Targeting, whether with the paw or nose, can be used as the foundation for a variety of dogs tricks and actions. Paw targeting occurs when your dog raises his paw to a specified object or target, on command. Once he’s mastered targeting, you can teach him other tricks, such as opening the door, begging for treats and even going to bed on command.
Use your dog's sense of smell to draw out his curiosity. A concealed treat in your hand will interest your dog. Once he’s detected that there’s something potentially delicious in your hand, he’ll want to get at it and will eventually use his paw to do so. That’s when you reward him. The process of rewarding a desired action is called operant conditioning.
The sit command is the only prerequisite for paw targeting tricks. In order to lift his paw from the ground, your dog must be sitting, otherwise he risks tumbling over. If you haven’t done so already, ensure that your dog can sit on command
Create a distraction-free environment. Close the doors, shut off the TV and ask family members to keep the noise down. It also helps if your dog has exercised prior to the training session. A well-exercised dog is less likely to get restless and distracted.
Teach the Trick
Put your dog in the sit position, then kneel in front of him. Hide a treat in your hand and hold it out. If he gets up to sniff it, withdraw your hand and give the sit command. Begin saying the “paw” command. The trick is to time the command so he hears it just before he performs the pawing action. If you notice he shifts his weight, from one side to the other, this is a possible sign that he’s about to raise his paw. At the beginning, you may need to place his paw on top of your hand to show him the action. As soon as his paw touches your hand, release the treat and give verbal praise. With sufficient repetition, your pooch will learn that when he hears the command, if he raises his paw, there is a positive consequence.
- Kane Skennar/Photodisc/Getty Images