How To Teach Dogs To Shake Hands: 7 Quick And Easy Steps

Do you ever feel that your dog has some hidden talents that you just don’t know yet? Well, you’re lucky. In this article, I’ll give a step-by-step approach on how to teach dogs to shake.

One of the simple tricks that you can teach your dog is how to shake hands. Aside from impressing your friends, this technique is helpful if you want your dog to shake paws with visitors rather than jump at them. If you’re ready, let’s get started.

Why Dogs Like To Shake Hands?

Dogs are naturally pawsy. They use paws to move something or gain access to anything. Training a dog to shake hands is therefore quite easy because it promotes a natural, inherent behavior.

Your dog may also give you his paw once he discovers that gets a treat right after the action. According to psychologist Edward Thorndike , any behavior that’s followed by a good result is likely to be repeated. This means if each time your dog extends his paw to you, he gets attention, praises, and treats.

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Sometimes the pawing behavior of dogs can get out of hand. To keep this kind of behavior in check, give a verbal cue. If your dog extends his paw off cue, suppress or ignore by leaving or getting up.

Now learning how to shake can open a window to many possible training opportunities. You can teach your dog some more challenging tricks, like wave, high five, and salute. The sky’s the limit to take advantage of the pawsy behavior of dogs.

What You’ll Need

Treats


You’ll need to prepare some treats to reward your dog when he shakes. Bite-sized treats, like this one , are great for training because they’re easier to chew and don’t contain too many extra calories. You don’t want to overfeed your dog, so you need to keep the treat sizes as small as possible.

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In selecting the treats, consider your dog’s preferences in texture: does he love soft or hard treats? What flavor does your dog respond more obediently? Figure them out and have them available for training.

You can try making your own treats if you’re iffy about commercial brands. What I usually use are small pieces of cooked meat, fruits, or even vegetables. You can change up the treats once in a while to keep him interested.

Pouch


You’ll need a pouch where you can keep the treats. There’s actually a commercial pouch meant for dog treats, like this one. What’s good about this type of pouch is it can hold a generous amount of treats and dog accessories.

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If you can’t find a dog treat training pouch anywhere, you can wear a jacket or shirt with pockets. Make sure that the pockets are deep so they can carry plenty of treats. You can also use any small bag that you have at home.

Canine Friend


Obviously, you need a canine friend to perform this simple shake hand trick. Your dog needs to have one front paw at least in order to perform this trick. Just like humans, dogs have paw preferences: he can be left-handed or right-handed.

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Since pawing is a natural instinct for dogs, any breed can be taught to shake. In general, puppies are more receptive to learn new things, but old dogs can also be receptive given the proper motivation. As compared to confident dogs, shy or nervous dogs might be more difficult to train, but it’s not impossible.

The only way your dog can perform this trick is if he’s sitting. If your pet doesn’t know how to do the basic sit command, then you may need to teach him first. Since you’ll be feeding him treats, it’s best that you perform the training when he’s hungry.

Time


You’ll need 5-10 minutes every day to teach your dog this trick. Spending more than 10 minutes will probably get both of you frustrated and tired. You can tell that your dog is already frustrated if he looks away or won’t accept any treats.

Teaching your dogs to shake hands should be fun, not frustrating. The only way that your dog can learn is to do the trick in several repetitions. Before you know it, your dog will be shaking hands after several weeks of training.

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A Quiet Place To Work


To keep the focus of your dog when training, choose a quiet place to work. You want to find a place that has fewer distractions as possible. An indoor space in your home may be great.

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When training, turn off devices, such as televisions, radios, and phones. You want the attention of your dog to be focused on you and not on anything else. As possible, keep other animals and children away from the room because they can distract the attention of your dog.

Patience And Other Traits


For the success of this trick, you’ll need all the patience you have. Your dog can’t learn this trick overnight. Your dog needs several days or even months to master this command, so be patient with the progress of your dog and don’t get frustrated if he doesn’t learn the command right away.

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Consistency is another trait that you must have. You should apply the same rules, commands, and rewards to your dog. Resist the urge to provide treats when your dog hasn’t performed the trick successfully.

A little acting can also go a long way for the success of this training. For starters, you shouldn’t conduct the training session in a bad mood because your dog might interpret it as his own doing. When your dog performs the trick successfully, act really happy to boost his confidence.


Step-By-Step Instructions

1

Get Your Dog In A Sitting Position

In a quiet place in your room, get your dog to sit in front of you. Get down to your dog’s level so you won’t be hovering over him. If your dog doesn’t know how to obey the sit command, teach him first from this video.

