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A Pug's squashed face and curled tail give them away instantly. With black button eyes and expressive wrinkles around their flattened snout, Pugs often look clownish and, in some ways, human. This quirky canine offers more than just expressiveness to its owners, however; they're very versatile, as well. They thrive lounging around in a bachelor pad in the city, but are just as happy in a family home, running and playing in a backyard. The cherry on top? They're expert cuddlers thanks to their lap-dog-pedigree.
However, due to their tendency to be independent and stubborn, Pugs can be difficult to train. If they'd rather nap or sniff around for a squirrel, then it may not matter how much you try to motivate them to 'come' or 'sit'! They are highly motivated by food, though, so many trainers recommend keeping a little baggie of treats with you at all times, especially if you own a puppy or have recently adopted.
'Shake' is a common and easy trick to learn, however, and with enough attention, your Pug should be able to give pawsome handshakes in no time!
Out of all the commands to teach a dog, 'shake' may not be high on the list of priorities. There are a lot of benefits to teaching 'shake', however. For one, more time spent with your dog means your bond only strengthens. This sounds like a sweet sentiment - and, it is - but it's also a technical one: The stronger your bond, the better your communication.
We aren't able to speak the same language as our dogs, of course, but we are able to help them understand us and when they understand what behavior we like and don't like in them, we end up with a better-behaved pet. So while some may think it's silly to teach dogs novel acts like 'play dead' or 'sit pretty' or 'shake'", those of us that understand the importance of engaging with our canine friend, know that any and every training session is beneficial!
Furthermore, this is a pretty simple trick to teach because it requires just a little more patience but less effort on your part. You may have noticed before, that if you hold your hand out, animals are likely to be curious and lick or sniff at it. As social creatures, dogs enjoy responding to your physical movements in this way, some pups are even naturally inclined to interact with things by pawing at them. If your Pug is like this, then you're in luck! It's likely you could teach 'shake' during one simple training session.
The wonderful thing about owning a dog is it gives you the opportunity to discover your inner Dr. Doolittle. Routine and intentional training with your Pug will give you the sixth sense you never knew you needed: Understanding your dog and having that reciprocated is a beautiful and useful thing!
If outfitted with the right attitude and "tool belt", any animal owner can be an animal trainer. So let's take a look at what's included in that tool belt:
This is a necessary item when training Pugs. Those lovable snorters can't pass up a tasty snack. (Note: You may want to consider low-calorie treats, especially since this breed can have issues with weight and they will be consuming a lot of the yummy morsels during training sessions.) Some owners feel discouraged when their dogs won't perform for them without the promise of a treat, but every animal is different and some may need food-motivation to stay obedient for long periods of time. Don't worry about weaning treats out of the training scenario too quickly with Pugs, the important thing is that they're learning and listening.Designated Training Area
The ideal training spot is quiet and calm. Most dogs are noise and motion responsive. That means if you're trying to train them in a busy park or in your living room where a large window shows people walking or cars driving past, you're going to have a difficult time gaining and keeping their interest.Patience
This means patience with the process, but it also means patience with your dog. While you're focused on teaching, your dog is focused on learning. The best teachers in school were always the ones that challenged us by not feeding us the answers. Teach your Pug. Don't coddle them. If at first they don't react or behave how you expected or desired, have a little patience and faith, let a handful of seconds pass before showing or asking for the behavior again.
When training smaller breeds, it may be best for you to not tower over them during the entirety of training sessions. Particularly when teaching 'shake', you want them to be able to reach you in order to learn the command properly. You can try sitting in front of them or even just getting onto your knees, anything that will level the playing field.
The Sit Method
Use the 'sit' command
One of the first skills any dog picks up is to sit on command. If this is the case for your squash-faced love-bug, then this may be the method for you. In a distraction-free environment, command your Pug to 'sit' and keep them in this position for the following steps.
Once you get your Pug to sit, give them a tasty reward. This communicates several things at once to your pet: 1. these treats are delicious, 2. you're the exclusive giver of these yummy pieces of food, and, 3. treats are given when they do as they're told. It's like a preview to the full length film, which stars them, and has the happy ending of them being showered with kibble as long as they're obedient and engaged.
