How to Train a German Shepherd to Shake Hands

Easy
2-4 Weeks
Fun

Introduction

Imagine that you are out on a walk with your dog when you run across an old friend of yours. You exchange greetings and introduce your German Shepherd to her. As she goes over to your dog to tell him hello, you tell your dog to 'shake', and he politely offers his paw to her outstretched hand to happily make his introduction. Nothing is cuter than having your dog introduce himself to people with a shake of his paw. Among people, shaking hands is a normal way to greet someone in Western culture. It is considered polite and friendly. Because we are used to shaking hands with people, shaking hands with a dog feels fun and friendly, not to mention kind of funny! And laughter is good for the soul, right?

German Shepherds enjoy having a job to do, and need frequent mental stimulation. Teaching your German Shepherd tricks is a great way to satisfy his needs in those areas. Because your dog is probably very intelligent and desires to work for you, he can excel at all different types of tricks. Many tricks build on one another, and the more tricks that you teach to your dog, the easier it will be to teach him other tricks that require similar actions. By teaching your dog how to 'shake', you are also teaching your dog how to lift up his paw on cue, and how to place his paw on something. Those skills can help you teach other, more advanced tricks, such as 'limp' and 'contact'.

Defining Tasks

'Shake' is a great beginner trick to teach your German Shepherd. Because there are multiple ways to teach this trick, and because all your dog really needs to know before you can teach this trick is how to 'sit' and how to tolerate a moderate amount of touching, most dogs can easily learn this trick. 

Expect this trick to take between two and four weeks to train. Of the three methods, the 'Hold' method is probably the simplest method for you to use, but if you choose to use that method,  expect it to take your Shepherd slightly longer to learn 'shake'. This is because methods that require your dog to initiate the behavior himself tend to be learned fastest, and with the 'Hold' method, you will be doing most of the work for him at first.

If your German Shepherd is not used to having his feet touched or is afraid of having his nails cut, then you will need to spend time teaching your dog to like having his feet touched at first. To do this, gently touch your dog's foot and offer him a treat. Repeat doing this until your dog enjoys having his feet touched. Only touch your dog's feet if he is not likely to bite you for doing so though.

Getting Started

To get started you will need lots of small, tasty treats, that your dog loves. You will need a calm location to practice this in, and your dog will need to know the 'sit' command. If you are using the 'Lure' method then you will also need a small object that your dog loves. This can be a small dog toy, a treat, a larger piece of food, or any other safe item that your dog is interested in. If your dog loves treats enough to paw at your hand for them, then treats will be the easiest items to use. Last but not least, you will need to be willing to have fun and to praise your dog whenever he makes steps toward learning 'shake'.

The Touch Method

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Step
1
Face your dog
To begin, have your dog sit in front of you. Tell your dog "Shake", and tickle the back of his front paw until he lifts it off the ground at least an inch.
Step
2
Reward
When your dog lifts his foot to escape the tickling sensation, quickly praise him and give him a treat
Step
3
Repeat
Repeat telling your dog "Shake" and then tickling his paw, until he will lift it as soon as you begin to touch it.
Step
4
Add your other hand
When your dog is lifting his paw as soon as you touch it, when he lifts it, begin to place your free hand underneath it and give it a little shake. After you shake it then praise your dog, give him a treat, and release his paw.
Step
5
Repeat
Repeat placing your hand under your dog's paw when he lifts it, until he begins to move his paw toward your hand when you start to place it under his paw, in order to earn his treat.
Step
6
Wait
When your dog starts to place his paw in your hand willingly when you put your hand under it, then phase out touching his paw to get him to lift it. To phase it out, tell your dog "Shake" and place your handshaking hand in front of his paw, for him to put his paw into, then wait ten seconds.
Step
7
Reward
If your dog places his paw into your hand during the ten seconds, immediately praise your dog and give him a treat.
Step
8
Give a hint
If your dog does not place his paw into your hand during the ten seconds, then give him a hint by touching his paw again at the end of the ten seconds. Repeat this process until he will place his paw into your hand before you touch his paw.
Step
9
Practice
When your dog will place his paw into your outstretched hand when you tell him "Shake", then practice until he will 'shake' whenever you tell him to. Congratulations! Your dog can now 'shake'.
Recommend training method?

