How to Train Your Dog to Shake Hands

List: Posted: 09/01/11

A dog that knows how to shake hands is an impressive trick. People use their hands to communicate and connect, so when a dog offers their paw, people have an automatic connection with them. You don't need to take your dog to dog obedience classes.  You can try this one at home.

Training Your Dog To Shake - Getting Started

First, teach your dog how to sit, and put a treat in your pocket. You can give him a reward if you want, whether it’s a treat or a ‘Good Boy’. Next, say ‘Shake’. Your dog will probably be confused by this new command. Gently pick up one of his paws. Most dogs will stand up or try to move away from you at this point. Make sure not to give him a treat yet.

Training Your Dog To Shake - Lift His Paw

Tell him to ‘Sit’ again. Then say ‘Shake’. Try to pick up one of his paws by lifting his forearm.  If he continues to move away, keep repeating from ‘Sit’. That’s why it’s important to teach your dog how to sit first and stay sat while you lift his paw. After a few (sometimes many) tries, your dog will let you hold his paw. Give him a treat for letting you do that.  Repeat this step multiple times.

Next, try holding your hand out in front of his paw whilst saying 'Shake.'  Dogs are quick to catch on and will want the treat, so they will eventually give you their paw. This takes awhile, but remain persistent.  You may have to go back to lifting his arm a couple times. Eventually he will learn to lift his paw on his own accord. 

A good trick here if he doesn’t lift his paw, is to (gently!) pull up on the hairs of his arm until he lifts it off the ground. Don't tug, if you hurt him he will think he's being punished and will not want you touching his paw again.  If he lifts his paw, you can give him a treat.  Repeat over and over until it becomes a habit.

Training Your Dog To Shake - Switch It Up

Soon your dog will lift his paw every time you offer your hand and say 'shake!'  After this, you can work on the other paw using the same steps. It’s best to use your right hand to shake his left paw and your left hand to shake his right. Then your dog will start to recognize the difference and will shake whichever paw based on what hand you stick out. 


If he's a little slow (like our boxer), try introducing a new command - "Other paw!" Once he is confident shaking hands, place his paw on the ground once he's shaken and say "other Paw!" Don't give him a treat till he offers it. Take his other paw yourself and shake it, then give him the treat. Repeat as often as need be to take him this. Your dog will learn fast that if you don't give him the treat after he's offered the first paw, all he must do is give you his other paw and he'll get the treat. 

Training Your Dog To Shake - Developing the Skill

Just like teaching him how to sit, it is a good idea to do the above training on a leash in your backyard without distractions. You can take him off a leash eventually and see if he obeys you. Then you can add distractions and teach him to listen despite things going on around him.  Keep in mind that the most important thing is not to punish your dog while training. Positively reward him for good things, and just don’t acknowledge him when he doesn’t follow your instructions.

Next, have one of your friends make the dog shake. This will get him used to obeying different types of voices. The more your dog does the action with different distractions and voices, the more consistent he will be when performing tricks.

Swimming Lessons

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    • 21730 Red Rum Dr Ste 107
    • Ashburn, VA 20147
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    • 19800 Belmont Chase Dr
    • Ashburn, VA 20147
    • (703) 724-4974

      Group dog obedience classes for puppies and adult dogs, beginner-advanced. Private lessons and behavior consultations. Certified and Vet recommended.

      • 795 Center St
      • Herndon, VA 20170
      • (888) 672-2757
      • 20937 Ashburn Rd
      • Ashburn, VA 20147
      • (571) 291-2923

      The material in this article is for informational purposes only. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of See Additional Information

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