How to Teach Your Dog to Shake Hands

Three Parts:Initializing TrainingTeaching the Verbal CommandPolishing the Trick

Teaching your dog to shake can have a bigger impact than simply learning a trick. When your dog understands how and when to sit, you help instill overall obedience, and deepen the bond between you and your dog. Start working with your dog today to teach it this easy command.

Part 1
Initializing Training

  1. Image titled 57354 1
    Pick out some treats for your dog. You will need to reward your dog when he shakes. Buy some of your dogs favorite treats and have them handy when you are teaching him to shake.[1]
    • Try making your own treats. These could be small pieces of cooked meat or even some fruits and vegetables.[2]
    • Don't over feed your dog. Keep treat sizes as small as you can.[3]
    • Do not feed your dog the following food items, as they can cause poisoning or illness:[4]
      • Avocado
      • Chocolate
      • Bread dough
      • Grapes or raisins
      • Hops
      • Ethanol
      • Moldy foods
      • Macadamia nuts
      • Xylitol
      • Onions and garlic.
  2. Image titled Teach Your Dog to Shake Hands Step 2
    Have your dog sit down. The only way a dog can shake hands is if he is sitting. If your dog doesn't know how the command for sit, you can guide him into it by using the following steps:[5][6]
    • Hold a treat in your hand. Pinch the treat in your hand between your thumb and palm. Keep your hand open, to let the dog see and smell the treat.
    • Hold the treat within one inch of your dogs nose. Allowing him to smell the treat will get his attention.
    • Bring the treat up, over his head. Do this slowly to keep your dogs focus on the treat.
    • As he raises his head up to follow the treat, he should sit down. To look at the treat, which should now be directly above his head, he will have to sit down in order to keep his eyes on it.
    • Don't reward the dog with the treat here, as you are teaching him how to shake, not sit.
  3. Image titled Teach Your Dog to Shake Hands Step 3
    Present the treat to your dog. You won't be giving the treat to you dog just yet. For now, simply keep the treat in your left hand. Bring the treat in front of your dogs nose, showing it to him. Once you have his attention, close your fist around the treat.[7]
    • Don't let the dog grab the treat from you yet.
    • Hold the treat between your thumb and your palm.
  4. Image titled Teach Your Dog to Shake Hands Step 4
    Wait for your dog to paw at your hand. Once your dog realizes you have a treat in your closed hand, he will try to get it from you. Now is the time to let him know which behavior unlocks the treat. Wait for him to paw at your hand and then let him have the treat.[8]
    • Be patient.
    • Don't issue any commands yet, let your dog figure out what behavior works on his own for now.
    • Ignore any other attempts your dog may make, such as sniffing or mouthing your hand.[9]
    • Repeat this method four or five times, over a period of five to ten minutes.
  5. Image titled Teach Your Dog to Shake Hands Step 5
    Take your dogs paw in your hand. Use this additional step only if you dog doesn't seem to paw at the treat in your hand. By picking up your dogs paw, and praising him during and after, you start to show your dog that pawing at your hand is rewarded.[10]
    • Hold the paw for a few seconds before rewarding.
    • Be gentle and move slowly.

Part 2
Teaching the Verbal Command

  1. Image titled Teach Your Dog to Shake Hands Step 6
    Introduce a verbal command. After your dog beings consistently pawing at the treat in your closed hand, you can start to introduce your preferred verbal command. Wait until your dog paws at your hand and issue the command while giving him the treat.[11]
    • Your command could be any word, but “Shake” or “Paw” are commonly used.
    • Say your command clearly and loud enough to be heard by your dog.
    • Issue your command at the exact moment the dog paws at your hand.
    • Once you pick a command, don't change it, as this will confuse your dog.[12]
    • Keep any command short. Generally only one word commands will be the best.[13]
  2. Image titled Teach Your Dog to Shake Hands Step 7
    Start preemptively using your command. After you have begun using your verbal command when your dog paws at your hand, it's time to start saying it before it paws. As you move the hand with the treat towards your dog, say your command.[14]
    • This step helps him to realize the verbal command is now the signal to bring his paw up to shake.
    • Ideally, your dog will bring his paw up as soon as you say your command.
    • Only after he shakes should you reward him with the treat and praise him.
    • If your dog doesn't bring his paw up at the command, try again until he does. If he still doesn't after about fifteen minutes, stop for a while and try again later. You don't want to frustrate your dog.
  3. Image titled Teach Your Dog to Shake Hands Step 8
    Only reward your dog when he completes the command. Rewarding your dog for any other behavior will confuse your dog. Never reward him unless he has completed the command successfully, or else he might view your rewards as bribes.[15]
    • Avoid improper rewarding by always obtaining your dogs full attention before training.
    • Don't get frustrated and give your dog the treat if he isn't doing the “shake” command as you asked. Giving up like this will send the message that if he sits and ignores you he will be rewarded.
    • Realize that your dog is always paying attention. Any treat given to him will likely be associated with whatever he was doing at the time.
    • Your dog wants to earn treats. Once he makes the connection that a behavior will earn him something tasty, he will be ready to behave in that way. This counts for both good or bad behavior. Be aware of this when you reward your dog.

Part 3
Polishing the Trick

  1. Image titled Teach Your Dog to Shake Hands Step 9
    Start removing treats. Eventually you will need to stop issuing treats for the behavior. Do this gradually by offering treats only every other time he performs the “shake” command. Substitute praise or other rewards, such as a walk or play time, in place of treats.[16][17]
    • Keep practicing until you are positive he will “shake” without a treat.
    • You can try offering an empty hand, with no treat, when first starting this step.
  2. Image titled Teach Your Dog to Shake Hands Step 10
    Make it more challenging. Once you feel that you dog has mastered the “shake” command, try introducing challenges for it. Wait for a situation that usually bothers your dog, such as a visit to a busy place or someone coming to the door, and issue the command.[18]
    • The more situations you practice in, the better your dog will be able to perform this command.
  3. Image titled Teach Your Dog to Shake Hands Step 11
    Try shaking with the other hand. Follow the same order of training as you did with the first hand. The main difference will be that you hold the treat in your opposite hand and only reward when your dog shakes with the desired paw.[19]
    • Try using a different command word. If you used “Shake”, try using “Paw” for the opposite hand.[20]


  • Consistency is key. Always be consistent in which behaviors you reward and when you reward your dog.
  • Don't get mad if your dog doesn't do the command right away be patient.
  • Make sure you give the treat in the opposing hand, not the hand you shake with.
  • Be positive and happy with your dog. Praise them a lot.
  • Be firm, but not harsh. Patience and consistency is all you need. Also, be sure not to reward you dog every time he listens. You want him to just do the command sometimes, not always for treats.

Article Info

Categories: Dog Tricks