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Imagine that it is spring time. The weather is turning warmer, the birds are singing, the grass is growing again, and with spring comes spring showers. You let your Shih Tzu outside for a little while after a morning shower when the sun reappears. When you start to let him back inside you notice that his normally white paws have turned brown from all of the mud outside. You tell him to sit and go grab a hand towel. When you return you tell him "Paw", and he obediently lifts up a paw to let you wipe it off. After a few minutes of wiping him off, he is clean enough to come back inside again without leaving brown paw prints every all over your home.
Teaching your pup how to give a paw can be very useful. It can be a fun trick to show off to friends, a convenient way to get your pup to cooperate for nail trimmings and paw cleanings, and a great command to give your pup during greetings, so that he will shake hands with your guests instead of jump on them.
Teaching your dog how to give a paw is pretty simple. Expect it to take between two to six weeks to teach him. If your pup does not like having his paws touched then this can be a great trick to teach, to familiarize him with being touched in a positive way. Before you teach him 'paw' though, you will need to first spend extra time simply getting him used to being touched. To do this, gently touch his paws, one at a time, while feeding him treats. Do that until he is comfortable having his paws touched, before moving onto teaching him to give paw. If your dog does not like having his paws touched then it will be less stressful for him if you use 'The Lure Method' to train this, rather than 'The Grab Method' or 'The Touch Method'.
Remember to be gentle while teaching your pup this trick. Many dogs are sensitive about their paws, so when you tap, grab, or hold his paw do so gently so that he will feel confident about giving you his paw again in the future. This should be a fun trick for both you and your dog. Try to have fun while teaching this and your dog will probably enjoy it more too.
To teach this, your dog will need to know how to sit when told to. You can also lure him into the sitting position each time that you practice this trick, but doing that instead will make the trick take longer to train typically. Once your pup knows the trick then you can ask him to do it while in the standing position also, but it will be easier for him to initially learn it in the sitting position because he will be better balanced and therefore more willing to lift his paw up.
To get started you will need lots of small treats that your dog likes. If you are using 'The Lure Method' then those treats will need to be something that smells really good to your dog. For all of the methods, your pup will need to know how to sit when told to, or you will need to be able to lure him into a sitting position each time that you practice this trick. You will need a calm location to practice this in, two free hands, good timing, and a positive attitude and willingness to have fun training.
The Grab Method
To begin, grab treats that your pup loves. Call your pup over and tell him to sit.
When Fido is sitting down, then tell him "Paw", and gently lift his paw up with one hand and place his paw into your other open hand, so that his paw is resting on the palm of your hand.
Reward with a treat
As soon as your dog's paw touches your open hand, praise him and give him a treat. If he leaves his paw on your palm while you feed him the treat from your other hand then praise him and feed him another treat every two seconds that his paw remains there. Do this for up to thirty seconds. If he moves his paw as soon as you give him the treat then let him, that is alright too.
Repeat telling your pup "Paw", placing Fido's paw onto your open hand, and then praising and rewarding him, at least thirty times. Do this until your pup begins to place his paw onto your open hand when you offer it and say "Paw", before you move it for him.
Phase out grabbing
When your pup begins to place his paw onto your open, offered hand when you say "Paw", before you move his paw there, then phase out moving his paw altogether. To phase it out, place your open hand in front of his paw, tell him "Paw", and then wait seven seconds before moving his paw onto your hand. Do this until he will move his paw onto your hand on his own every time during the seven seconds, without needing you to move it for him any longer.
The Lure Method
To begin, grab some small treats that your dog likes, that smell really good to him. Call your dog over to you, tell him to sit, and then place three treats into your hand and close your fingers around them. Let your dog sniff your hand, and then place your hand in front of his paw, while telling him "Paw", to encourage him to place his paw onto your treat filled hand.
As soon as your dog lifts up his paw and touches your hand with it, praise him and open your hand to give him the treats. If your dog has already learned the 'leave it' command, then this will probably take longer, and you might need to offer your treat filled hand several times and encourage him to sniff it and paw at it more, before he will paw at it.
Repeat offering your treat filled hand while telling your pup "Paw", and praising him and rewarding him with the treats inside when he paws at it. Do this until he consistently reaches for your hand with his paw as soon as you move your hand toward him or say "Paw".
Remove treats from hand
When Fido is reaching for your treat filled hand consistently, to try to touch it with his paw, then remove the treats from your hand and close your hand, as if you are still holding the treats. Offer your empty closed hand to your dog and tell him "Paw", like you did before. When he touches your hand, praise him, open your hand, and then place a treat into your open hand for your dog to eat. Repeat this until your dog will consistently reach for and touch your empty hand
Offer an open hand
When your pup will consistently reach for and touch your empty hand when you offer it and say "Paw", then open your hand and place it in front of his paw. Do this while saying "Paw". When he reaches for your open hand and touches it, then praise him and feed him a treat from your other hand. If your dog seems confused then simply keep your open hand there and wait for up to fifteen seconds for him to reach for it. This will give him time to think about what to do. If that does not work then try offering your hand five times in a row, telling him "Paw" each time. If neither of those things work then go back a step and practice with your closed empty hand for longer, before moving on to this step.
Practice makes perfect!
Practice offering your open hand while telling your pup "Paw" until he can do it consistently, and have fun!
The Touch Method
Call your pup
To begin, grab some treats and call your dog over. When he arrives tell him to sit.
When your pup arrives and is sitting down, then tell him "Paw" and tap the back of one of his front paws until he lifts it off the ground.
As soon as Fido lifts his paw up, quickly place your free hand underneath his paw so that he will lower his paw onto it, and then praise him and give him a treat as soon as his paw touches your hand.
Repeat telling your pup "Paw" while tapping his paw until he lifts it up, and placing your hand underneath his paw so that his paw touches your hand when he lowers it, and praising him and rewarding him when his paw touches your hand. Repeat all of this until your pup will lift up his paw when told "Paw", without you tapping it.
Offer your hand
When your pup will lift his paw when told "Paw" without the tapping, then place your open hand right in front of your pup's paw, so that your hand is slightly touching the front of your pup's paw. Tell your pup "Paw", and then when he lifts his paw up move your hand halfway underneath it, so that he can choose to either lower his paw onto your hand or onto the floor. When he places his paw onto your hand then praise him and give him a treat. If he does not place it onto your hand, then repeat telling him "Paw" and placing your hand slightly underneath his raised paw. Do this until he lowers his paw onto your hand instead of the floor. Praise him and reward him when he finally touches your hand..
Move your hand
When Fido will consistently place his paw onto your open hand after lifting it, then place your hand right in front of his paw, so that you are barely touching the front of his paw. Tell him "Paw", but do not move your hand underneath his paw anymore. Keep it in front of his paw. Practice this until he will place his paw into your offered hand consistently when told "Paw".
By Caitlin Crittenden
Published: 04/18/2018, edited: 01/08/2021