Teaching your dog how to shake hands will not only amuse and impress your friends, but also provides the foundation for teaching your pet other tricks, and consequently deepening your bond. The goal is to have them offering their little paw up for shaking without any physical manipulation from you, except for a verbal cue.

Steps to Teaching Your Dog How to Shake

To effectively teach a dog to shake hands, you need to be in a quiet environment, and have lots of their favorite treats. With that in hand, here are the steps to follow:

  1. Approach the dog and hold out your hand. Their natural reaction will be to sniff or nibble on it trying to figure out what you want. If you can, hold the pose without saying or doing anything else. With time, the dog will bring up their paw to your hand, and at this point, you give a treat and some praise.
  2. Repeat the above step a few more times, giving a treat every time your dog paws at your hand.
  3. Once the dog builds up some consistency, i.e pawing at your hand every time you hold it out, increase the duration of the exercise and delay the praise and treat for a few more moments each time. Ideally, only treat when their paw is resting on your open hand to teach them that you don’t just want them to scratch your hand, but place their paw on it.

Note: As you do the above steps, don’t use any verbal cues, as the idea is to first make the dog understand, and internalize the trick, before identifying it with a formal cue.

  1. Once you have established a nice pattern where the dog places their paw on your hand every time you hold it out, you can now add a formal cue. You can use “shake” or any other word in your language for this. Basically, hold out your hand and say your cue just before the dog brings up the paw. If they go right ahead and paws at you, praise and treat. Repeat this until the dog starts raising their paw at the mention of the cue word, even when you haven’t outstretched your hand.
  2. When your dog learns to bring up their paw every time you hold out your hand, or when you say the cue, you can start experimenting with other movements. One particular trick you can try is to move your hand up or down just before their paw contact it. If the dog moves with you and makes contact, know it’s all good. If they get nervous or confused when you do that, go back to the previous step and slowly build-up to the more complex trick.


Shaking With Both Paws

Unlike with little kids, who are able to connect that shaking hands with the left hand is the same as doing it with the right, dogs need to be taught how to shake each paw separately. Essentially, you want your dog to shake with the paw that’s closest to the hand that is held out. To teach this, take your dog to a quiet place and face them, either in a sitting or standing position. Then hold out your right hand and say the cue. If they offer the right paw, don’t correct or reward them either – just keep on holding out your hand until they get the point. If they offer the left one, praise and treat them.