How To Teach Your Dog To Shake Hands

Teaching your dog to “shake hands” is so much fun! This trick is simple and easy for most dogs to learn if approached correctly. Plus, you don’t need to actually pick up your dog’s paw to teach him to do this. All you need are a supply of high value treats and your hand.

Ok so let’s begin by having your dog sit in front of you.

Hold a treat in your hand and close your fingers around it. Then hold your hand out in front of your dog.

Allow your dog to respond however he wants. At this point don’t give any verbal cues. Just keep your hand there and let him sniff your hand or lick it. At some point, your dog will lift his paw and place it on your hand.

As soon as he does this, immediately praise him, open your hand and allow him to take the treat. Again, no verbal cue is introduced. 

Then repeat this several times until your dog consistently paws at your hand when you hold it in front of him.

Now you want to start slowly increasing the length of time your dog’s paw is in contact with your hand before praising him and giving him the treat. 

You should practice this for five minutes, two or three times a day.

When he is doing this consistently, now it’s time to introduce the verbal cue, “shake.”

Here’s how you do it: Hold out your hand, and just before your dog’s paw touches your hand, say “shake.” 

At this point, you can transfer the treat over to the other hand and when your dog successfully contacts your hand you can reward him with the treat you are now holding in your other hand. Eventually you can phase out the treat entirely or reward him with it only occasionally to reinforce the behavior.

Once your dog is making good contact with your hand, you can begin to move your hand up and down in a shaking motion. At this point, you can bring in a friend and see if the behavior is “proofed” meaning that it’s transferable to another person. 

Now you dog is prepared to greet visitors when you give the command “shake.” Fun!

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By Ellen Britt

Dr. Ellen Britt has loved dogs since she was a child. She is particularly fond of the Northern breeds, especially Alaskan Malamutes. Ellen worked as a PA in Emergency and Occupational Medicine for two decades and holds a doctorate (Ed.D.) in biology.

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