How to Teach a Dog to Grab Paw

Two Parts:Preparing to Teach Your Dog to Grab PawTeaching Your Dog to Grab Paw

Teaching your dog to grab paw is also known as teaching your dog to give you his paw. This trick is easy for dogs to learn, especially for dogs that already use their paws to play or get attention.[1] With a little bit of patience and a handful of treats, it won’t be long before your dog learns this trick.

Part 1
Preparing to Teach Your Dog to Grab Paw

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    Select a treat. Treats are an important part of the training process. They serve as tasty rewards when your dog performs the desired action, no matter how small. In general, treats for training should be especially scrumptious to your dog, and should be reserved for training purposes.
    • Choose treats that are not crumbly. Your dog may take more interest in sniffing out and eating the crumbs rather than paying attention to what you are trying to teach him.[2]
    • Examples of treats include bits of cheese or hot dog and small liver cookies.[3]
    • While you are teaching your dog to grab paw, rewarding your dog with treats should always be paired with verbal praise.[4]
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    Choose a verbal command. Verbal commands are another helpful component of the training process. Common verbal commands for this trick include ‘paw’ and ‘give your paw.’[5] Whichever command you choose, use it consistently throughout the training process to avoid confusing your dog.[6]
    • If you have multiple members of your household, make sure that each person uses the same verbal command for this trick.[7]
    • Short, concise commands are preferable—your dog will understand and respond to these better than long phrases or sentences (e.g., ‘It’s time to give me your paw’).[8]
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    Pick a training area. Even though teaching your dog to grab paw is relatively easy, your training sessions will go much more smoothly if he is not distracted. Inside your home, create a ‘distraction free’ zone—turn off the television, keep other pets and people outside of the area, and remove any distracting toys. The fewer the distractions, the better.[9]
    • If you have an enclosed yard, you can train him outside with relatively few distractions.

Part 2
Teaching Your Dog to Grab Paw

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    Command your dog to sit. Teaching your dog to grab paw will be easier if your dog is already in the sitting position. If your dog does not already know how to sit, you can teach him by holding a treat in front of his nose, far enough away so that he cannot reach for it. Next, slowly raise your hand high over your dog’s head. As your dog raises his head to follow the treat, push down gently on his backside to get him to sit.[10]
    • Give him a verbal command (‘sit’ or ‘down’) as you press down on his backside. Immediately praise him and give him the treat when his bottom touches the floor.[11]
    • Do not give him the treat if he stands back up and reaches for it. Firmly say ‘no’ if he does this.[12]
    • Practice several times a day for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Eventually, your dog will learn to sit and remain seated to receive the treat.[13]
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    Hold a treat in front of your dog’s nose. Unlike with training your dog to sit, your dog should not see the treat during the entire training process for grabbing paw. Rather, you will show your dog the treat to get his attention, and then create a fist to hide the treat.[14]
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    Wait for your dog to stretch out his paw to you. This may not take long if your dog regularly uses his paws to get your attention or play. If this is not how your dog uses his paws, though, he may first try to grab the treat with his mouth instead. Do not respond if he uses his mouth—this is not the desired behavior.[15]
    • When he lifts his paw, even if it is just slightly off the ground, immediately give him verbal praise (‘good boy,’ ‘yes’) and open your fist to give him the treat.[16][17]
    • You can still reward him if he simply shifts his weight to lift his paw—this is still an effort in the right direction.[18]
    • If you are using a clicker, then you would click as soon your dog lifts his paw (or shifts his weight to lift his paw).[19]
    • Use your other hand to grab his paw when he lifts it.[20] This will be easier if you are not using a clicker.
    • Do not reprimand your dog if he uses his mouth. Rewarding only the desired behavior (lifting his paw) and ignoring the undesired behavior (using his mouth) will teach your dog to the repeat the desired behavior.
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    Use a verbal cue. Once your dog consistently lifts his paw in response to the ‘fisted’ treat, add in a verbal cue to the trick.[21] Use whichever verbal cue you chose prior to beginning your training sessions. Say the cue after you have closed your fist, and before he lifts his paw to get the treat.
    • Immediately praise and reward your dog when he lifts his paw in response to your verbal cue.
    • The goal is to teach your dog to grab paw in response to only your verbal cue, without you holding a treat in front of his nose. Gradually phase out the treats over several training sessions.[22]
    • Do not repeat the verbal cue to get your dog to follow your command.[23] If your dog does not respond the first time, it could be that he does not yet understand the command.[24] If this is the case, continue to practice the cue over multiple training sessions.
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    Challenge your dog. As your dog gets more skilled with this trick, add in some challenges. For example, practice the trick in different situations and locations where there will be distractions (e.g., cars, people, other dogs).[25]
    • You can also teach your dog to lift both paws. If you would like to do this, use a different verbal cue for the other paw to avoid confusing your dog as to which paw he should lift.[26]


  • Teaching your dog to grab paw is a quick process.[27] Your dog will probably learn the trick within a few days.
  • Your dog may get bored with long training sessions. Limit the sessions to 5 to 10 minutes, a few times a day.[28]
  • Keep a handful of treats in your pocket during your training sessions.[29]
  • Do not become discouraged if your dog does not learn this trick. It could be that he does not like the trick and would rather do something else. If this is the case, try other tricks, such as playing dead or rolling over.

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Categories: Dog Tricks