Teach Your Dog to Shake Paws

| Jasey Day

Teaching your dog to shake offers your dog mental stimulation, coordination, and bodily awareness. Explore tips and tricks for teaching a dog to shake paws!

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A classic dog trick is “the shake.” Dogs can learn to shake with all four paws – even their back paws! All you’ll need is a naming convention. The easiest thing to remember is numbers, and I use one and two for the front paws and three and four for the back paws (dog’s right and left, respectively).

Step-By-Step: How to Teach a Dog to Give a Paw

The first thing to do is grab some dog treats. Say “Yes” to mark each time your dog earns a treat, and follow that word by inserting a treat into your pooch’s mouth. The “Yes” will bridge the time gap. You won’t be able to get a treat into the dog’s mouth the second they move their paw just an inch off the ground.

Although there are a few ways to teach the shake, my favorite is gentle manipulation. That means we are going to touch our dog and be slightly annoying.

Basic Commands

Have your dog face you. Ensure your dog is relaxed, either in a sit or stand (not a “Stay” position). 

Your Dog Understands the Verbal Cue

Reach toward one of their front paws with an empty hand – do not have treats in this hand, or your dog will sniff it. If your dog lifts their paw on their own, say “Yes” and give them a treat.

Start to Incorporate Your Dog’s Paws

Tap the underside of their metacarpals multiple times -- you’ll be tapping almost toward yourself and slightly upward. The force of your tapping will not be enough to physically lift the dog’s paw, but it is enough to inspire a reaction. When your dog chooses to raise their paw an inch, say “Yes” and offer a treat. Repeat this several times. Again, you are not forcefully moving the dog’s paw off the ground – you’re just acting slightly obnoxious, so the dog lifts the paw on their own.

Teaching Your Dog to Shake

Begin saying your command word (“1” or “2”) for the front paw before you reach for the paw. Tap until the dog lifts their paw on their own, say “Yes” while the paw is in the air, and then offer a treat.

  • Eventually, your dog will realize that they earn a treat and lift their paw after you say the command, but before you tap!

  • Give multiple treats in a row, called "jackpotting," for that breakthrough.

  • After that, you’ll start treating paw lifts without taps for that paw and you’ll jackpot for the higher lifts.

  • Over time, raise your criteria so that your dog must lift a paw high enough for you to catch it to earn a treat.

  • You’ll say “Yes” when the dog places the paw in your hand.

After you’ve mastered the front paws, it’s time for the back paws. Start with your dog standing and facing you. You again do the tappity-tap toward yourself on their lower metatarsals. When they lift their back foot, you’ll say “Yes” and offer a treat. Continue with the instructions in step four above.

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Shake Hands with the Back Paws

The back paws generally take longer for the dog to learn. You may want to work on this daily for a few weeks before it finally starts to click. Be patient!

  • If your dog is backing away from you when you reach toward their back paws, get them comfortable with you handling them.

  • First, try touching your dog’s front shoulder. If they remain still, say “Yes,” and offer a treat. Then move to the rib cage. Then to the back thigh.

  • Next, gradually move your hand down the back leg an inch at a time, saying “Yes” and treating if they don’t move backward in excitement or hesitation.

  • If your dog moves away, it means you made it too difficult, and you need to return to the last spot that didn’t make them shy away.

  • Then, move just half an inch and keep acclimatizing your dog to the process slowly.

  • Eventually, your dog won’t back away when you reach for their back foot. Now, it’s time to start tapping!

Benefits of Teaching a Dog to Shake

Teaching your dog to shake with their back paws creates abdominal strength, enhances balance, and makes your pup aware that they have back feet, also known as “rear end awareness.” Many canines go through life primarily focusing on their front legs, without rear-end awareness. Even if you don’t do formal dog sports like agility, teaching your dog to do “the shake” with their back paws can create a lot of smiles from other humans.

Extra Credit = High Five Command

You can transition the shake command for the front paws into a “high-five.” Gradually change the angle of your hand from fingers pointed down to fingers pointed up with your palm still facing the dog. Say “Yes” when your dog touches your hand with their paw and offer a treat.

For added learning fun, check out our blogs on turning left and rightpouting, and the nose touch.

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Get prize-winning care for your pets.

GET A QUOTE
jasey-day
Jasey Day

Jasey Day holds the Certified Canine Fitness Trainer (CCFT) credential through the University of Tennessee. She is a member of the Bobbie Lyons K9FITteam - a team of compassionate canine fitness instructors who actively teach others and continually expand their own knowledge. Since 2004, Jasey has taught a variety of workshops and classes on the following: Puppy, Canine Good Citizen/Family Pet, Advanced Family Pet, Canine Fitness, Canine Swimming, Rally, and Agility. In addition, Jasey has earned over 60 titles in Dock Diving, Agility, Rally, CGC and Trick Dog. Jasey has worked full time for the American Kennel Club since 2007 and teaches at Care First Animal Hospital in Raleigh, NC. Jasey’s Labrador Retrievers spend their free time hiking, training, and snuggling with Jasey.

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