Dog waving paw
There’s nothing better than being greeted by a friendly canine. But not everyone is comfortable being approached by a new dog, and not every dog wants to get close to a new person. Teaching your dog to wave hello (or goodbye) gives him another way to interact with people in a calm, controlled manner. A polite paw wave is an easy way for your dog to charm guests with his good manners and pleasant behavior.

Wave essentially consists of your dog remaining in a sit position and raising a front paw in the air. If your dog doesn’t already know how to sit on cue, start with that before you move on to teaching him to wave.

Dogs who already know how to shake may have a paw up on other dogs when it comes to learning to wave, but that’s not a requirement for this trick. Follow these simple steps to teach your dog to wave hello.

Sit, Stay… Wave

Start with your dog in a sit. Hold a treat in a closed hand at your dog’s chest level — the goal is to get your dog to raise a paw toward your hand. Mark and reward any paw lift or shift in weight that causes one paw to move slightly off the ground.

Some canines will immediately lift a paw up in the air to investigate the hidden treat. Others will shift their weight forward and lean in or stand up to sniff or lick the closed hand. If your dog moves out of a sitting position, reset and try again.

Keep in mind that the goal is not to have your dog touch your hand, just to reach for it. To emphasize this, hold your hand just slightly out of his reach and click or mark just before he touches you.

Once your dog is raising his paw toward your hand, encourage him to lift it higher by raising the hidden treat. Mark and reward after each paw lift. Work up to having your dog raise his paw to shoulder height — or higher, if he can. Keep in mind that this requires both balance and strength. Be patient and keep practicing until your dog can consistently lift his paw without moving out of a sitting position.

Fade the Treat, Keep the Wave

Your next step is to fade the lure. A simple way to do this is to hold the treat inside your closed hand but to reward the paw lift with a treat from your other hand (rather than giving him the hidden treat). After you have done this a few times, remove the hidden treat and instead hold your empty hand in the same shape. Continue to reward each paw lift with a treat given with your free hand.

When your dog is readily lifting his paw up in the air in a manner that resembles a wave, add a signal that is specific to this trick. A physical gesture like waving your own hand or a verbal cue like “wave” or “hi” can be used. Pair the cue with the lure: Just before you raise the hand holding the treat, say “wave.” After a few repetitions, add a delay between the verbal cue (“wave”) and the hand gesture (raising your closed hand) to encourage your dog to anticipate and respond to the new cue itself. Work toward having your dog raise his paw in response to just the verbal or physical cue. Continue to mark and reward each paw lift.

You can also teach your dog to wave while facing away from you (for situations when he’s greeting someone other than you). To do this, gradually shift from standing directly in front of him to standing at his side. Give the verbal cue or hand gesture, and reward him for raising his paw. If it helps, you can have another person stand in front of him and wave back!

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