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You can train your puppy to shake his head as a cute trick or as a way to tell you 'no'. Imagine asking your puppy if he’s ready to do something like go to bed or put away his toys and his response is a simple 'no' as he shakes his head. This is a cute way to communicate without the need to make sounds or speak.
Alternatively, you can also train your dog to shake his head in the opposite direction to say 'yes'. A shake up and down, or a nod, would mean 'yes', while a shake side to side would give you the simple answer of 'no' when you ask your puppy a question.
No matter what you want your dog to communicate, teaching him to shake his head will require time, repetition, and rewards. Training the motion to shake could occur as your dog watches you move a treat from one side to another or from up to down. He will then associate a command you give him to the movement of the shake by way of rewards. You can also train your dog to target, therefore, moving his head from side to side while conditioning himself to shake his head. You can also train your dog to mimic your movements as you shake your head. This is a fun trick puppies will love learning, but if you have an older dog you can train him as well.
For a complicated truck such as this, always keep your training sessions short and simple, and try to host them in an area free of distractions so your puppy can stay focused. If you plan to target train, be sure to have some targets on hand and space where you can target from one spot to another in a way that will ensure your puppy has room to move left or right or up or down. Sticky notes work great for targeting. Also be sure you have lots of treats because you will be rewarding your dog for every step as well as at the end of mastering this trick.
The Follow Treat Method
Prepare for your training sessions with several small treats. Hold a treat up and get your dog's attention.
Once you have your little guy's attention, move the treats from left to right in long, slow sweeps.
When your dog follows the treat with his head, say the command 'shake your head.'
Focus on only one direction at a time, either side to side or up and down. If you want to give this a different command such as 'say yes' or 'say no,' you can do this during this step, but be sure to focus on one command at a time and do not start the other direction until the first command is mastered.
Once he follows the treat from one side to the other and you give the command you’d like to use, let him have the treat.
Keep practicing using the treat to get your pup to shake his head while using your command. Do this several times before only using the command and not the treat lure to move his head.
Give this command some time and be sure to reward your dog each time he shakes his head after you have asked him by command. Continuing to reward positive behavior will make him continue to work hard.
The Target Method
Set a target area to train your dog to target a piece of paper from left to right causing him to shake his head. To do this, situate your dog between two chairs.
For the early stages of this training, place sticky notes on each chair at your dog's nose level and position yourselves so that your dog is sitting squarely between the two chairs and the two notes.
Have a treat in your hand and pick one target to start. Show the treat to your dog, letting him sniff it, then touch the treat to the target waiting long enough for your dog to sniff the target. As soon as he acknowledges that target, touch the treat to the other target getting him to move his head to the opposite direction.
Once your dog has shaken his head from one side to the other, use the command you plan to use to get him to do this trick. You may say 'shake your head' or 'say no.'
Continue to repeat this targeting practice using the command and the treats. To get your dog to shake his head more than one time from left to right, target each sticky note more than once before you use the command. Be sure to reward your pup each time he shakes his head by targeting with the treats.
Shake your head
After your dog has had lots of practice targeting, take the targets away and only use the command. Once your dog can shake his head by command only, you can move to teaching him to say 'yes' by shaking up and down if you would like.
The Lure and Click Method
Put yourself and your dog in an area free of all distractions and have your clicker and a handful of treats ready for training.
Yes or no
Decide if you are going to lure your dog to shake his head up and down as if to say 'yes' or to shake his head side to side as if to say 'no'. Also decide which command you would like your dog to know. He can learn 'yes,' 'no,' or 'shake your head.'
Show your dog a treat and then place it in your hands and close your fist. Use your closed hands to lower your dog's head into the direction you would like it to go. If you are teaching your dog to shake his head from side to side, slowly move your fist from one side of his head to the other side of his head to shake his head.
Say a command
Once you have lured him into shaking his head, give it a command. This can be a simple 'say no' or 'shake your head.'
After your dog has shaken his head and you have given him the command, give him the treat.
Repeat this several times until your dog shakes his head by command only. If you would like to go in the opposite direction as if to say yes, lower your dog's head up and down and use the command 'yes'. Practice this a lot until your dog does it by command only. Be sure to reward him each time.
By Stephanie Plummer
Published: 04/26/2018, edited: 01/08/2021
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