How to Teach Your Dog to Shake Hands

Dog guardians often discover that teaching their dogs to shake hands is simple and fun.  The dogs easily learn the trick and love the additional attention that they get from training sessions.  A dog with average intelligence should be able to learn how to shake hands in only a couple of short classes.

A dog who has been properly socialized as a puppy will look to his guardian as his leader.   He will instinctively watch this person for approval and change his behavior accordingly.  When teaching your dog to shake hands, the first step is to make sure that he is paying close attention to you.  One way to help him focus is to run through any obedience work that he has already learned.  After he warms up and is focused on the trainer, it is time to begin.

In order to shake, the dog needs to be in a seated position.  If he already knows the “sit” command, put him in an extended sit-stay.  If “sit” is a new command, he will need to learn to sit on command before you can continue to the “shake” cue.  At this point, once he is seated and listening for further instructions, you can lift his paw and shake it while giving him the verbal command “shake”.  After you release his paw, give him his reward.  Dogs who are being clicker trained respond well to the sound of the click, but a tasty treat or verbal praise will also work.

Repeat this several times, giving the dog a chance to associate having his paw shaken with the verbal commands.  The reward will help him to understand that this is a desired behavior.  In time, he will respond to the verbal command by lifting his paw for you to shake without having to physically lift it off of the ground.

Once the dog has mastered the shake command, there are several amusing variants that you can add to his collection of skills.  Often people want their dogs to shake with both front paws, so the next command to teach him would be “other side”.  Learning to shake on his other hand is generally faster than the first paw, since he already has some idea of what you want.  More variations on “shake” include raising his paw for a “high five” or “cover your eyes”.

All dogs enjoy training sessions with their guardians.  Teaching him to “shake” on command will be enjoyable for both the dog and master and will help reinforce the leadership position for the human.


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