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How to teach your dog to give a paw and shake your hand

Border Collie giving its paw advice

Here is how to teach your dog to give its paw and shake your hand

© Shutterstock

Are you trying out new commands and easy-to-learn tricks with your pup? One of the best tricks you can teach your dog is to give a paw and shake your hand. It will certainly impress your friends and family.

By Dawn Parrish

Why teach your dog "paw"?

If you have a new dog in the family, it’s understandable that you want to train him so that he understands some basic commands. The first routine you will probably teach him is to “sit” to your command. Once he has mastered this action, it's time to move onto something rather more entertaining. How cute is it when you see a dog reaching out his paw to ‘shake’ someone’s hand? Training a dog to give a paw will also teach him to remain focused during his training session. Bear in mind though - this trick is so charming, your friends will ask your dog to repeat it many times.

Before your training session begins

First of all, you need to ensure that your dog understands the command “sit”. This will make the whole process a lot easier. Try to carry out your pup’s training in a quiet place, well away from other doggy distractions.

Want to know how to teach your dog to sit?
Dog gets a treat
Reward your dog with a treat©Pixabay

Step 1: Put your hand out for your pooch

Now that your pup has mastered the “sit” command you can move onto teaching him to shake your hand. Have him in a sitting position directly in front of you. Hold out your hand towards his leg and see how he reacts. If he lifts his paw and places it onto your hand, say “paw” and reward this with a treat. However, if he fails to give you his paw, and attempts to sniff your hand or perform some other action instead, give the training session a break for a few minutes. Next time, touch his paw with your other hand and see whether he reacts differently. If he does succeed, say “paw” and reward him. Repeat this action until your pup realises that each time he does give you a paw, he will be rewarded.

Step 2: Repeat and reward

Continue a repetition of Step 1 several times. Repeat this action until your pooch places his paw into your hand without encouragement. Now it’s time to see if he has remembered the routine. This time don’t reach out and touch his paw. Speak the “paw” command, hold out your hand and he should place his paw into your palm. Of course, at this point certainly, praise him and give him a treat. Likewise, don’t speak the verbal instruction until you are certain that your dog grasps the need for the “behaviour”. It is important to reward immediately he holds out his paw. You need to reinforce this behaviour and you only have a time slot of a few seconds.

Teach your dog to give a paw
Speak the paw command and then reward with a treat©Pixabay

Step 3: Teach your dog to shake with both paws!

If your dog is unsure of any part of this routine, remember repetition is the key. It’s vital that you remain calm and consistent, so as not to confuse your pet.

Don’t feel discouraged if your pet doesn’t catch on right away. It may take several attempts for him to understand how ‘giving a paw’ works. But this routine isn’t particularly difficult to teach. If you are training your pet well away from other distractions, he will pick it up eventually, as long as you persevere.

After your dog has mastered this trick, you can move onto the next stage of the routine. Teach him to give you his other paw by offering him your other hand, and holding a treat of course. You will find this task much easier if you use a different cue word for each paw. Alternative command words could be “Hand” or “Shake”. Any tricks you teach your dog should be part of playtime too. Your pet should not just be motivated by the treat reward but also by the thrill and excitement of learning a fun new task.