How to Teach A Dog to Shake

LAST UPDATED 13 JUNE 2022

This article is written by Pet Circle's qualified veterinarian, Dr Teagan Lever, BVSc (Hons).

Teaching your dog to shake paws is useful to get him used to having you handle his feet and can come in handy when you want to trim his nails.

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Step 1 - Understand How Dog Training Works

Dogs learn just like humans, by trial and error. Their learning goes on whether we are actively teaching them or not. Dogs learn in 2 main ways - through classical conditioning, or operant conditioning.

When we are training our dogs to perform certain behaviours or tricks, we are using operant conditioning. This is where we pair the appropriate behaviour with a reward, which makes the behaviour more likely to happen the next time. If used correctly through positive reinforcement, operant conditioning can create a wonderful bond between you and your dog, and is so beneficial for their mental health and enrichment. Dogs will naturally seek to perform behaviours that have brought positive consequences, and will try to avoid behaviours that have brought negative consequences in the past.

Step 2 - Gear Up with the Right Dog Training Equipment

Before you start training, it's important to have the right tools to make your dog's learning a success. Everyone who will be involved in training your dog should use consistent techniques to help your dog learn quickly and effectively.

'Luring' and 'capturing' are 2 important words in dog training. 'Luring' means to guide your dog to perform a behaviour by using a tasty treat in front of his nose to get him to move his body into the correct position. The 'lure' is the treat. Capturing the behaviour means that you let your dog know that they've performed the correct behaviour the moment that it occurs. This can be through the use of a specific word or phrase, like 'yes' or 'good boy', or a clicker. This is then followed up by giving your dog the treat. The specific word, phrase or clicker becomes the 'bridge' between behaviour and reward, and becomes an indication to your dog to expect a reward.

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Best Dog Training Treats

There are a wide variety of treats available, but for every day training, we recommend choosing a treat that's soft and easily broken up into small pieces for a bite sized reward.

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Step 3 - Start in the Sit Position

Ask your dog to sit. Hold his attention with a treat.


Step 4 - Lure and Capture

Hold the treat inside your closed fist about 5cm above the ground. Your dog will most likely lift a foot and paw at your fist. When he does this immediately capture the behaviour with the clicker or 'yes' and reward him with the treat.


Step 5 - Catch the Paw

Once your dog is lifting his foot readily to reach the treat, have your other hand out ready to catch his paw and 'shake' it. Again, capture the behaviour and reward him immediately when he does this.


Step 6 - Repeat and Add in the Command

When your dog is starting to get the hang of it, begin to add in the command word 'shake'. After plenty of practice, start to phase out the treat so that it is only given intermittently.

Further Reading

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