Give a Paw
Updated: Feb 8
Service dogs must be trained in certain behaviors to help their specific disabled partner. If the behavior is triggered with a command (visual or verbal), it’s called a “task.” If the behavior is triggered via an environmental cue (a sound, a change in the partner’s body, etc.), it’s called “work.” Sometimes, behaviors are trained that will eventually become tasks or work, but they start as tricks, like this one.
This is part of a series on various service dog tasks/work behaviors, their purpose, and how to train them. You can find a glossary of terms here and the whole list of behaviors covered (so far) here. There are so many behaviors and ways to train those behaviors, but I hope to cover the most important ones. If I’ve missed something, please let me know!
“Paw” is used to get your dog to give a paw into a human’s hand. This can make doing nails or paw trims easier, can be used as a way for your dog to appropriately greet humans, or it can be taught as the beginning of an alert for something like pacing or dissociation.
In order to train a dog how to perform Paw, follow the below steps. Mark (clicker or “yes”) and reward for correct responses and only move onto the next step when the previous one is consistent and reliable.
1) Have your dog Sit in front of you and offer out your closed fist with a treat in it. Hold your hand at slightly below their nose’s level. Your goal is to mark and reward for any paw lifting.
a. Wait through any nosing, sniffing, or licking and wait for paw movement.
b. If your dog simply isn’t giving their paw, you can try lightly touching the top of their paw, but as most service dogs are taught to be okay with being handled in all kinds of ways, it is unlikely that they will lift their paw as expected.
2) Mark and reward for your dog pawing your hand.
a. If your dog isn’t lifting their paw high enough, mark and reward slowly from a slight paw lift until your dog hits your hand with their paw. You may need to reward for each height of paw lift for several offers.
3) Say the cue “Paw” and then offer your hand, marking and rewarding for their paw touching your hand.
4) Offer your fist without the treats in it.
4) Switch your offered hand from a fist to a flat hand, palm up.