Once your dog has sat down, don’t give him a reward just yet. Your goal here is to teach him how to shake, not sit.

2

Show The Treat In Front To Your Dog

With your dog sitting down and you kneeling or squatting in front of him, get a treat from your pouch or pocket. Grab the treat between your palm and thumb. Get his attention by bringing the treat in front of his nose.

Once you have your dog’s attention, enclosed the treat around your fist. You can allow your dog to sniff on the treat on your closed hand. If your dog tries to stand, command him to sit. Never let your dog grab the treat from your hand.

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3

Introduce the Verbal Cue

Now create a verbal cue to initiate the trick. Say the command while holding the treat in your fist. You can use “Shake” or “Paw”, but I prefer the former. In general, a one-word command is ideal as it can easily be registered in the mind of your dog.

Once you selected the command, be consistent with it because changing it will confuse your dog. If you have used the word “shake”, say it the entire course of your dog training. Don’t say “paw” to confuse your dog even more.

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You should say the verbal cue loud so your dog can hear it clearly. Give the command at the precise moment that dog shakes your hand. If your dog doesn’t offer his paw to you, try again until he does.

4

Reward Your Dog

Once your dog learns that you have the treat in your fist, he’ll try to take it from you. If he lifts his paw even slightly or even fidget a little, say “Yes” enthusiastically and reward him right away with the treat and praises, like “good boy”.

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What if your dog won’t move at all? In this case, you’ll have to show him what shake means by taking his elbow of his front leg and lift it off the ground. Be gentle and hold the paw for several seconds. Follow with a treat and give him lots of praises.

Repeat steps 1 to 4 until your dog can reliably lift his paw when you say “Shake”. This may take several days or even weeks. Remember to be patient and keep the training session 5-10 minutes only to prevent frustrations.

5

Test The Trick Without The Treat

By this time your dog should be shaking your hand each time he sees your hand with the treat. If the response is not yet consistent, do more repetitions until the behavior is totally automatic.

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Once your dog offers his paw on command automatically, you can start removing the treat in your closed hand. Test the reaction of your dog if you offer your hand without the treat and say the verbal cue. If he still gives his paw, reward him with a treat, but this time do it on the other hand and praise him enthusiastically.

6

Try With An Open Hand

After your dog gives his paw consistently without a visible treat, it’s time to take the training to another level. Start by offering your hand palm up towards your dog and say the verbal cue. Wait for him to extend his paw to shake on your open hand and give the reward on the other hand.

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Don’t forget to give him lots of praises to reinforce the behavior positively. Again, repeat this step over and over again until your dog can shake your open hand consistently.

7

Reduce The Treats

Now it’s time to reduce the treat rewards. You can begin by giving the rewards every other time he performs the shake command. If your dog can still perform the trick consistently, you can reduce the treats even further. Don’t eliminate the treats entirely because you still need them occasionally to reinforce the behavior.

If you like to get an idea n how to teach dogs to shake, watch this video.

Pro Tips

    • If you’re confident that your dog has mastered the shake command, try it in different situations. Try it in a place with distractions, like parks or in a room with children. The more diverse the situations, the more ingrained the trick will become in your dog’s mind.

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    • If your dog still won’t respond to the shake command, you can raise his front paw by lightly tapping the back of your dog’s paw with your pointer finger. The gentle pressure will immediately let your dog pick up his front paw to move away. As soon as your dog starts to bend his front foot, sweep it gently with your hand and pick up his paw.

    • Keep the training fun for both of you. You can get everyone involved including your family. Remember to be consistent with the command and the rewards. To keep the interest of your dog, you can use mixed up different rewards, like toys, walks, and food.

    • Don’t get angry if your dog doesn’t obey the command right away. You want to be firm, but not harsh.

Final Thought

Did you enjoy learning how to teach dogs to shake? At first, it would be really frustrating but as you keep repeating it, you’ll be surprised how your dog can respond to the verbal cue real quick. For this training to succeed, you really need to be patient.

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In my experience, I was able to teach my dog to shake hands consistently in about a month. The first days were really challenging but as you practice it over and over again, your dog can pick up on the command right away. Once you see your dog reacts to the command automatically, it can really be a good source of pride.

If you have tried teaching your dog to shake with these steps, let us know the outcomes in the comments section. You can also share this article with your friends if you like it.

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