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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Pet Care Library > Articles > Teach Your Dog To Salute

Teach Your Dog to ''Salute''

Debbie McKnight/Accredited PetSmart Trainer

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Teaching your dog to “salute” is a fun and cute trick to show off, especially during patriotic holidays and events.

To teach your dog to salute, you are going to use a process called “shaping.”  Think of shaping as molding your dog’s behavior from how he currently responds to a cue to how you would like him to respond to that cue.  For this trick, you will initially reward your dog for just barely lifting his paw; however, as you progress he will need to lift his paw higher and higher to earn the reward.

To speed up the learning process, use a “marker.”  A marker is a sound or short word that “marks” the correct behavior for the dog and is always followed by a treat. The most common markers are a clicker or the word “yes.”  If you have never used a marker with your dog, say “yes” or click and immediately give him a treat. Do this four or five times before you begin training to get him accustomed to his mark.

The trick:

  1. Buy some very strong-smelling, tasty treats.
  2. Take your dog somewhere quiet.  Have him sit or lie somewhere where his legs won’t slide from under him, like on carpet or grass.
  3. Take the treat in your hand, close your fist around it, and put it under his nose.  It needs to be held where he can smell it and paw at it. For most dogs, this is about four to six inches away from his body (but in line with his nose) and a tiny bit lower than collar level. Your dog will probably smell, lick, nudge or nibble your hand. 
  4. Don’t say anything and don’t give him the treat.  He should try pawing at your hand to get the treat.  When he does, mark it with your word or clicker and then give him the treat.

If he is hesitant to lift up his paw, try moving the treat to the side so he has to lean a bit, or wiggle the treat around to make it more exciting.  Resist the urge to pick up his foot.  He’ll learn better if he figures it out himself, so be patient and let him try.

  1. Continue to do this until your dog has the idea and consistently paws at your hand for the treat. 
  2. Now switch it up a bit and put a treat in your other hand. Present the fist without the treat to your dog in the same fashion. When your dog paws at your fist, mark it and give him the treat from your other hand.  

Once your dog is comfortable pawing at your empty hand, you will gradually begin to open your hand so it resembles a flat palm posed in a “high-five” position.  Don’t forget to mark and treat for each correct response.  Keep practicing this step until your dog is comfortable pawing at your open palm. 

Next, offer him your palm and mark the instant your dog lifts up his paw, but put some distance between his paw and your hand so they do not meet. He should look like he’s “raising his hand” in a salute. 

When he gets the idea that his paw will not meet your hand, have him hold his paw up longer before you mark and reward.  When he improves at this, add your verbal cue.  Some cute ones might be “Who’s a patriotic dog?” or “Who’s proud to be an American?”

Most dogs love learning new tricks. If you and your best friend would like to learn a whole repertoire of new tricks, find a trick class at your local PetSmart!

Debbie McKnight is an accredited PetSmart trainer in Hurst, Texas

For information on PetSmart's Accredited Training, please visit PetSmart's Training web site.


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Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)


06 Sep 2010 4:01 pm

texasgirl888 said:

it is great!

10 Jul 2010 10:47 pm

zoeyelizabeth said:

This information is great!

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