Call it shake, paw, or pick your own command, teaching your dog to lift their paw for you is a trick staple. It's the one that strangers on the street will ask your dog, “Can you shake?” And wait for your dog’s non-verbal answer. Maybe it’s because we associate shaking hands as etiquette. But whatever the reason, shake is a crowd pleaser. It also leads to dozens of other tricks: wave, high five (or ten), to name the easier ones.
Ironically, shake is one of the few tricks that Luna didn’t seem to ‘get’ for the longest time. I assumed it would be easiest to pick up her paw for her, ‘shake’ it while repeating the command. I figured she would either recognize the word or the hand signal, but she always just looked at me confused. After a while I gave up and moved on to tricks she was more naturally inclined to do.
Turned out I was doing it wrong. Or at least wrong for her. Since then I have found that whenever possible you need to lure your dog into doing whatever it is you are asking of them. While I was attempting to teach her shake I was in fact doing the motion for her. In her mind we were doing the trick as designed, and I guess she’s right.
Ready to give it a try?
Paw is best taught on the ground with your dog in a sitting position in front of you. Take a tasty treat (the tastier the better) and let them watch you put it in a closed fist. Place your hand on the ground just in front of their paws. Your dog will probably sniff at the treat, they may lie down, or even lick your hand. As soon as their paw leaves the ground mark the behavior (such as using the word ‘yes’!), followed by the command (good paw), and then reward them with the treat.
Continue to praise and reward for raising the paw. Transition to holding your hand open, palm up, and shaking before raising your arm to a greater height. Your goal should be chest high for the dog.
Every dog learns this trick at a different pace. Once Luna understood I wanted her paw to touch my hand she was shaking after just a few sessions. Ella still paws at me half the time, and for Charlie it’s one of his favorite tricks.
Already have it mastered?
Try taking shake to a new level. Teach your dog to switch paws. Like humans they have a preference between right and left. Or move your hand away to teach wave, hand forward and towards them for high five.
When teaching additional tricks it is often helpful to use both the new and old command at first. For example, with wave I would call it ‘shake wave’ to encourage the paw lift.
Now for a real challenge explore your own tricks involving paw. Think buttons and switches - even musical instruments.
Have a unique way of using the paw command? Let us know in the comments below.
I promised a few posts ago that we would post more on Trick Dog. Last week Luna and I set out to sign off her Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced titles. To some, it may sound like a rush, but I wanted to get hers finished and off the table so I could move onto Ella and Charlie. Not that it means we’re done, because constant training keeps Luna happy and strengthens our bond.
She completed 20 tricks last Saturday to obtain all three titles. Her wave was a little sketchy...but she had also only learned it that same week. There is still one more title she can earn, Performer, but we have to do a video for that. If I’m going that far with it I want to put a whole sketch together. I’m thinking something musically inclined, as we are working on ‘keys’ with Dad’s keyboard.
As I mentioned before, I want to share the Trick Dog journey with you. But to be honest Luna's is towards the end of that path, so we’ll be focusing more on Charlie and Ella. Not that she won’t still make an appearance now and then, because, well, it’s Luna.
So how do you get started in Trick Dog? A good starting place would be to find a local AKC obedience club. If you don’t have one available or you want to go it alone start by picking up Kyra Sundance’s 101 Dog Tricks. I recommend everyone, whether or not you are interested in Trick Dog, to complete a basic training program. This should include getting your Canine Good Citizen (CGC). Depending on the program you choose and how much training you have done on your own this may take more than one complete class.
Sometimes a song or artist can transport you to another time and place. Tim McGraw holds that power over me. My once favorite musician throughout junior high and high school; the first CD I bought his Not a Moment Too Soon. And I aged myself with the CD comment…
I can still hear his voice blasting through warn speakers of my first car, a ‘74 burnt orange Chevy Vega. And if I try hard enough and close my eyes I can feel my passenger, Miley.
A wiry, brown mutt Mi was my first real dog. I had others growing up, but she was the first one that was truly mine. That I owned. Or she owned me. She'd sit nestled in my console, cruising the streets of St. George. If I wasn't at school or at work that dog was always with me.
I'd belt whatever song was playing and try to get her to howl along with the words. Sometimes it worked. God, I wish i I had recorded her howl/yowl/whine combo because it was something to behold.
Our song was Something Like That, or as I always called it, The Barbecue Song. It may sound like a weird choice if you’ve ever heard it, but I worked so hard to win that little timid dog over. I swear she recognized the beat, even years later. No matter how long it had been that song would come on the radio and she would get all excited.
I played it for her one last time the day I let her go.