The Lure Method

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Step
1
Hold an item
To begin, place something that your dog likes into your hand and close your hand around it. This can be a small toy, a food reward, or another object that your dog likes.
Step
2
Entice your dog
Have your dog sit in front of you and show him what is in your hand. After your dog has seen what is in your hand, close your hand over it, and place your hand in front of your dog's paw while telling him to "Shake" in a happy tone of voice. Do this to encourage him to paw at your closed hand.
Step
3
Reward pawing
When your dog begins to paw at your hand, praise him, open your hand, and give him what is inside. If what is inside is not safe for him to have, remove the item from your hand and quickly place a treat in your open hand for him to eat instead.
Step
4
Repeat
Repeat showing your dog your hand, and placing your closed hand in front of his paw, while also telling him "Shake". Do this until he begins to paw at your hand as soon as it gets close to him.
Step
5
Open your hand
When your dog is attempting to paw at your hand as soon as it approaches him, open your hand and face the palm of your hand toward the floor, while still holding your object or treat in your hand by pressing it into the palm of your hand with your thumb. Command your dog to "Shake" while placing your open, palm down hand in front of your dog's paw. When your dog touches his paw to your hand, praise him and turn your hand toward him to give him a treat or the object.
Step
6
Repeat
Repeat having your dog touch your palm-down hand, until he will quickly reach toward your hand as soon as you say "Shake" or move your hand toward him.
Step
7
Empty your hand
When your dog is responding well to your open hand, then remove the object from your hand, and practice telling your dog "Shake" while offering him your open, palm-down, but empty hand. As soon as he touches it, praise him and offer him a favorite object or treat from your other, free hand. Practice this until your dog will eagerly paw at your empty hand as it approaches.
Step
8
Flip your hand
When your dog is eagerly reaching for your empty, palm-down hand, flip your hand, so that your palm is facing up. Tell your dog to "Shake", while offering your empty, palm-up hand. When your dog touches your hand, praise him and offer him a treat from your other, free hand.
Step
9
Reward full contact
Practice having your dog touch your empty, palm up hand, until your dog will eagerly touch your hand every time that you tell him "Shake". When your dog will do this, only reward him with a treat or the object when he places his paw completely into your hand, rather than simply touches it. Continue to praise him for every touch though, so that he does not become discouraged. Practice this until your dog will place his paw into your hand every time that you tell him "Shake" and offer him your open hand.
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The Hold Method

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Step
1
Face your dog
To begin, have your dog sit in front of you.
Step
2
Lift
Gently lift up your dog's paw with your hand while telling him "Shake", then praise him and give him a treat before letting it go.
Step
3
Repeat
Repeat lifting up your dog's paw until he begins to lift it on his own when you reach for it.
Step
4
Offer your hand
When your dog will lift his paw in anticipation of you grabbing it, then hold your hand open and touch your hand to your dog's paw, while telling him "Shake", to encourage him to place his paw into your hand.
Step
5
Reward
If your dog places his paw into your hand then praise him and offer him a treat. Also reward any effort at placing his paw into your hand while he is learning, such as lifting his paw toward your hand or touching his paw to your hand.
Step
6
Wait
If he does not place his paw into your hand within five seconds and does not make any effort to move his paw toward your hand, then show him what to do again by grabbing his paw. When you grab his paw, praise him and give him a treat. Practice touching his paw with your open hand until he will place his paw into your open hand.
Step
7
Practice
When your dog will place his paw into your hand, practice offering your hand slightly farther from his paw. Start with your hand only one inch away from his paw, and as your dog improves, gradually increase to six inches away. When your dog will place his paw into your hand when your hand is offered six inches away from his paw, when you tell him to "Shake", then he has mastered the 'shake' command. Congratulations!
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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