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teach dog to shake

The essentials

  • Almost any dog can learn how to shake No matter their size or breed, this is one trick your pup can pick up easily.
  • You can use the treat or the clicker method Both training methods are effective. Just pick one so you’re consistent.
  • Training is great for bonding Teaching your dog tricks helps to keep your pet mentally stimulated and strengthens your bond.

Teaching your dog tricks is a fun way to grow a bond and can be beneficial for more than showing off to your friends and family. From the basics of “sit” and “stay” to more advanced commands like “rollover” or “play dead”, any dog can learn something new with a little practice.

Want to teach your pup to shake on command? Here’s what to know. 

Things to consider before the training session

A good plan goes a long way. Before we jump into the exact steps needed for this training session, you’ll want to establish a clear plan of attack. 

Pick the right location — The environment is key during dog training. It’s best to start inside without distractions so your dog is comfortable and has an easier time focusing on you. 

Have the basics down — Before you begin, make sure you’ve taught your dog how to sit. It’ll be much easier for them to shake a paw when they don’t have to balance on three legs to do it. 

Patience is key — Practice over multiple, short sessions. Don’t expect too much on the first attempt. Some dogs learn slowly, and that’s okay.

Choose your method of reward — Some dogs are highly food-motivated while others prefer verbal praise. Or, if you clicker-train your dog, you can use a marker sound instead.

Teaching your dog to shake hands in 7 easy steps

You’ll only need about 10 minutes for your first session. Grab your reward of choice and bring a fun, relaxed energy to help your pup focus.

1. Have your dog sit 

Remember, it’ll be easier for your dog to shake if they’re sitting. When they sit on their haunches, they can lift their paw without changing their position.

2. Entice them with a treat

You’ll need your dog’s attention, and nothing captivates them more than food (or a favorite toy). 

Grab a high-reward treat (a treat or type of food your dog goes crazy for) to make sure they’ll be extra excited to learn. Keep the treat in a closed fist.

Pro tip: If you’re meeting resistance in the early stages, it’s probably because your dog doesn’t value the treat you’re using enough. Find a more enticing treat, or try a beloved squeaky toy. Different dogs are motivated by different things. 

3. Act out the command

Now it’s time to show your pup what you want from them: Simply lift their paw in the “shake” motion and mark it with the command. After some repetition, you can start to hold out your hand and give the command, waiting for them to lift their own paw rather than picking it up for them. If they don’t catch on right away, keep up with the repetition in a few different short sessions.

Eventually, they’ll understand that you’re asking them to give you their paw when you say “Shake!” and hold out your hand, and they’ll start to do it on their own.

4. Bring in the second paw

Once your pup has the first paw down pat, it’s time to work the other paw in. This is best done — at least at first — by matching your hand to your dog’s paw (e.g. reach for the paw that’s directly in front of each hand).

You can use the same hand if you choose to, but be sure to place it directly in front of the paw you want your dog to shake. Also consider using a different command, such as “other paw” or “left and right” to differentiate between the two for your dog.

5. Raise the difficulty level

Once your pooch masters the shake at home, it’s time to raise the difficulty level. Slowly introduce different distractions. For instance, you might want to transition to the yard. Then, maybe the park. Try the trick when you have company over. Eventually, let a friend step in to have your dog perform the trick with them. 

By testing your dog in gradually more challenging situations, you’ll give your canine friend the reinforcement and confidence to remember this trick in the long term.

6. Replace the treat

As your dog becomes accomplished in this trick, you’ll want to phase out the treat. 

If they’re exclusively taught to do a trick for a treat, you’ll either need pockets full of treats all the time, or your dog will learn to only do tricks if they see that you have a treat. 

The calories in those treats can also add up during trick training and we want to keep our pups healthy. So it’s better to phase out the constant flow of treats and continue by rewarding your dog with verbal praise and pets and breaking out treats sporadically.

7. Continue practicing

This lesson will always be with your dog to some degree, but as the adage goes, use it or lose it. Your dog will do best with this trick if they’re asked to do it regularly. 

You should also know that this trick is a helpful one. Not only can it help the two of you bond, but it’s also useful for trimming your dog’s nails or examining an injured paw.

This basic system works and embeds the learned behavior well.

Dr. Bruce Armstrong

betterpet DVM

Frequently asked questions

Is it hard to teach a dog to shake?

No, typically not, but keep in mind that every dog is different. It could take your dog one session to learn it while another dog may take a handful of sessions to grasp it. Just be patient and go at your dog’s speed 

What age should a dog be before you teach them to shake?

It’s best to wait until a puppy is at least eight weeks old. However, it may be more productive to wait until they’re 10 or even 12 weeks old. 

Can old dogs learn new tricks?

It’s never too late for older dogs to learn new tricks. Learning fun tricks is an exciting way for older dogs to earn rewards and feel a boost in their energy and connection with you.

What is the number-one rule in dog training?

Bring patience and positivity! If you’re taking training too seriously, keeping your expectations too high, or bringing a negative attitude, you’ll only hurt your efforts to train your dog — and you could hurt your relationship with them.