Training your dog can be very rewarding, both for you and for him, but it can also be hard work. A well trained dog is a polite and easily controllable dog in public and in the home, so spending the time to work with your dog to improve his training is always worthwhile. Dogs who are trained to do commands and tricks are more fulfilled mentally and are often less bored, and grow to look forward to their training or performance sessions as much as they look forward to dinner or a walk.
Before you can get your dog to shake your hand with his paw, you will need to master some other basic commands, especially “sit” – because he will have to sit before he can give you his paw. To learn the basics of how your dog learns and what methods are best to train him quickly and easily in the basics, you could try this short course in dog training. Before you begin to work on training your dog for commands like “Shake” and “Roll Over”, you need to make sure your dog behaves properly in your house when you are there and when you are out, and also while you are walking, to ensure a good foundation of respect and obedience. If your dog misbehaves in the home or on a walk and you don’t understand why or can’t fix the problem, review what might be wrong by visiting this course in Polite Puppy Techniques.
Once you have mastered “Sit”, the easiest way to teach your dog to give you his paw is to arm yourself with a pocketful of small treats, kneel in front of him, and pick his paw up with your hand. While you are holding his paw, in the “shake” position, then you should say “Shake!” or “Paw!” or whichever command you are assigning to the shake action. Give him a small treat while you still have his paw. If he snatches it away from you, patiently try again until he stays long enough for you to say the command word and give him the treat. You will need to repeat this stage several times, potentially over several days. Dogs have limited attention spans, the same as people, so overloading him all in one day will result in him not learning efficiently and the whole process taking a lot longer. He might also start to act out or misbehave out of boredom or frustration. Thus you should always train your dog in short stints, rather than for very long periods of time.
Once you have gotten to the stage where your dog looks for the treat whenever you are holding his paw, you can be fairly sure that he associates the action with the treat. As long as you have been consistent in saying your command word when you pick up his paw, he should also associate the noise and the action together with the treat. This is the point where you should have him sit, bring out a treat, and say “Shake!” (or “Paw” if you chose that word) while holding out your hand to him. If he is an intelligent breed, he might immediately understand what he has to do – he will pick up his paw and place it in your hand. Immediately give him the treat and repeat the exercise to be sure it wasn’t a fluke. If your dog doesn’t respond correctly, he probably hasn’t quite understood yet, and you should pick up his paw while repeating the command word and try again later.
One thing to be aware of when training your dog for any new command is that if you are using treats to enhance the training experience and reward your dog for correct action, your dog may become overweight if you use lots of treats or train over a longer period of time. You should invest in small, low-calorie treats that are still appealing to your dog so that you do not overfeed him. One other method is to reduce the amount fed to your dog at mealtimes to compensate for the nutritional value of the treats, however this can adversely affect your dog if they are an intelligent breed and notice they are receiving different food or less food in their meals.
Once your dog has understood the “Shake” command you will need to keep his memory of the new command fresh, otherwise he may forget it. Incorporate it into your daily routine with your dog to make sure he remembers it and to maintain a good relationship with him, where you are in control and he is responsive to your commands and requirements. For example, you could ask for “Sit” and “Shake” before putting on his lead for a walk, or before putting down his food bowl, or in return for giving him a toy or other treat. This will ensure that he remembers the command.
Training your dog beyond the normal commands is possible and is also great fun for the both of you. Agility course training, trick performance and so on is not too difficult when you arm yourself with the correct methods and employ firm consistency. To train a dog for any reason you require consistency and a calm approach. Dogs do not respond well to shouting or negative reinforcement, but with patience and repetition of correct instructions and positive reinforcement, any dog can be trained to perform even complicated commands eventually. Advanced training lessons for you and your dog can be found in this detailed online course, with over 25 commands available to learn in an easy to digest format. If you prefer a quicker route to fun or cute tricks with your dog, consider instead Dog Tricks, a video-based set of lessons designed to help you and your dog perform some interesting and rarer tricks.