Learning to teach how to train a dog to give its paw is one of the most popular tricks, most certainly because it is one of the easiest! But only if you the right way to do it.
We are going to see here, in a few very simple and very quick steps, how to teach your dog to give the paw. As an anecdote, I always found it very funny when dog owners are asked if their dog has had basic training, that they reply: “yes yes, my dog knows how to sit, lie down, walk to heel and give the paw”.
This trick is so popular that it almost fits in the list of basic tips to teach your dog. However, it’s not really essential, while a dog that knows how to wait, sit on demand or even walk on a leash without pulling is much more useful and important on a daily basis.
Why teach your dog to give its paw?
First, let’s see why it is interesting to teach your dog to give the paw. Any type of trick thought to your dog can actually have some benefits in your interaction with your canine friend. A dog that knows how to give the paw is a dog that will have less difficulty having its paws handled and properly maintained.
Thanks to the “give the paw” command you will be able to clean your dog’s pads after returning from a rainy or muddy walk with greater ease. By teaching your dog new tricks regularly, you strengthen his obedience. Teaching commands like “give the paw” regularly helps mentally stimulate your dog and helps build and strengthen your relationship.
How to train a dog to give its paw?
To successfully teach this trick, your dog will first need to know the “sit” command as a first step. You can use the clicker training method to teach your dog this trick, but you can just as easily teach him without it.
The most important thing will be to be very precise in the timing of the rewards so that your dog understands perfectly what you expect from him. And, let’s face it, there is nothing more effective than the clicker for having good precision in reinforcing good behavior.
Then it will be very important not to skip the steps and move on to the next one only when your dog has understood the previous one. Some dogs will almost naturally know how to give their paws because they will have retained the reflex to use their paws to facilitate breastfeeding. If this is case, the dog will easily and quickly learn the trick.
You should plan to have work sessions in an environment that your dog knows, where there is not too much distraction and where he feels comfortable.
It is best to start learning in a room inside the house, then move to the back yard, then outside during a walk, etc. The difficulty level must be progressive, and it starts with the most quiet and distraction free environment as possible.
Here’s how to train a dog to give its paw in 5 simple steps:
Step 1: Sit your dog down and face him.
Step 2: Take a treat in your hand and hold it close so your dog can smell it without actually being able to catch it.
Step 3: Of course, a dog that cannot catch with its mouth will help itself with its paw.
As soon as your dog lifts his paw a little bit, click and reward. If you don’t have a clicker, just say “good” just as he lifts his paw. Repeat this 10 times and be careful to respect the correct timing. As soon as your dog lifts his paw a little, reinforce (with the clicker or a “good”, or both) and reward by giving the treat.
Step 4: Once your dog systematically places his paw on your hand, you can then indicate to him “give the paw” or “paw” when he does so. Keep reinforcing and rewarding.
When you have chosen the “give” command, it will be important, above all, to always use the same one. Personally, I use “give your paw” to my dog. Remember to repeat the process several times.
Step 5: The goal is now to repeat the process without the treat. To do this, reach out your hand, palm open, and say “give your paw” (or whatever command you choose). Be careful, this step must be implemented if and only if your dog has understood the previous steps, if not chances of success are rather slim.
As soon as your dog has put his paw on your hand, reinforce and reward by giving a treat with your other free hand. Repeat this step as many times as needed.
How to train a dog to give its paw? Let’s make the exercise more exciting!
As soon as your dog systematically gives his paw following your command, you can then add a level of complexity to the process.
For example, you can teach him to give one paw, then the other. To do this, place your hand closest to the paw you are requesting.
If you started by teaching him to give the right paw, ask him to give the right paw then say “the other” (or any other command that you choose, as long as it’s the same), by placing your hand in front of your dog’s left paw.
You can also make things more challenging by asking your dog to give the paw in different environments that have more distractions.
If you notice that your dog has trouble concentrating and listening to you when you ask him to give his paw in places that are too stimulating, feel free to facilitate the exercise and return to simpler steps to further reinforce the “give your paw” command.
Finally, some dogs master the exercise so well that as soon as they are asked to sit down, they systematically give their paw. It will be very important that you stick to the process you have thought your dog and completely ignore him if he gives his paw without your command.