It's been almost three years and my heart still aches. But it's dulled and now I find I can cherish her memories. As with my other dogs, a piece of her is always with me, will always be with me.
So today I'll turn up my phone just a little louder and let her come back to me again. Because they never really leave us. Not when they take a piece of our hearts with them.
Luna and I have been excited for the new Trick Dog titles ever since the American Kennel Club (AKC) announced the program in May. The AKC partnered with Kyra Sundance’s Do More With Your Dog and is designed for all dogs to participate.
“Tricks” are something Luna has done almost naturally since the day she came into our house. Whether it was something she picked up during a quick training session (balancing a treat) or she just did (perch - front paws on an item like a stool). A natural worker and eager to please, grab a handful of treats and give her some one-on-one time and Luna’s ready to go!
There are so many things I love about this program’s design. First, it’s simple to get involved in. You can find a list of all the tricks for each title (Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, and Performer) on the AKC’s website. This makes it easy for you to practice at home at your own pace if you can’t find classes near you. Kyra Sundance even released a book called 101 Dog Tricks that contains many of the tricks with step-by-step instructions. Once you’re ready to title you don’t have to wait for a dog show or compete dozens of times. All Trick Dog titles just have to be passed off by an AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Evaluator.
Trick Dog also allows you to dip your toes into the world of several AKC sports. There are obedience tricks involving the basics of sit and down alongside agility equipment like the weave poles and tunnel. And if these are commands your dog is familiar with you can challenge yourself with tricks such as pulling a toy with a rope or balancing on a barrel. Trick Dog is designed to be fun and I think it meets that goal.
Over the next few weeks we’ll have more updates on our Trick Dog journey. I hope it will inspire you to do more with your own dog, even if you never decide to title.
I think it's safe to say I'm terrible at this blogging thing. Well over a year since the last time Luna and I have caught up with things here. Charlie had just come home to us!
It's also been over a year since we said goodbye to Boots and while I don't want to rehash her loss again I will add this insert from the post I shared on Facebook the day we let her go:
“She was a wonderful dog, had one of the best temperaments I have ever seen, was sweet, and so smart. Although she only lived in our home for several years many of you know she was part of my family for her entire life (all 15 years). She was one of the last parts of my dad that was still with me.”
For the first time in a long while I am not operating the Doggy Old Folks Home. Even now that feels weird. But at least we aren't at the vet's every month!
Not that we never see Dr. Taylor over at Brookside, because that would make life too easy. Just last week I found a tumor next to Luna's little tail nub that had to be removed. It looks like it's benign and Luna is taking it in stride so I'm doing my best to emulate her and not worry. Hard when you know all the things that might go wrong.
But we have had a lot of good things happen in the last year, too. Both Charlie and Ella passed their Canine Good Citizenship (CGC) on their first attempt. I had someone make the mistake of asking me if that meant they were smarter than Luna - No, they have less issues from their past to work through. Luna can run circles around both of them when it comes to obedience.
Lots of changes on the training front. I’ve been assisting and training puppy classes, making it harder for me to fit in training with my own dogs. At long last we’ve started dipping our toes into rally - I’m sure I have a post around here somewhere talking about how agility was a goal for Luna. We’ve dropped Rally and are getting ready to start a trick dog class in a couple weeks.
Right now life is good… now if I can just find time to write more!
Often, when people ask how many dogs I have they think I’m a little crazy when I tell them three – now they think I’m nuts. Last week we chose to take in a fourth pack member, a husky mix named Charlie.
Charlie lived in a home where he was well loved, but there wasn’t enough time available for his care. He is a high energy dog and without an outlet was over excited and difficult to manage. However, he is also extremely intelligent, quick to learn, and has a wonderful temperament. Recognizing his potential I offered to give him a spot in our home, as long as he and Luna got along.
Luna, being the wild card she is, had me a little nervous about the introduction. However, as it went with Ella, I had little to worry about. The two (and then three of them once Ella joined in) were chasing and playing with each other happily about 15 minutes after Charlie arrived.
Charlie is adapting quickly to life at our house, he acts as if he’s always been part of the pack. He and Ella love to wear each other out, which actually gives Luna and I more of the one on one time she craves. Luckily, he gives Boots the space she needs and has not been overbearing on her at all. The only one having trouble adapting to the extra four paws is the cat.
Back to the craziness of four dogs – it honestly doesn’t feel that much different than three, in some ways it feels even easier. Walking them all at once can be a bit of a challenge, but that’s what having a good strong heel and walk are for. While he is still learning, Luna and Ella on the other hand can be walked together with ease.
As soon as classes start up again this spring Charlie will be heading in with me, his toughest hurdle is going to be learning to focus on his handler rather than all the other dogs he wants to play with. Once we get past that one I doubt there is going to be much this guy can’t do.
