How to Train Your Dog to Shake Its Head

Two Methods:Basic Head Shake TrainingTraining with Sticky Notes

The key to dog training is repetition and clarity. If you train your dog daily and stick to a single command, he will have a much easier time learning. If your dog is having trouble with the basic training approach, a pair of sticky notes can help him understand what you want him to do. Keep reading to find out how.

Method 1
Basic Head Shake Training

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    Follow these instructions if you are new to dog training. This method demonstrates the fundamentals of dog training, and how to use them to teach this trick. If you already know how to train your dog but your dog is having trouble with this specific trick, check out the sticky notes method below.
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    Get the dog's attention with a reward. Choose a specific reward that the dog enjoys, such as a ball, a plastic bone, or a smelly treat. Show the dog the reward at a time when the dog is attentive, but not overly excited. Command the dog to sit.
    • If the dog is too energetic, it won't focus on the lesson. Tire it out a little before training, or choose a slightly less exciting reward.
    • If your dog doesn't respond to "Sit," teach your dog that command before you teach it this one.
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    Wave the reward slowly back and forth. Start waving the reward very slowly on a horizontal line 30 centimeter (11.8 in) in length (about the length of a ruler). This shouldn't look like you're saying no or scolding the dog; it should look as if you're trying to hypnotize your dog. As soon as the dog follows the treat back and forth with its whole head (not just its eyes), reward and praise him. If the dog doesn't follow the movement, let him sniff the object, then try again.
    • Clicker training makes it much easier for the dog to understand your behavior. The basic idea is to use a "clicker" (or any short, sharp noise) immediately when the dog displays the correct behavior. Do this in addition to giving praise and treats.
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    Move your own head, if necessary. If your dog doesn't respond to the moving treat, try snapping your own head to one side. If the dog mimics you, say "good head shake!" and give it the reward. This may take several tries or even several training sessions.
    • If the dog still doesn't understand what you want, you may have to wait for the dog to shake its head naturally. Immediately reward the dog for this behavior.
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    Add the verbal command. Choose "Head shake!" or any other verbal command, but stick to one exact choice of words. Give this command at the same time you wave the treat or move your own head. As before, reward the dog and praise it as soon as it responds correctly.
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    Train in short sessions. Keep the first session to ten or fewer repetitions, to avoid making the dog tired or bored. Repeat the training daily, but stop each session as soon as the dog starts to tire, looks distracted, or resists your commands (typically within a few minutes). As you continue the daily training sessions, your dog should respond more consistently. Give him time and patience. Some dogs learn much faster than others.
    • End sessions on a positive note whenever possible. Praise the dog for its efforts.
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    Train the dog to respond to the command alone. As your dog learns the command, repeat it with just a hand motion and a verbal command, without holding a treat. When your dog successfully responds, reward it and praise it as usual. When the dog consistently responds to this, start giving it just the verbal command. Continue the training until it responds to the command alone.

Method 2
Training with Sticky Notes

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    Teach the dog to touch a sticky note with his nose. As with most tricks, clicker training and some treats is the easiest way to accomplish this. Bring the sticky note near the dog's face, give a verbal cue, then "click" and reward the dog immediately if he sniffs or investigates it. Train in short sessions once or twice a day.
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    Move the sticky note to different locations. Once your dog understands and can fluently touch his nose to the sticky note, start to stick the sticky note in different places. Repeat the training until the dog will respond to the command and touch it in any location.
    • You can stick it to your trouser leg, the wall or a chair.
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    Stick two sticky notes at your dog's head height. Next, stick one sticky note to the wall at your dog’s head height. Stick a second to the back of a chair opposite, so the two sticky notes face each other. Get your dog to sit in the gap between the chair and the wall. Command the dog to touch one of the sticky notes, then click and deliver your reward at the other sticky note. After enough repetitions, the dog will touch one and then the other. You now have a complete head shake.
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    Raise your standards gradually. As you continue this training, start insisting that the dog make complete contact with both sticky notes before you give the reward. Once your dog understand this, start requiring the dog to move from side to side repeatedly, touching each sticky note multiple times.
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    Phase out the sticky note. Once your dog has a good head shake going, have the dog sit further forward before you begin. The sticky notes will now be behind the dog, so the dog will not touch them when he turns side to side. Your dog may try to get up and turn around to actually touch the sticky notes, so you must be careful to click and reward right as they turn their head, not once they have turned around and actually touched the sticky notes. Gradually move your dog further and further away from the sticky notes, until it's learned to make the head shake motion with no props.


  • Smelly treats are great for getting the dog's attention.
  • Lots of patience is required.
  • Take your time. Only work for a short time each day.
  • If the dog is too excited or energetic to focus on the less, tire them out by playing with them.
  • Always use positive reinforcement and never punish a dog for not getting it or making a mistake. Always make training fun.


  • Not every training method works with every dog. Just like people, not all dogs learn the same way.

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