all new tricks or behaviors we start out by making it very simple for our dogs and then slowly, one by one we add new variables in order to get closer to the completed/finished behavior.

Step 1:
With your dog standing in front of you take the target stick from the level of your dog's nose and move it towards the floor. If your dog follows the stick down at all you should immediately click and treat the movement.

Step 2:
Continue repeating step 1 but now you should only click and treat your dog when his/her elbows bend a little and move down toward the floor. Don't worry about your dog's back legs at this stage.

Step 3:
To earn a click and treat your dog must now bend his elbows until they touch the floor. Even a very quick or slight touch is good enough to begin with. Just make sure that your timing of the "click" is precise - remember that the "click" marks the behavior in your dog's mind that you want repeated.

Step 4:
Now you should only click and treat your dog when his/her elbows are touching the floor and his back legs are standing tall. If he collapses into the "down" position he does not earn a treat. See troubleshooting below if your dog continues to collapse his back legs.

Step 5:
Now we add some duration to the process. Continue as you have been in step 4 only now you withhold the click and treat for a second or two. Your dog will stay in the "Take A Bow" position until he hears the click. Build this duration slowly over a few training sessions - mix it up, keep your dog guessing.

Step 6:
Now that you have the basic behavior and your dog can hold the position for at least a few seconds you should begin to attach your cue word. I use "stretch" but you can use whatever you like including "take a bow". Simply say your cue "stretch" immediately before you proceed just as you have been in the previous steps. The process goes like this, say "stretch" then immediately move the target stick down, then click and treat as normal. You are building an association in your dog's mind between your cue "stretch" and the act of getting into the "take a bow" position.

Step 7:
It's now time to fade the use of the target stick and rely more heavily on your verbal cue. Do this by shortening the stick, taking it away as soon as your dog is getting into the bow position and by making smaller less obvious movements with it. Watch the video above for a clearer illustration of this process in action.

Step 8:
Now take the target stick away completely. Your dog should now be getting into the "take a bow" position on verbal cue only. It may take a while for your dog to make the leap from following the target stick to responding solely to your verbal cue. Keep practicing!!

Step 9:
Now that the "take a bow" behavior is established in its basic form and you have it on cue, you can fade out the use of the clicker and treats (remember that if you do "click" you must always treat!). Do some repetitions where you are click and treating and then some that go untreated - once again, mix it up.

Step 10:
You should pretty much be set by now, all you need to do is take your show on the road! Practice in different locations and with a wide variety of distractions around you. This will ensure that wherever you are and whatever is happening around you, your dog will always respond to your "take a bow" cue. Note: Dogs don't generalize well, they need to be taught the same behavior in each different location and with different circumstances at play.


If You Like Positive, Reward Based Training Methods,
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Potential Problems / Troubleshooting

  • The most common problem you are likely to encounter when teaching this dog trick is that your dog's back legs will continue to collapse when you require them to stand tall. This can be addressed by:

    • When your dog performs a bow (or part of one) "click" it to mark the desired behavior and immediately toss the treat away from your dog. This will get your dog into the habit of not collapsing into the "down" position to accept and eat his treat. Instead he will keep his back legs extended in anticipation of setting off after the treat. When your dog comes back to you after collecting the treat he is now standing in the perfect position in front of you to begin his next repetition (not lying there looking up at you which often happens).

    • If the above method does not stop your dog from collapsing his back legs, try this. When your dog is standing in front of you ready to practice some "Take A Bows" place a rolled up towel just in front of his back feet under his belly. This will prevent him from collapsing all the way down to the floor. Most dogs will stand tall at the back in order to prevent their belly coming into contact with the towel. For small dogs you can simply put your hand under your dog's belly - this should produce the same result.

  • Don't move through the steps too quickly. If your dog is ever confused and seems to be "losing his way" you will need to make it easier for your dog by going back a step or two, until he is comfortable and confident again.

  • When teaching any new dog trick or behavior it is important to keep training sessions short, sharp and always fun.

  • When you are building any new behavior (such as the "Take A Bow") you should only introduce one new variable / requirement per session. For example while working through the steps outlined above you would not try to add duration to the procees at the same time you attempt to add your verbal cue word.

  • Whilst it's important not to work your way too quickly through the steps it's also just as crucial to not go too slowly. Keep a close eye on your dog's progress and continue to stimulate and challenge him/her throughout the training process. If you progress too slowly through the steps you run the risk of your dog becoming bored and frustrated.

Good luck with your dog trick training. In my experience teaching tricks is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding activities you can do with your dog.







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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.