How to teach your dog to shake

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This is an oldie but a goodie. One of the simplest tricks you can teach your dog to do is to shake, give a High Five, give me five or whatever you would like to call it.  This is an especially fun trick for the kids in the house to teach the dog, and it makes for excellent bonding time.

  • Start by having some high-value treats [psst, we have some over at doggyloot], not the usual dry, biscuit type most of us give our dogs.  Chicken or something like a soft liver treat works well.
  • Have your dog sit. You can progress to doing this while standing later if you choose.
  • Holding a small piece of the treat in your clenched hand, show the dog the palm side of your hand (still clenched), close to the dog’s nose.  The reason for keeping your hand clenched is to prevent the dog from getting the treat too early, which would reinforce the wrong behavior.  Your dog will sniff and lick and try to get the treat from your hand but just be patient and stay in the same position.
  • As soon as your dog lifts his paw off the ground, say “good.” Or, if you want to use a clicker, this would be the time to click.
  • Open your hand and let him have the treat.  Do this a few times and then don’t give him the verbal praise or food reward until he hits your hand with his paw.  Now mark with “good” or click and give the treat.
  • After doing this a few times, repeat but put a name to it “shake” or “high five.”
  • When you think your dog has it down-pat, try it with an empty hand and then treat.
  • Practice this for a few days then start to be inconsistent with giving a treat so he doesn’t only work for food!   If you’re really adventurous, you can turn this behavior into a wave by distancing yourself and shaping the behavior in the same manner but don’t treat until the dog “waves” his paw multiple times.

This is a great way to have fun with your dog and tire him out! Five or 10 minutes of mental exercise is worth about one hour of physical exercise!  If you let the kids in the house teach this trick, it will allow them to teach other tricks now that they know how to “shape” the action.  Happy shaking and enjoy!

Maureen Henderson is a a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and a registered nurse who trains in the Tampa Bay, Florida area.  She volunteers at the SPCA TampaBay and Florida Boxer Rescue.  Maureen owns five dogs: an 11-year-old lab/chow mix, a one-year-old boxer, a four-year-old and a five-year-old old chihuahua and a four-year-old xoloitzcuintle (who just finished shooting a commercial for Kahlua!) She is the owner of Sit, Down,Stay Dog training where she does private, in-home training and behavior modification.

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