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“Shake” is a classic dog trick and for good reason. It’s cute, fun for dogs, and simple to teach. Plus, it’ll amuse and impress your friends and family and is a very polite way for your dog to meet new people.

The goal of teaching shake is for your dog to happily offer the behavior and show enthusiasm and understanding. There’s no need to physically manipulate your dog by picking up their paw and forcing them to “shake hands” with us. Follow these tips to teach your dog how to shake hands.

Teaching Dogs Shake

When you start teaching shake, be sure to have a lot of high-value treats or rewards. Or, if you prefer, a clicker. The following steps will help you easily teach your dog how to shake hands:

Step One: Hold your hand out to your dog. Your dog may do some experimenting to figure out what you want, like sniffing, licking, etc. The key is to wait it out, not saying anything. As soon as your dog paws at your hand, click and praise, open your hand, and give the treat.

Step Two: Once your dog is consistently pawing your hand, start building the duration and increasing the difficulty. Have your dog hold their paw on your hand for slightly longer before you praise/click and treat. Remember, you aren’t giving any verbal cues to your dog yet. You want to make sure that your dog completely understands the trick before adding in the formal cue. This will help avoid confusion or accidentally teaching your dog to paw at you instead of shaking your hand.


Step Three: Slowly build duration when your dog paws at your hand. Wait until your dog’s paw rests on your hand before clicking/praising and treating. The timing of treating and praising is important. You want to make sure that your dog understands what you want is their paw on your hand.

Step Four: Ask your dog to hold their paw on your hand first for only for a second before clicking/praising and treating. Your dog will figure out that what gets the treat isn’t just scratching at you, but placing their paw on your hand.

Step Five: When your dog is consistently placing their paw on your hand, start introducing a verbal cue of your choice. “Shake” is the most common cue, but you can use any word you wish. When you hold out your hand right before your dog’s paw makes contact, say “shake,” then praise/click and treat. You want your dog to make the association between the “shake” behavior and the verbal cue. Again, timing is important. You want to start introducing the verbal cue right before your dog offers the “shake” behavior, and when you’re confident your dog is going to shake your hand.

Shiba Inu “giving paw” indoors.
leungchopan /

Step Six: When your dog is consistently successful at this level, you can flatten your hand sideways and hold it out to your dog. Ask them to shake by using your verbal cue. When your dog’s paw meets your hand, click/praise and treat. If your dog doesn’t shake at that point, it just means they aren’t quite ready for this step.

Step Seven: When your dog is consistently able to place their paw on your outstretched hand, you can start to introduce some gentle movement up and down. Remember to praise and treat for this too. If at any point your dog becomes nervous or uncertain, just back up to the previous step where they were successful. Then, work that a few times and slowly reintroduce the more challenging step.

Italian Greyhound shaking hands with a new person.
©jtai -

Shaking With Each Paw

Dogs don’t generalize in the same way as people do. We might think shaking hands with one hand is the same as the other, but it’s going to be different for dogs. To teach your dog to shake with both their right and left paw, you may need to teach separately.

It’s helpful to teach your dog to shake with the paw closest to the hand that you hold out. So if you’re facing your dog and hold out your right hand, they will offer their left paw. If you hold out your left hand, they will offer their right paw to shake.

To teach your dog to shake with both paws, use the above steps for both right and left paws, but only praise or click and treat when your dog offers to shake with the paw closest to your hand. If your dog starts by offering the “wrong” paw don’t correct or chastise them. Remember, they’re having to work out what you’re asking them to do. Wait quietly and when they offer you the paw you want, praise and give lots of treats.

Remember that teaching a trick in the comfort and quiet of your home isn’t the same as practicing that trick out in the world where there are more distractions. This means you’ll want to practice “shake” with your dog in different locations, with increasing levels of distraction and high rates of reward, to keep them successful.
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