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A friend comes over to meet your Labrador puppy for the first time. Rather than jumping all over her, your pup drops his rear end to the floor. You say "shake" and your friend and your puppy politely shake hands. Your friend is amazed! How lucky are you to have such an amazing dog.
Training your puppy to shake hands is a cute trick, but it also has good behavior benefits. This command is a good way to redirect your puppy's energy when he meets new people. It can also help solidify a command he already knows, 'sit', and create a stronger bond between you. 'Shake' is an easy command to learn, especially if your puppy is already familiar with 'sit'. With consistent training and some yummy treats, most puppies can learn this trick in just a couple of sessions.
When you start training the 'shake' command, choose a quiet area of your house without too many distractions. Puppies have short attention spans and are easily distracted. Choosing an empty room gives your Labrador puppy a better chance at success. You will also need some high-value training treats, ideally ones that have a strong smell so your puppy stays interested. If you are doing clicker training, you can use your clicker with this command.
The Tappity Tap Method
Get into position
Give your puppy the command to sit. When he sits down, give him a treat. Then, show him you have more treats in your hands.
Tap his toes
Using your index finger, gently tap the back of your puppy's paw. Keep tapping until your puppy reacts by moving his paw or lifting it up.
Grab his paw
As soon as your Labrador puppy starts to bend his foot to move away from the tapping, gently pick up his paw with your hand. Give your puppy some verbal praise and a nice treat.
Repeat these steps until your puppy starts to lift his foot as soon as you reach towards it. Now you can add in the verbal cue and say "shake" or "paw" to tell your puppy what you want him to do.
Wean him off the treats
Once your puppy is lifting his paw whenever you say "shake", start giving treats only sporadically rather than every time. Eventually, you want to stop giving treats altogether and only reward your puppy with verbal praise.
Using both paws
Just because your puppy is good at shaking with one paw doesn't mean he can do it with both. If you want to add in the other foot, choose a different command word and repeat the same steps as before.
The Wait for Movement Method
Get set up
Tell your Labrador puppy to sit. Place one treat in your hand and show your puppy you have it. Then, close your fist around the treat to hide it.
Hold your treat by your puppy's paw
Place your closed fist about two inches off of the ground near your puppy's foot. If he stands up, ask him to sit again.
Wait for the behavior you want
As soon as your puppy moves the paw close to the treat even a little bit, tell him he's a good boy and give him the treat. You can also reward him for shifting his weight from one foot to the other.
Use a second treat
Put another treat in your hand and repeat the same steps. This time wait for your puppy to lift his paw or bat at your hand. As soon as that happens, reveal the treat and give it to him.
Grab his paw for a shake
Do it again but this time hold your free hand flat to shake when he lifts his paw. As soon as your Labrador puppy bats your hand, reveal the treat and grab his paw.
Add in the command word
When your puppy is reliably lifting his paw, begin saying a command word, such as "shake" or "paw" before rewarding him. Eventually, he will begin lifting his paw when you say the command. At this point, you can start phasing out the treats.
The Help a Puppy Out Method
Tell your puppy to sit
Get your Labrador puppy into position and show him you have some yummy treats for him.
Say the word
Give your Labrador puppy the command word you've chosen, such as "shake" or "paw," and then reach down and pick up his paw yourself.
Reward the behavior
Tell your puppy "good job" or click your clicker and then give him a treat. Do this quickly because you want him to associate the yummy treat with shaking your hand.
Repeat a few times
Practice these steps a few times in a row until it seems like your puppy is comfortable with the shake-treat combination. Then, try holding out your hand and saying the word "shake" without lifting his paw.
Practice the shake command in short sessions a couple of times a day. Your Labrador puppy will be shaking your hand like a pro in no time.
By Christina Gunning
Published: 03/07/2018, edited: 01/08/2021