It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood and you and Fido are out and about when you are approached by a family with small children and elderly grandparents. The kids are excited, jumping up and down and shouting, “We want to pet the doggie!” as the frail grandparents eye your dog warily, wondering if he’s “safe” to approach.
You want to let the family enjoy your dog and yet you want to make sure everyone, including your dog, stays safe and has an enjoyable time. The answer to this dilemma? The “Shake” command! “Shake” will let you introduce your dog to people in a controlled setting where everyone will feel comfortable and safe.
Command 16 – “Shake”
The “Shake” command tells Fido to be in a sitting position and to offer his paw in greeting.
Start in a quiet place, just you and your dog. Ask your dog to “Sit” and praise him when he does.
With his attention on you, say “Fido Shake,” then reach out and pick his paw up gently.
Repeat “Shake,” and hold his paw for a second or two.
Release his paw, praise and give him a treat, saying, “Yes! Good Shake Fido!”
Practice Makes Perfect:
Once again, focus his attention on you (“Watch me”), and ask again, happily and with some enthusiasm, “Fido shake!” Gently pick up his foot again, hold a few seconds, release, then praise and give a treat. Repeat this once or twice more. If Fido begins to lift his foot before you reach for it, encourage him with “That’s It, Shake!” and then praise, praise, praise and treat, treat, treat!
Drilling anything over and over is no fun for anyone so take a short break from sitting and shaking to pet, hug, or bounce around with your dog. Make your sessions short and sweet.
Then try again with a nice “Sit” focused on you (“Watch me”) and then a happy “Fido Shake!” By now, Fido should be getting the idea and will be lifting his paw as your hand is outstretched to take it. Make sure he knows how pleased you are with him. An enthusiastic, smiling, “Yes! Good Shake Fido!” with lots of treats should convey to him that this is indeed what you want him to do.
Once Fido is doing “Shake” with one foot pretty consistently, start the whole process over again with the other foot, making sure his attention is focused on you (“Watch me”), say “Fido Shake,” gently lifting and holding his paw, then releasing. Remember to praise and give him a treat.
Meeting New Friends:
Now is the time to introduce a helpful friend to the mix. Ask Fido to “Sit” and focus on you (not the other person) with a “Watch Me.” Have the helper reach out their hand as you direct your dog, “Fido Shake!” Be patient. You may have to repeat “Fido Shake” and watch for the smallest sign that he is going to lift his paw, at which point encourage him with “That’s It Fido, Shake!” The friend should just wait with hand outstretched until Fido presents his paw for a short gentle shake. Once that happens, smile, praise, pet, and treat so he knows that was wonderfully done.
The Final Touches:
Now that Fido knows the “Shake” command, it is time to take it on the road. Practice with different friends of different ages. Practice in different places: inside, outside, and all around the town. Ask interested strangers if they can help train your dog by shaking his paw. Check to be sure you are the one Fido is watching for cues – the outstretched hand is only the target – his attention should be focused on you and the command should come from you. Above all, when he is successful let him know it with smiles and praise, and soon your dog will be shaking hands and making friends everywhere he goes!
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All training tips in this series are from ECAD (Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities), a non-profit organization dedicated to training service dogs for veterans with disabilities. Learn more about ECAD.