Few tricks are more impressive or will bring a round of applause than a dog taking a bow after performing another trick.
What it Looks Like
Your dog will lower himself to his elbows, keeping his rear-end in the air as though he were inviting another doggie to play with him. This is the classic “Sphynx” position.
Before You Begin
Edible rewards are the best reinforcers for this trick. You’ll need a treat that your dog is crazy about, something small enough that several can fit in your hand at one time.
Before embarking on this trick, Fido should understand the “Stay” due.
Steps to Taking a Bow
#1 Plan on Several Sessions
You should break your bow training into several sessions as most dogs do not learn to perform a new trick in just one lesson. Try to time your training sessions around Fido’s mealtime, a hungry pooch is always far more eager to earn rewards. Always remember to train Fido in a quiet environment as well; he can concentrate best without distractions.
#2 Have Plenty of Rewards
Gather a handful of rewards and kneel next to Fido. Encourage him to stand up and pop a treat in his mouth, thus giving him a taste of the delicious goodies, he can earn.
#3 Support his Belly
If you were to simply lure Fido’s head down to his paws he would probably try to lie down as he would not understand that he needs to keep his derriere up. To help Fido, you must gently place one hand under his belly to support him. Please note that you are not forcefully holding him upright; you are simply using your hand to encourage Fido that the rear-upright position is what you want him to hold. So, with one hand under Fido’s belly, with your other treat-filled hand consecutively lure his head down in between his front paws. If Fido rear-end remains airborne, start jackpotting him with goodies as though he has just won the doggie lottery!
#4 Reward the Standing Position
Remember: you are not to physically hold Fido’s belly to keep his rear-end upright. If you feel him pushing his weight downward, you need to first establish that he can hold himself up before thinking about luring his head to his paws. This is done by first rewarding him for holding his standing position. You should lure Fido’s head downward just an inch or two, cue him to stay in that position and reward generously. Then, in tiny increments, gradually continue to lower his head until he understands to keep his tail in the air.
#5 Remove Your Hand Support
Once Fido is consistently dropping his head to his paws and holding his fanny high, it is time to remove your supporting hand from under his belly. Lure Fido back into his bow posture and cue him to stay, slowly lower your supporting hand so that you are no longer making contact with Fido. If he holds himself upright tell him “Good Stay!” and pop a delicious goodie in his mouth, then quickly release him from his Stay.
#6 Repeat for Practice
You’ve almost got your bow-wow in the bag! Repeat Step 5 until you can totally remove your hand from Fido’s belly, and he continues to hold the bow position for longer and longer periods of time. We aren’t going to ask Fido to hold the position as long as the real Egyptian Sphynx. Let’s be real; the goal is for Fido to be able to hold the challenging posture for maybe 4-5 seconds. That is plenty, & more than long enough to dazzle your audience.
#7 Name It
When you are confident that Fido will bow each time you signal his nose down you may name the trick. Popular names are “Take a Bow” or “Play Time”, but you may name your trick whatever you’d like.
When teaching a canine pal to bow, I’ve discovered several dogs with touch sensitivity to the belly area. Believe it or not, not all dogs enjoy having their bellies rubbed and handled. Some dogs are uncomfortable with such contact. Should your own personal Fido seem leery about having your hand underneath him, don’t become frustrated. Instead try to see things from his point of view. It can be a little scary or confusing to have someone trying to support your body upward with one hand while trying to have you lay your head down with the other. Start by simply touching Fido’s belly softly for one second and consecutively feeding him rewards. Gradually increase the duration of how long you can pet Fido’s belly, always feeding him the entire time. Fido should quickly make the association between your hands on his belly and treats in his mouth. Most of us don’t like going to the Doctor’s office where we must be poked and prodded but imagine if the good doctor handed you a $50 bill each time he had to look inside an ear or check your pulse. The doctor would sure have some of the most compliant customers in town. As always keep your training session short, end on a success and have fun.
Tara Baggerman is the Trainer & Owner of Caliber Canines Positive Dog Training