Recently there was a post on Facebook circulating about what your dog’s sleeping position means. I don’t know how much of it is fact, but it was interesting and it got me thinking about dogs’ sleeping habits, as well as my own.
Since having my first dog (family/childhood dogs not included), Miley, I’ve always allowed my dogs to sleep with me. Miley had her own pillow next to mine, but after I got married and time progressed she started to simply share mine. My next dog, Sprite, never chose to sleep with me, always preferring the floor, even though he had the option. On the other hand my third dog, Ari joined Miley on the bed, always sleeping at the small of my back and under the covers unless it was cold out. On those nights she would burrow down to my feet.
Unfortunately, as they grew older I had to move them both to the floor for safety reasons. The separation was difficult. I felt guilt as if I had abandoned them and it was harder for me to sleep without them. I told myself that I would never allow another dog in my bed…famous last words.
Boots was already old when she came to live with us, so we emigrated her to the floor next to the bed rather easily. When Luna arrived we maintained a strict “no furniture” rule unless you are invited, which included the bed. (A rule we still abide by – mostly.) Gradually though nighttime cuddles were replaced with permanent residence and once Ella arrived and graduated from sleeping in her kennel there was no going back.
I had forgotten how much better I slept with my girls with me (don’t get me started on how hard it is to fall asleep when I travel) even when Luna has to jump on and off the bed several times in the night to “check on” the cat. While I know I will have the day when she can no longer stay with me, I would never give up the time I have.
So where do your dogs lie at night?
Anyone who knows me (or has poked around this blog) knows that since getting Luna I have been a big advocate for dog training – whether it’s just the basics or onto higher levels. Since January is National Train Your Dog Month I thought I would share some tips for those just getting started and let you in on what Luna and Ella are working on now.
The first step is recognizing the importance of training your dog. This makes them more manageable in all situations, helps keep them safe, and leads to a happier, well-adjusted pup with a stronger bond towards you. I once mentioned the homework we had been given in Luna’s first intermediate class – learn what your dog was bred for, and this is still some of the best pieces of advice that I’ve ever been given. Once you know what your dog is more inclined to want to do naturally you can move on to the next step of finding out what kind of training will work best for you and your dog.
I recommend researching your local businesses to find a class that will suit your needs. While you can read books or websites to learn about training on your own, the on hand experience is immeasurable. My own research brought me to our local AKC training club, which I mostly chose because they offered training from the basics up to rally and agility. I never realized that it would also give me the opportunity to work with and meet with a wide variety of experienced dog handlers and trainers. Every trainer I have had has taught me something new, no matter how many times I attend a class.
No matter where you decide to go, or if you choose the on-your-own route, try to set aside some time every day to work with your dog, even if it is only for a few minutes. Luna attends class almost every week for two reasons, first it helps with her socialization with dogs and people and secondly, because she loves having a ‘job’. When we are not in class I work on basic commands such as “sit”, “down”, and “stand” several times throughout the day, particularly first thing in the morning and when I come home, and Luna knows there are no ‘free’ treats in our house! I also work with them during down times such as TV watching or waiting for pots to boil in the kitchen. Walks are also a great time to practice heeling and those same basics, and while I prefer to walk each of the dogs on their own, time doesn’t always permit me to give them that one on one attention.
Aside from the importance of time, I’ll just add a couple other tips to keep in mind as you start this journey. A few I wish someone would have told me long before Luna ever came in my life.
So how are Luna and Ella honoring Train Your Dog Month? Unfortunately, our normal classes are not being held due to a remodel that is taking place in the building we use, but we’re still keeping busy at home.
Ella is mastering the difference between "sit", "beg", and "dance". "Dance" being her favorite go-to for treats. It was a pose she naturally took from day one, so we’re incorporating it into her ‘tricks’. She’s also learning stronger responses to hand signals.
Luna is working on tricks more than commands right now. She’s learning "perch" (placing her front paws on an object when standing) and being taught to fetch her toys in from outside as Ella can’t stop taking them all out the dog door. We are also working on walking backwards for advanced rally.
Together they are working on routines of "sit", "down", and "stay" they do at the same time. The goal is to get them to respond only to the command they have been given. Luna is a bit of a pro, but Ella is still learning to wait for her name to be called.
As for Boots, she is just enjoying the old age benefit of getting treats simply because everyone else is, although her down/stay is pretty much unbreakable.