Use a lure
Luring is a method of teaching dogs to perform certain tasks by taking advantage of their keen sense of smell. Here's how to do it! While you hold a treat firmly between your fingers, linger in front of your dog's nose, then move - slowly! - in the direction you desire them to go. In this case, you want them to raise a paw, even just the slightest bit, off of the ground. As they're sitting, slowly raise your lure a little above their head. If this only causes them to stand, then calmly have them sit again, then try once more. This time move the lure not only up, just out of their reach, but maybe even slightly to one side or slightly behind their field of vision. The eager craning of their neck and upper body should cause their weigh to shift, resulting in a paw lifting off the ground. Don't be afraid to play around with how this causes them to interact with you; just have fun with it, but, remember, what you're really watching for is a lifted paw.
Wait for it...
While practicing different luring methods, keep your eye out for any sort of motion in either of their front two paws. As soon as you see it, immediately reward them with a treat and words of approval, given in an excited tone. Even if their paw barely leaves the ground, reward, reward, reward.
Continue to use the lure until you get paw-movement and reward every time. Don't worry about giving the "Shake" command just yet. Right now you should be solely focused on teaching the root element of this trick which is: Lifted paw equals treats.
Once you feel they're getting comfortable with picking up a paw, grab the raised paw and make the shaking motion. This isn't to teach your dog how to actually shake, but rather to familiarize them with the sensation and show them what this 'shake' command is all about.
After enough practice, which may need to happen for short spurts over the course of a few days to a week, your Pug should be understanding that you want their paw to make contact with your hand in some way. At this point, you can begin to say "Shake" right before you motion for them to do so. Another few focused training sessions with emphasis on this step and you should no longer have to use a lure. All it should take to have your Pug reach up to you is your extended hand and the word "Shake".
The Gentle Nudging Method
Share a nibble
Before beginning the 'shake' training session, give your Pug a little taste of what's in store. This quickly gains their attention, sharpening their focus and desire to please.
It's best that your dog is in either in a 'sit' position or lying down before you begin. Just remember that whatever position they're in during their introduction to this trick, they will likely revert to. (There's a reason why professional trainers teach 'lie down' before they teach 'roll over'.) We recommend the sitting position, as teaching 'shake' while they're lying down may cause them to shake exclusively in that position.
Gently pat the paw
Now that their attention is on you and they're in a position that's poised to learn 'shake', gently tap the back of one of their front paws. If they don't respond to it right away, keep at it, tapping more rapidly or applying a little more gentle pressure. Your goal is to get them to move the paw you're touching.
Initiate the first shake
As soon as your Pug picks up their paw to move it away from your incessant tapping, lightly grasp it within your hand, calmly shaking, effectively showing them what you want and exposing them to this new sensation.
Reward them for their participation. They may not understand right away what they did to deserve a tasty morsel, but soon enough your little nugget will come to know 'shake' as a request for their paw.
Add the verbal
Continue interacting with them as you have with steps one through five, except as you revisit these motions, begin to add the word "Shake" before prompting them for their paw.
Training sessions are best kept short and sweet so as to not lose your audience's interest or frustrate them. If this means you can only do ten minutes a day, then that's perfectly fine. Stay consistent with your practice and your Pug should know "Shake" in no more than five to seven days.
The Bait Method
Command your classroom
A training area to a dog is a classroom to you. Before beginning your lesson, ensure that your furry pupil is ready to learn by enticing their biggest motivator: their taste buds. Give them a sneak peak of the tasty goodness that's in store by offering them a small treat. Then request them to sit and meet their line of vision. If your dog isn't looking at you, or at least at the treat in your hand, then your dog is not ready to pay attention.
Expose the bait
Now that your student is ready to learn, prepare to bait them. Place a treat or two in the palm of your hand, allowing your Pug to watch you while you do so. Then, hold your hand out to them with the treats fully exposed.
Hide the bait
As soon as your Pug tries to snag the treats out of your open hand, close your fingers, forming a little cage around the tantalizing contents. Initially this may cause your Pug to lick and sniff at your fingers or even look at you and whine or grumble. While this will be adorable, it isn't exactly what you're looking for. This is where your patience is key.
Wait for the right behavior
Eventually, your Pug will become frustrated, causing them to - hopefully - paw at your hand instead of just licking at it. As soon as they do this, react excitedly and willingly give them the treats they've been dying to gobble up.
Continue the lesson
Repeat these steps for the next few minutes or training sessions, until your Pug realizes that them pawing at your hand is what gives them the treats hiding inside. As you continue, begin to gently hold their paw in your hand and shake it, helping them become accustomed to the motion of shaking hands.
Add the verbal
Your furry short-nosed student is about to graduate! This means they've become comfortable with interacting with you using their paws. Now that they're at this level, you can begin to cue their learned behavior with one, simple word: "Shake".
By Candice Littleton
Published: 04/11/2018, edited: 01/08/2021