Somewhere towards the bottom of most dog trainers’ Obedience Command Priority List lies the command ‘Shake’. It’s often thought of as a trick, or parlor game – something to do to show your dog off in front of the neighbors. But it isn’t typically thought of as critical to your dog’s learning, like other commands such as ‘Stay’ or ‘Come’.

We think that should change.

The Brilliance of Teaching ‘Shake’

At Riverdog, we invite you think of ‘Shake’ as a key component of your dog’s obedience repertoire! It has to do with ensuring your pet is safe and comfortable when meeting unfamiliar people, and an absolute ‘Must!’ if your dog is going to be around kids.

You see, being good around friends, family, and friendly strangers is an important skill for any dog to have. Without the ability to be friendly to unfamiliar people, even the cutest dog is likely to end up at the shelter. And people aren’t aware that when they approach a dog by leaning over the animal and reaching out to pet their muzzle or head that it is quite intimidating to most dogs. (To get the idea from the dog’s point of view, imagine an unfamiliar, towering giant lowering a gigantic hand towards your own head. Wouldn’t you be a little nervous?) So the key to helping your dog think of this type of greeting as a pleasant, rather than perilous, action is to teach your pet to ‘Shake.’

Why the ‘Shake’ Solution is So Excellent

The reason ‘Shake’ works so well is because the hand signal for ‘Shake’ – leaning over a dog and reaching out a hand – is nearly the same gesture as the one described above that most people use to greet a dog anyway. If you teach your dog to ‘Shake’ for a really great reward, such as a cookie or play – it changes how the dog feels about that gesture. When people lean over and outstretch a hand, instead of being intimidated, the dog recognizes the signal as an invitation to ‘Shake’ and anticipates a wonderful reward. Most dogs start to look forward to greeting friendly strangers and kids! And because ‘Shake’ involves the raising of a paw, which is a submissive gesture in the dog world, it helps keep the dog calm, friendly, and safe. This is super helpful if the dog is going to be around a lot of kids!

How to Teach ‘Shake’ – It’s Easy!

‘Shake’ is easy to teach – simply kneel in front of your dog, and using a small treat, place it in front of the dog’s nose. Move your hand to the left and when the dog follows the treat with his head to the left, most of his/her body weight will also end up on the left front leg. When this happens, the right front leg will be nearly weightless! Gently place your hand behind that weightless leg and lift forward; the paw will come up in your hand. Let it rest there and simultaneously, say ‘Good Shake!’ and give your pet the treat. Soon, in anticipation of your hand moving towards that paw, your dog will begin lifting it him/herself in order to receive the treat reward.

Need help teaching ‘Shake’ or any other command? Contact us! We’re here to help.

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