It turns out that hand stripping is a very (at least for the inexperienced) long process of removing the dead hair on your dog’s coat by pulling them out by hand or with the assistance of a stripping knife. The longer outer coat breaks off leaving the softer undercoat. I know what you’re thinking – ouch! Yet it turns out that this doesn’t hurt the dog, although Ella was a little squirmy during the process, but I imagine she would have been if I had shaved her instead.
By now you’re wondering, if this process takes so long, why not just shave her? In the past I shaved both Miley and Ari, and although not a professional groomer I was content with their appearance. For Miley I liked the way she looked cut – and Ari’s coat left untouched gave her a bit of a razorback that was so rough I hated the texture of it. What I didn’t know then was that shaving them was potentially damaging, or at least altering, their coat.
I never saw a change in Ari (but I also only shaved her around twice a year and never very short) but over the years Miley’s coat grew softer and lighter in color. I thought it was due to her aging, but was in fact the result of being shaved every few months for 10+ years.
Fast forward to Ella, whose coat is so unique that I didn’t want to chance losing any of her coloring. She also sheds very little and I love her texture, but she too was getting the razorback – although instead of it being one strip down the middle I felt like it was her whole coat.
Since it was a long process and I was inexperienced we drew it out over several days and in about three to four 30 minute sessions, with an hour break in between. As I said, Ella wiggled a bit, but with my trusty treats she didn’t do too bad. I did cheat by trimming her legs, belly, and tail by hand. Her tail was by far the most difficult as I didn’t want to strip the entire thing short and was forced to attempt to blend it.
All in all I’m pretty happy with the result, although I'm noticing some longer belly hairs in her after picture I missed. I’m pretty sure I’ll do it again in about six months, when I can’t handle the ridge any longer!
If you’re interested in learning more about hand stripping I recommend visiting handstripping.com, they had a lot of information and great before and after pictures.
I recently discovered through the American Kennel Club’s post here that it is National Dog Bite Prevention Week. I honestly didn’t even know that such a week existed and as someone that was bitten by a dog as a teenager (an Alaskan Malamute that was NOT socialized) quite badly it’s refreshing to see tips on how to prevent these events from occurring. The truth is what happened to me should have never happened. I was taken to a house and purposefully introduced to a dog that had bitten two other people. I still carry several scars, one on my lip and a handful on my arm, but am thankful I don’t have a fear of dogs. In fact, I feel worse for the dog because he lost his life. We as dog owners are responsible for our dogs, to train them and keep them safe.
The aforementioned post had some great tips and information I suggest everyone read over, but the article that stuck out to me was the one about Dogs In Need Of Space (DINOS). I had never heard this term, but it led me to Jessica Dolce’s website, dogsinneedofspace.com and I spent the entire afternoon reading over her articles. They are easy to read, with a pinch of humor about a serious problem – some dogs really do need space for many reasons (injury, old age, training, or simply uncomfortable around other dogs/children/strangers) and we as dog owners sometimes forget that fact – or if you’ve never had a bad dog encounter maybe it’s never occurred to you before.
I will admit, when I was younger I was one of those people that walked my dog without a leash unless I absolutely had to. It was only one dog, but still irresponsible. Miley was tethered to me as if she had a leash and at the time it never felt necessary. She never walked farther than a foot or two and after we had two more dogs her on a leash actually complicated things by making one big tangle. I never thought there could be a danger in doing so and luckily we never had an incident. Knowing what I know now I’d never do that with my own dogs, not only because it isn’t safe for them, but it isn’t safe for those around them.
You see, I found out today that Luna is a DINOS, something we knew but didn’t have a name for and something we are heavily training our way out of but a problem that still exists. Her main trigger is larger dogs she doesn’t know and if one comes bounding toward her, either aggressively or in play her teeth and hackles rise. She’s never bit (or even attempted to bite) another dog, but honestly I’m not willing to take that chance. I’m lucky in the fact that we can pass another dog walking appropriately on lead in class without incident, but not so lucky in the fact that I have more than once had someone tell me how friendly their dog is I want them to “meet”.
Your dog may be the happiest, most playful, energetic puppy in the world, but those are Luna’s triggers. I use many of the tips mentioned on the DINOS website even in class, such as distracting her with treats and body blocking. We had a young German Shepherd Dog slip its collar last week and as it playfully went from dog to dog I could only pray that someone caught it before it pounced Luna. Luckily the two people nearest me also knew of Luna’s triggers and while I distracted her they were watching the other dog to let me know if it got too close and a third managed to catch the escapee.
It was comforting to know I’m not the only DINOS owner out there, and that someone had coined a name for it. I already knew the best you can do is train past these issues, prepare for them, and above all KNOW your dog. Knowing her is one of the main reasons I’m glad we started taking classes, without them I don’t think we would be nearly as in sync with each other.
Lisa (and Luna)