Give a Paw: “Please” And “Thank You”

In the previous stage of Give a Paw we have been working with a generic word “Paw”.  Currently your dog is using your body language as an indicator of which paw to give; your dog should be giving the paw facing the fist you are presenting.

Dogs are very clever and have a very good spatial awareness, they have a very good understanding of their right and left

When your dog consistently gives either of its front paws with your body cues, your next challenge is to teach a different word for each paw. In the videos, Emily is using “Please” for the left paw and “Thank you” for the right one.

The steps to give individual commands are similar to those used to introduce the “Paw” command, but you now want your dog to associate a different word for each paw.

  • Present a fist to your dog
  • When you dog is starting to move its paw toward your fist, give the word you want to use for the paw its if offering you.
  • Do multiple attempts with the same paw before switching to the next one.

You need to be consistent with your verbal cues. Once you have chosen the word you will use for each paw, you must make sure you give the correct verbal cue! This can be challenging!


  • At the stage where your dog does not understand the new words and is only learning to associate the words with the specific paw, wait before your dog is committing to offer a paw before giving the verbal cue. This way if your dog is not offering the paw in response to your body cue, you can still use the verbal cue associated with the paw he is offering.  You will need to concentrate!
  • For example, if I present my right fist and my dog starts to offer his right paw whilst to my body cue when I am expecting the left one, I will give the “Thank you” cue. My objective is not for my dog to answer to my body cue, but to associate the word to his movement.

One common problem that you may come up against is your dog starting to frantically switch paws rather than listening to the command. This is usually because during training there has not been a period of calmness with your dog simply sitting with all paws on the ground between switching between practicing the “Please” and “Thank you”

You need your dog to concentrate on what you are asking with both your body cue and your verbal command. Ensure that you include a period of calmness in between working on each paw so that your dog can settle. Do not let you dog offer a paw before you even present a fist. Therefore in the video we are adding some Sit, Stand or Wait exercises in between the “Please” and “Thank You”.

A tip to help get the calmness is to offer a greater reward when your dog is doing the sit, stand or wait exercises than for the Please and Thank you so you are really giving value to the stillness.

This stage is key to making sure your dog understands the verbal cue for each paw but also learns to keep still until you give the cue.

Give a Paw – Wave

So far, to ensure that your dog is learning the command for giving a paw you have been providing a reward as soon as it gives you the correct paw. This has been to ensure that your dog understands the command.

Now, your next challenge is to teach your dog to keep its paw up. Ultimately what you want to achieve by doing this is for your dog to hold its paw up of the floor just as if it was waving at you.

To achieve this, start by adding :

  1. Making it more challenging for your dog to reach your fist or your forearm, so it has to put a lot of effort to up his paw. You can place your fist higher up like a “high five” or further away by leaning slightly away from your dog when it tries to put the paw on the fist
  2. Gradually add and then lengthen a delay between your dog offering its paw and being given the reward for doing so.
  3. Another tip is to help teach this is to stand rather than sit in front of your dog so that your hand or forearm is out of reach

We started to work on this in the previous module with Mozzie though we will show you the relevant part of the video again here.

To be able to move to this step you will need to have successfully faded most of your body cues as you were working on in the previous topic, however you can “cheat” a little bit by balancing your body as shown with Emily on the video.

As you can see, this stage it is still a work in progress for both Mozzie and Phoebe, as it will be for your own dog. Keep on practicing the Wave as we will be using it later on in the school within another trick

Give a Paw – Reinforcing the verbal cues

When teaching your verbal cues, you have been relying on your clenched fist to encourage your dog to present the correct paw. As such it is highly probable your dog is more reliant on your body language and has not fully understood the verbal cues.

When transitioning to verbal cues, I would recommend that you restrict yourself to working with one paw only per training session. This will help your dog get a better understanding of the verbal cue and help develop the duration that they give the paw for.

We will now discuss the steps required to fade out the body cues so that your dog gives a specific paw only with the verbal cues. It is usually a huge step for the dogs so work it very gradually.

  1. Gradually change the location of your fist in relation to your dog. Your dog will not be able to fully rely on having your clenched fist to show which paw it needs to offer. Your dog will now have the start relying more on the verbal cue.
  2. Gradually start to bend your elbow so that you present your forearm rather than your fist; again, it means there is less obvious body cue.
  3. Finally, subtly shift your weight as the only movement to encourage a paw to get lifted

With time you will no longer need to use body cues to give your dog help.

Emily is now going to demonstrate as she starts to fade out the body cues with Mozzie. Remember from the previous topic that Mozzie is being taught the command “Thank you” his left paw and “Please” for his right paw.

To promote the understanding of the verbal cue, the key points are to gradually decrease your body cues as follows and concentrate on the verbal cue:

  • Present the fist in front of the paw you would like your dog to offer and use the verbal cue
  • Gradually slide your fist towards the other paw whilst still giving the verbal cue for the paw you are working with.
  • Gradually bend your elbow and present only your forearm and then ask for the paw.
  • If your dog struggles you can shift your body a little to give a more subtle cue
  • Ask your dog to give a paw whilst you are standing up.
  • Try when you dog is standing up to help your dog to generalise and understand the trick is not just going to happen sitting in front of you

Note that in the video, Emily starts straight away to offer her forearm rather than her fist, however, I recommend that you start by presenting your fist first.

You will need to adapt to the behaviour of your dog. As you can see from the video, Emily is very subtly changing her body cues to keep Mozzie’s focus and increase his confidence. Sometimes, rather than holding out her fist towards the paw she wants Mozzie to give, she simply uses her forearm held across the front of her body. By holding her forearm closer to her body, she is making it less of an obvious target. As her arm is now also further away from Mozzie, it forces him to make a more prominent movement to reach Emily’s forearm. Another benefit of this is that it increases the duration of the holding the paw up, which will help for our next topic.

When Mozzie is hesitant, Emily slightly leans to the opposite side that she wants Mozzie to give the paw or moves her forearm slightly closer to him and gives him the appropriate command.

If your dog starts repeatedly offering a paw when you have not asked it to do so, stay calm and ask your dog to sit, then pause for a few moments. This will help you get your dog’s focus again. Once your dog is sitting calmly ask it to give a paw again. Avoiding this behaviour is another reason why I recommend only working one paw in each training session.

The following two videos of Emily & Phoebe provide good demonstrations of the sort of behaviour you are likely to experience when trying to fade the body cues. Phoebe is clearly still using the body cues rather than commands to give the paw. As you watch the videos, note how consistent Emily is with her commands. Emily only rewards the correct behaviour and, as in the training session with Mozzie in the previous videos, she subtly modifies and reduces the body cues to encourage Phoebe to give the correct paw without trying to give her obvious visual cues.

Over time you will be able to simply command your dog to say “please” and “thank you” without any body cue at all, but you will need a lot of repetition.

Give a Paw

By teaching your dog to put its front paws on a platform you have taught it that by moving its front paws a reward will be forthcoming.  You are now going to use this to teach your dog to give a front paw. Most dogs are quite willing to give their front paws without too much encouragement so this trick may not take too long to achieve.

Our final aim is for your dog to learn to wave with their front paw. This is why the “On it” trick with stillness was important as it should have helped your dog learn that you are not asking just some quick movement, you also want some stillness. In essence for some dogs like Phoebe, stillness is also a trick they need to learn which demands a lot of self-control.

Some dogs are natural “paw givers” but some are not, hence we go through the basics of giving a paw.

To teach the “paw”

  1. Sit directly facing your dog
  2. If needed, tickle the back of the front leg that you want it to lift off the floor.
  3. Keep the hand you are giving rewards with quite high up so your dog must lift its head and one of its paws to get the treat. With the reward being offered like this most dogs will naturally raise a paw when they stretch to take it.
  4. Be mindful of how high you give the treat. If you hold the treat too high you might encourage your dog to jump or stand on its hind legs to reach the reward. To start with you are just trying to encourage your dog to lift a Paw, so Click or say use the Yes marker whenever you see your dog attempting to lift either of its front paws, however slight this may be.
  5. Once your dog is consistently lifting a paw, hold one of your hands low to the ground in front of your dog to entice it to offer you a paw. When your dog is finally placing his paw on your hand, mark with a Yes or a Click and reward your dog from your other hand multiple times.
  6. Make sure you are rewarding whilst your dog is still in position with its paw in your hand. Give multiple rewards (but one at the time) to give value to the position.
  7. When you dog starts to understand the trick, add a verbal cue to it such as the word “Paw”. The verbal cue should be given whilst your dog is doing the behaviour, so it starts to associate the word to the trick
  8. Only when your dog has associated the word to the trick can you start to use the verbal cue as a command by giving the command before your dog offers the behaviour.

One error people make sometimes it to place their hand too high, so their dog is not able to reach the hand when giving the paw.

It is quite common that your dog may favour one of its Paws and will always try give you the same one. For this Trick we want your dog to learn to offer either of its paws. One of the tips to achieve this is to switch the hand you are using in front of your dog. Your dog should start to give the paw from the same side as the hand you are offering. Once your dog has the idea that it gets a reward for giving a paw it will usually give the paw that is on the same side as the hand you are offering.

The following video with Emily & Mozzie is of Mozzie’s first Give a Paw session. Mozzie naturally likes using his front paws to get attention, so he gets the idea quite quickly.

As you have been working on some “Push” to the hand tricks, by showing and open hand to your dog, it is possible that your dog may be confused when you are now showing your hand for the Give a Paw and attempt to push your hand. To help your dog differentiate between the tricks, instead of presenting an open hand for the “Paw”, present a clenched fist, it will be much clearer for your dog.