How to Teach Your Dog to High Five

High five! A polite trick any dog can learn!
High five! A polite trick any dog can learn!

Everyone loves a dog that does tricks. Dog tricks are easy to learn and fun to teach. Furthermore, tricks with your dog are a great way to break up the routine of "real" training. The criteria for performing a trick is generally not as high as a training behavior (such as a perfect, precise sit in heel position) and therefore is less stressful and more fun for both dog and handler. If you throw in enough tricks, there's an excellent chance your dog will come to think of all training as an enjoyable opportunity to perform! Here is a super easy trick that your puppy or dog can learn in just one or two sessions. There are only three necessary ingredients: 1) High value treats 2) A hungry dog 3) A bit of patience. Try it and see!

Step One

The first thing to do is to get on the floor with your dog. Put him in front of you. Whether or not he is sitting does not matter. Have a bowl of high value dog treats nearby but not where he can access them. These treats should be pretty good, such as cut up chicken, cheese, or diced hotdogs. Whatever treats you choose to use, they must be of great interest to the dog.

Treats must be of high value to the dog.

You cannot train a dog with dog biscuits or kibble.

Step Two

Take a treat in your right hand, and close your fingers around it loosely, so the dog can smell its presence. Hold your hand out to the dog at about the same height as his chest. Your hand must be palm down, with the back of your hand on top. Draw the dog's attention to the food and permit him lick and sniff it, but don't let him have the food unless he uses his left paw to pay your hand. If he seems to lose interest, lure him back to the food in your hand and encourage his interest.

Keep the dog's attention on the food but don't give it to him until ... he lifts his left foot. (Some dogs are faster than others to use their paws in this manner.) When he lifts his left paw, say "Yes!" (or whatever your marker word might be) with great enthusiasm, and allow him to have the food. If he doesn't quickly pick up his foot to paw your hand in an attempt to get the food, then watch for ANY lifting of his paw, and reward even slight efforts in the beginning, until they become more assertive. Make sure it's the lifting of the LEFT paw that you reward. Ignore any lift of the right paw. (You can shape this into a handshake at a later time.) As he gets the idea, up the ante. Really praise and make over him when he actively paws your hand. Repeat and repeat.

The first paw lift usually takes the longest, because the dog is figuring out what it is that you want. Once he realizes that you give him the food when he picks up his left paw he will begin offering you that behavior repeatedly.

Your timing is important. The more closely you pair your marker word and the release of the food with the correct behavior, the more rapidly he will begin to understand and reliably offer you the behavior you seek.

Step Three

Once the dog has figured out that every time he picks up his left paw to touch your right hand, that you'll give him a treat, you need to transfer the treats to your left hand. Hold out your right hand as before, only without a treat in it. As soon as your dog touches your hand with his left paw, say "Yes!" as before, only instead of opening up your right hand to give him the treat, hand it to him from your left hand. Repeat until the behavior and its reward are established.

Step Four

Once the dog is reliably pawing your closed but empty right hand with his left paw for you to feed him treats from your left hand, the time has come to first flip up your closed right fist for him to paw, still feeding him out of your left hand, and finally, to open up your right palm so that you are "high fiving" your dog. At this point, you can begin to say, "High Five!" each time you hold up your open right hand to him to hit with his left paw.


Depending upon your dog's attention span, you may need to break this lesson up into a couple of segments. End each training session on a positive note and pick back up with the last thing your dog solidly understood. Doing so insures that there are no interruptions in the foundations of your training, and the dog will experience the most success.

Dogs generally love this trick, and it takes very little effort to to transfer the behavior from one he perform with just you to one he will perform for anyone, particularly if you coach people in how to cue him!

Enjoy showing off your dog's new skill!

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Comments 11 comments

Jynzly profile image

Jynzly 4 years ago from Marion, Indiana, USA

Hi Brett,

I didn't know that the treat (food) is an important part of the training. This is very informative to me.



Brett Winn profile image

Brett Winn 4 years ago from US Author

I perhaps should have added, that once the dog solidly knows the trick, you randomize the food, which will actually cause him to work harder,not knowing which instance of his performing the trick will produce the reward! Thanks for the comment!

mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

Thanks for this info. I have taught my dog to shake, roll over, beg. I'm going to try this trick.

Brett Winn profile image

Brett Winn 4 years ago from US Author

You are welcome! I think dogs enjoy showing off their new skills! Have fun.

wordmasher profile image

wordmasher 4 years ago from USA

What a great "how to do it" article. Most articles like this, no matter what the subject, get me so tangled up I usually end up feeling like I'm Dr. Watson being played with by Holmes. But with such clear directions such as these, I understand just what to do.

davenstan profile image

davenstan 4 years ago

Does this work for hyper dogs? My mom's is so very active. I can't get her to be still especially when my children are around.

Brett Winn profile image

Brett Winn 4 years ago from US Author

davenstan, It is always recommended to teach a dog something new in a distraction free (to him) environment. It allows him to focus on what is being taught since hopefully, that will be the most interesting thing in the environment. Once a behavior is learned, though, the next step would be to generalize it, i.e. have him perform it in different locations. (Dogs are situational learners, which is why they so often will perform a behavior perfectly at home but not out in public.) Once he'll do the behavior in say, the kitchen, the living room, and outside ... then start adding in distractions, starting with milder distractions, rewarding him for keeping his attention on you, and then stronger ones. You would not want to do all of this in one sitting ... depending upon the dog, it might take a week or so. If you children are what she finds distracting, once she's learned the trick and will perform it in several locations, have one of them come into the room and sit quietly while you work with the dog. Then another. Usually hyper dogs are smart, and enjoy being focuses and will be proud of their new accomplishment. Don't wait until they're tired and bored to end the training session. Always end it with them having had some success, some fun, with high praise, and wanting more!

Brett Winn profile image

Brett Winn 4 years ago from US Author

Wordmasher, you are too kind! When you and Mrs. Masher get a dog, I'll teach yours for you!

zzron profile image

zzron 4 years ago from Houston, TX.

Really cool trick, I will have to try it. Thanks.

Olivia 4 years ago

My dog is a Poodle cross maltese and I'm wondering how long this trick would take for her to learn, she is very active!

Brett Winn profile image

Brett Winn 4 years ago from US Author

Poodles are very intelligent ... I would imagine you could teach this trick in a day, maybe two ... give it a try!

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