Henry’s new trick: Shake (video)

Henry and his new toyMy little foster dog has learned a new trick — to shake someone’s hand! Although we’ve been working a lot on basic obedience skills and helping him learn to be more friendly around new people, this is his first real trick behavior.

Although, it’s so important to remember, that from the animal’s perspective, it’s really all tricks! The dog (or horse or other animal) has no way of knowing the difference between a behavior that is cute and “just for fun” and a behavior that is practical and “important.” I think it’s really important for trainers to remember this. I meet some people who lighten up and have lots more fun when they are teaching the animal “tricks,” but are serious and tense when working on “real” behaviors.

Henry is doing awesome with the Shake trick in my apartment. So, we’ve started working on this trick in new places, including on the front porch of my house, when I’m at work, and even at the pet store. He’s not quite 100% yet with this trick in new places, but he’s getting better. We’ve also started working on this trick with new people. My friend Regan, who Henry loves, practiced some shakes with him on Saturday and he did great.

Watch on YouTube: Henry learns to shake hands

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  • Jordan Walker

    Teaching a new trick to your dog is difficult and you really need patience. But Henry is such a smart dog since he already learned how to shake someone’s hand. When I’m teaching a new trick to my dog, I always make sure that I have food beside me to give to him as a reward.

    • Hi Jordan,

      Thanks for leaving a comment. 🙂

      Yes, food treats work great for training tricks!! Also, I definitely agree with you that dog training takes patience on the part of the trainer.



  • LauraPerkins87

    Nice Mary! That’s a clean version of a usually sloppy trick! What clicker are you using?

    • Thanks, Laura!

      And sorry for not responding sooner, it’s been a busy week.

      I am using a tongue click. 🙂

      I taught him to tap his paw on my hand originally while he was standing. Then taught him to do it while sitting.
      But, I was getting a paw tap and also his nose coming down to sniff my hand.
      So, we heavily reinforced eye contact (which is something he has worked on before) and then combined the eye contact with the paw tap.

      I do have video of much of the process and would like to put together a video showing the teaching process, when I have a chance.



  • achieve1dream .

    He is so cute!! Are you catching his paw with your wrist and then taking his paw to shake to prevent his claws from getting you or is there some other reason for doing it that way? I LOVE the eye contact while shaking! I’m not even sure where Jackal looks when he’s doing it lol. We might have to do some refresher work for fun. 🙂

    • Good question (and good eyes!).

      Most people teach shake by picking up the dog’s paw / grabbing the dog’s paw in the very beginning stages.

      I taught this by first shaping him to pick up his paw and bump my fist with his paw. (It is fairly easy to get the behavior this way, because most dogs will first sniff a closed fist thinking there is something in it and then try to paw at it.) Once we had the paw motion, I flipped my hand over and opened it up, so that he was tapping his paw on my open palm.

      It was only at the very end of the teaching process that I began actually taking hold of his paw and shaking it.

      So, the original shaping process resulted in the motion that you see in the video. Now that I am taking hold of his paw (which was still a pretty new step when I filmed this), I think he is getting the idea that his paw should land exactly in my palm.

      Does that make sense? I need to make a video of the teaching process, kind of hard to describe with words.



      • achieve1dream .

        That totally makes sense!!! I like that and will have to use it next time. I taught my dogs by grabbing their paw (because I didn’t know any other way) and Jackal tries to pull his paw away. He doesn’t like it grabbed. I might have to reteach it this way. Great idea! Thanks for explaining it!

        • Give it try and let me know how it goes! 🙂



  • sarasotadogwizard

    He is very cool.I taught him to tap his paw on my hand originally while he was standing. He doesn’t like it grabbed. I might have to reteach it this way