How to Train Your Dog to Shake His Head

Easy
1-7 Days
Fun

Introduction

Everyone wishes their dog could talk. Just imagine the things he'd be able to tell you: what he's thinking, what his wants and needs are, his likes and dislikes... It's a premise that has been explored in television shows and movies like Disney-Pixar's Up. Of course, the collar that allows golden retriever Dug to talk also reveals that his thoughts are monopolized by canine pursuits like chasing squirrels. Still, the idea of being able to talk to our fur-babies is a fun one.

Unfortunately, dog-to-human translators aren't likely to hit the market anytime soon. So why not teach your dog to do the next best thing?

Defining Tasks

Teaching your dog to shake his head in response to a yes or no question is a fun behavior to add to his roster of tricks. This behavior can be learned by dogs of any age (though the ability to ask your dog to sit and pay attention are helpful) in less than a week. Asking your dog if he wants a new feline sibling is sure to get a laugh from friends and family...or his devoted Youtube followers.

Getting Started

What you'll need:

  • Treats: positive reinforcement is key when teaching your pup a new behavior. Choose a special treat that gets his attention and that he'll be willing to work for. Think dried liver, a piece of cheese, peanut butter, etc.
  • Clicker: if your dog is familiar with clicker-training, a clicker can be used to signify what behavior you are looking for.

Things to note:

  • It is best to start training in a quiet indoor environment with little chance for distraction, such as other pets or unexpected noises.
  • Training is best accomplished one-on-one, rather than with multiple owners. Full attention and eye contact are key.
  • Don't let your dog get bored or tired out by training. If your dog loses focus after repeating a behavior, end the training session, give him praise and resume training at another time. Keep training fun and fresh!

The Hand Signal Method

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Step
1
Ask your dog to sit
Make sure your dog is calm and attentive. Ask him to sit in front of you and make eye contact.
Step
2
Make a fist around a treat
Place his preferred treat in your hand and make a closed fist around it. Make sure your dog sees this.
Step
3
Move your fist from left to right
Slowly move your fist from left to right. Your dog should follow the movement with his head. When he does, reward him with the treat. Make sure he follows your fist with his whole head and not just his eyes.
Step
4
Repeat
Repeat until he is consistently performing the desired behavior.
Step
5
Try without the treat
Now try the side-to-side motion again without the treat in your fist. If your dog follows the motion correctly, treat him immediately from your other hand. If he does not make the connection, you may need to take a step back and repeat the signal with his treat in-hand. Be patient!
Step
6
Streamline your hand signal
Practice this step multiple times, being sure to treat immediately when your dog correctly shakes his head. Try slowly minimizing your hand signal to the point where you move your fist slightly from side to side, or with your index finger raised in an 'uh-uh' gesture.
Step
7
Mix it up
Once your dog is consistently shaking his head in response to your hand signal, you can start treating intermittently rather than every time the behavior is performed correctly. Keeping your dog on his toes will keep him attentive and eager to learn.
Step
8
Ask a question
Your hand signal can now be preceded by a 'yes' or 'no' question, which Fido will answer in the negative.
Recommend training method?

The Clicker Method

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Step
1
Use the clicker method
Clicker training is a way to let your dog know that he has performed the correct behavior and is going to be rewarded for it. If he is used to clicker-training, he can quickly come to associate an action with a desired behavior.
Step
2
Get your dog's attention
With clicker in hand, ask your dog to sit and make sure that he is attentive.
Step
3
Make a fist
Holding the clicker in one hand, wrap your other hand in a fist around your dog's treat. Make sure he sees you do this.
Step
4
Move your fist from side to side
Move your fist from side to side in an exaggerated movement. When your dog follows your fist with his head, immediately click the clicker to inform him that he's done what you wanted. Be sure to give him the treat after you've clicked.
Step
5
Repeat
Repeat this step until your dog is consistently shaking his head in response to the movement of your fist.
Step
6
Try without the treat
Try the side-to-side motion again without the treat in your fist. Be sure to acknowledge correct behavior when your dog does it by immediately clicking the clicker and treating from your other hand. Be patient if your dog does not progress to this step right away - you might have to go back to using the treat in your fist.
Step
7
Minimize your hand signal
Try slowly reducing your hand signal to the point where you move your fist only slightly from side to side, or with your index finger raised in an 'uh-uh' gesture. Continue to click when your dog performs the head shake correctly, and follow with a treat. Remember, to your dog, the click means good behavior, which equals a treat.
Step
8
Ask a 'yes' or 'no' question
Precede your hand signal with a 'yes' or 'no' question. You should be able to ask your dog to perform the behavior now without the clicker, but be sure to praise him when he gets it right and to treat intermittently to encourage him to want to perform his new trick.
Recommend training method?

The Verbal Command Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Get your dog's attention
Ask your dog to sit and make sure that he is making eye contact with you - when he is fully attentive, start your training.
Step
2
Make a fist around a treat
Have your dog watch as you close your fist around his treat.Have your dog watch as you close your fist around his treat.
Step
3
Move your fist and give your command
Move your fist from left to right slowly while also giving a short verbal command, such as "say no way." Be sure to be consistent in the words and tone that you use. Reward him with the treat when he correctly follows the movement of your fist.
Step
4
Repeat
Repeat this step until your dog is regularly following your fist with his whole head (not just his eyes). Be sure to give the same verbal command before every gesture with your fist.
Step
5
Remove the treat
Give your command and move your fist from left to right without the treat enclosed in your fist. Your dog should follow it anyway - if he does, give him a treat from your other hand; if not, you may have to practice more with the treat in-fist.
Step
6
Remove your hand gesture
Once your dog is consistently shaking his head, try minimizing and then completely removing the hand-signal, so that he responds to your verbal command alone. Be sure to treat intermittently when he performs the behavior correctly to keep him interested.
Step
7
Ask a question before giving your command
Finally, you can ask a 'yes' or 'no' question before giving the verbal command. Fido says, 'no way!'
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

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