How to Train Your Dog to Shake His Head ‘Yes’

Easy
1-5 Days
Fun

Introduction

Are you looking for a fun trick to have on tap for you and your dog to impress friends and family in any situation? The ‘Yes’ head shake dog trick is definitely one to check out. It is very easy to train, especially if your dog has some experience learning tricks already.

Once your canine has this behavior down, you can find all sorts of great questions to ask that they will gladly answer ‘Yes’ to!

“Am I the smartest person in the world?”
“Yes!” answers your dog.

The possibilities of this trick are endless. You have some options on how to train it. Read on to find the method that works best for you and let the hilarity ensue!

Defining Tasks

Even puppies 12 weeks or older can learn this simple trick. Depending on how many training sessions you do, and how experienced your dog is at learning, a good estimate is 1-5 days with repeated training sessions.

This trick is best when it is on a non-verbal cue. We will show you how to put this on a hand signal so that you can ask a question and then give the signal for the ‘Yes’ answer silently.

The more time you spend training your dog, the faster they will learn any behavior. Regular training improves your dog’s overall focus, confidence, and ability to learn. Once they understand that a trick earns them a treat, they will enjoy training and learn fast.

It is always a good idea to start training any behavior in a low-distraction environment where your dog is very comfortable. Since this trick is probably going to come in very handy when away from home as well, be sure to practice the trick when you take your dog to new places once they have successfully learned the trick at home.

Always end a training session before your dog gets bored or frustrated for best results. They will come to associate training with an exciting and stimulating experience. 

Getting Started

All you need to teach this simple trick is some tasty treats that are cut into very small pieces so that you can reward often without putting weight on your dog. Mixing high-value rewards with some regular kibble also works for most dogs. If you clicker train, be sure to have your clicker as well.

If you are not using a clicker to mark the behavior when it is happening, then you can also use a special word or sound. The key is that the word or sound should always be followed by a reward.

We will use the term “mark/treat” to mean use your clicker or a special sound the exact moment your dog is doing what you want, followed by a treat reward. 

The Luring Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Lure a 'yes'
Hold a treat in your fingers and bring it to your dog’s nose. Move your hand up and down slow enough that your dog can follow the movement with their nose, 2-3 times.
Step
2
Mark/reward
While your dog is following your hand, mark with your sound or clicker and then immediately give them a treat.
Step
3
Fade the lure
Keep following steps 1 and 2, but as soon as you can (ideally before 5 repetitions), make the same movement with your hand without the treat in it. If your dog fails to understand what to do, return to using the “bribe” for a few more repetitions.
Step
4
Fade the hand signal
This trick won’t be funny if you have to have your hand in your dog’s face every time you want a nod. Gradually get away from the training hand movement towards a hand signal that will be less distracting. Continue to mark/reward.
Step
5
Add distance and distraction
After you have the behavior where you want it in a low distraction environment, then you can start to strengthen the trick by practicing in new places, from a further distance away, and from different starting positions.
Step
6
Randomize rewards
Ultimately, you want your dog to do a trick without constant food rewards. Once your dog has the trick down-pat, start choosing only the best examples of the behavior to reward, slowly working to a reward rate of about once in every ten successful tricks. Non-food rewards like praise can still be given every time.
Recommend training method?

The Capture Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Observe
This method takes excellent timing, but it is the preferred method for experienced trainers who like to encourage their dog to volunteer behaviors that can be “captured” with a timely mark/reward. For the first step, just observe your dog until they give you a behavior that is close to a ‘Yes’ nod, even though it is not yet perfect.
Step
2
Mark/reward
Mark/reward anything that seems to be in the direction of a nod. You want to work up to a reward rate of once every 2-5 seconds for the initial behavior. Fast reward rates keep your dog engaged.
Step
3
Take anything close at first
When doing the capture method, you need to take whatever is close to the ultimate behavior you want at first. In this case, it will likely be a very small dip or lifting of the nose. Remember to reward after you mark, even if your timing was a little off.
Step
4
Add the cue
Once you are getting the initial movement offered at a rapid rate, you are ready to add your cue. At first, just wait until you get the behavior to give the cue, then start giving your signal just prior to when you know you are about to get the behavior.
Step
5
Raise criteria
You are going to “shape” your dog’s behavior from the initial offering to what you are looking for in a final trick. Do this by being clear and consistent while you slowly raise your expectation of what you will mark/reward. In this case, go from a slight nod, to a deeper nod, to multiple nods, etc.
Step
6
Add distance and distraction
Once your dog has the behavior you want, and reliably gives it to you on cue, then you can practice the trick in new places and from a longer distance away.
Recommend training method?

The Secret Signal Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Lure a 'yes'
With a treat in your hand, get close to your dog’s nose and go up and down so that your dog will follow the treat with their nose.
Step
2
Mark/reward
Use your clicker or marking sound to let your dog know that a ‘Yes’ nod is what you will reward. Repeat 2-5 times.
Step
3
Fade the lure
Do the same hand motion except without the treat in your hand. Repeat 10-15 times.
Step
4
Fade the hand signal
Think of the signal you want to be your “secret signal.” It may be a very abbreviated hand signal, or even a foot signal for super stealth! Gradually fade away from the luring motion towards the new non-verbal cue that you want for this trick.
Step
5
Add questions
You really want your dog to say “Yes” on command to any question you ask and cue. To do this, start asking a question followed by a cue, then mark/reward. It is critical that you also ask questions without the cue, and do not mark/reward even if they give the nod. This will teach your dog that it is the cue, not the question, that should get a nod. You will probably also want to teach a ‘No’ headshake eventually to really blow your friends away. By making sure your dog is responding to your secret signal, you can get either a ‘Yes’ or ‘No” response on command to any question.
Step
6
Add distance and distraction
After your dog has learned the cue and gives you the behavior every time, then start practicing it in different parts of the house, in the yard, or while on an outing. Your dog will be nodding on cue anywhere in no time!
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd