If it’s within his physical and mental capabilities, you can teach your dog to do it. The bobbing head is a simple, but visually impressive trick, especially when done to music. The hip-hop band Outkast famously had an army of dogs bobbing their heads along in the video for their song “Ms. Jackson.” By motivating your dog to repeat the desired action, you can have him bobbing his in no time.
The easiest way to teach a physical action is to physically guide your dog into performing that action. When teaching the sit, you’d use a lure to draw your dog’s nose upward while you gently push his backside down. When teaching the backflip, you’d use the lure to get him to jump, and arch backward. When teaching the head bob, use a food treat and move it up and down in front of your dog. He’ll follow it with his nose, causing his head to bob.
To get your dog to perform the trick on command, you need a trigger. This is typically a vocal command, but in the case of head bobbing, you could use music, or a combination of the two. By giving the command, then guiding your dog into performing the action, you create an association between stimulus and action. This is called operant conditioning. The same theory applies in the wild. If a pup annoys his mom, she may give him a nip or growl. He’ll learn over time that the action he performs has a negative outcome and will elect of his own free will not to repeat the action.
To make your dog want to perform the head bob, there’s got to be something in it for him. By giving him a treat each time he bobs his head, he’ll learn that performing the head bob action after hearing the trigger stimulus results in a treat, which is a positive outcome. This is operant conditioning taken one stage further.
The key to success is repetition. Your dog won’t learn right away that you want him to bob his head. Keep the training sessions brief, so he doesn’t get bored and ensure the training environment is free from distractions. This way, he’ll focus only on the trick. To get him to do this to music, give the verbal command only when you have music playing. Then gradually phase out the verbal command so the music replaces the command as the trigger.