How to Teach Your Dog to Shake

Teaching your dog to shake is a great party trick and one that is easily taught. You can even get the kids involved.

Most children over the age of 7 years can be taught basic training techniques and in fact many children are more persistent than adults when it comes to training the family pet!

What do you need?

  • Patience
  • 1 dog preferably with at least 1 front paw
  • Small tasty treats that don’t take long to chew (use something high value such as bbq chicken or liver treats if your dog is hard to motivate, or train when he is hungry)
  • Just 5 minutes each day

Steps to Teach ‘Shake’

  1. Assuming your dog can sit, the first step is to get him in position.
  2. Hold a treat in your hand and show him the treat (it may be useful to have the remaining treats easy to access in a pouch or pocket), then close your fist over the treat.
  3. Hold the treat, in your closed fist close to his foot, about 5cm off the ground.
  4. If your dog stands up, ask him to sit again.
  5. If your dog lifts his paw even a little, or even shifts weight onto the other paw, tell him he is a good boy and give him the treat.
  6. Most dogs will bat at your hand to get the treat, so as soon as this happens open your hand to reveal the treat and tell him ‘good’ or ‘yes’, whatever your signal is for doing the right thing.
  7. At the same time your other hand should be held out flat to ‘shake’ when your dog lifts his paw, so you can grab his paw while he takes the treat.
  8. Reward him immediately he does the correct thing, even if he only lifts his foot a little bit the first time.
  9. When he is reliably lifting his paw for a treat, add the word ‘shake’.
  10. Gradually phase out the treats, so he only gets a treat intermittently once you are sure he knows the trick.

Hints and Tips

  • Only practice for 5-10 minutes every day, any longer and you will both get tired and frustrated.
  • Always end on a positive note, if you are getting frustrated and your dog isn’t ‘getting it’, go back to a trick he does know and reward him for that.
  • Avoid treats that need to be chewed for long periods, or you will spend most of your time watching him eat.
  • Clicker training is another great way to shape behaviours like ‘shake’ (link to clicker training article).
  • If you have a particularly stubborn dog, this is another way to teach ‘shake’.