How to train your dog to “give paw”?

Lukas giving the paw when asked at the agility dog park

Lukas giving the paw when asked at the agility dog park

Initially we thought the “give paw” cue had no big usefulness. However, we changed our mind when we realized our rescued dog Lukas did not like we touched his paws.

This blog post is about the “give paw” training importance, how to do this training with several stages and videos as demonstration.

Here are the reasons why this training can be useful for you and your dog:

  • to clean your dog’s paws
  • to check your dog’s paws for parasites, such as ticks
  • to cut/trim your dog’s nails
Lukas tranining to give the paw

Lukas tranining to give the paw

It turned out that training our dog to “give paw” made it easier to ask and keep his paw in our hands, without him mouthing us. It was not easy when we realized that each time we would come home from our walks, our dog would try to mouth us because we needed to clean his paws. Besides training your dog not to mouth you in any circumstance, training to “give paw” can be useful if introduced in a positive way – with treats, toys, verbal praise.  

Lukas giving the paw and keeping it in the hand

Lukas giving the paw and keeping it on the hand

Training your dog to give paw as with any other training requires patience. I present here 4 stages of the training. I am using Claire Arrowsmith approach from her book “Brain games for dogs”.

Stage 1 – Presentation

  • present a piece of treat in front of your dog’s chest. Keep your hand there
  • depending on the size of your dog, you can either be standing up or down
  • be very patient, your dog is trying to understand what you want
  • if your dog does not lift his paw after several trainings, gently pick his paw up and reward your dog. At this point you can say “Good boy”
  • repeat several times with verbal praise and treat reward
  • 5 to 8 minutes training

Stage 2 – Introduction of the cue “paw”

  • repeat stage 1 
  • when your dog starts lifting his paw by himself you can now present the cue “paw”
  • say the cue “paw” after your dog has given you his paw
  • be patient and repeat several times this training

Stage 3 – Ask to give the “paw” and reward after

  • now association is beginning to be easier for your dog
  • ask for the “paw” verbally and reward only when your dog give his paw when you have asked so
  • your dog will most likely give his paw without you asking – do not reward
  • repeat several times this training

Stage 4 – Keep the “paw”

  • the idea is that you can now keep your dog’s paw on your hand for a longer period and actually inspect his toes
  • ask to give the paw and reward with a bigger treat
  • let your dog eat the treat slowly, do not give it all immediately
  • at the same time keep your dog’s paw in your hand and go with your fingers through his toes
  • repeat the previous point several times to the front paws
  • back paws you can ask your dog to lie down first and then place the treat in front of his mouth
  • let you dog eat the treat slowly, while you keep and “inspect” your dog’s paw
  • if your dog tries to mouth you it is important to ask to drop or leave it – for this it is important that you have trained your dog these cues

Patience and persistence of the training will hopefully in the long run help your dog not to mouth you each time you touch his paws. Hopefully he will ignore the process, by associating it with good things, such as a nice treat!

Happy training!

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