Things may get a little “out of hand” when you successfully manage to teach your dog how to give you his paw: He may start pawing at you for food and attention once he learns that this behaviour gets him rewarded.
After all, we paw-rents always give our pooches treats once they have performed the ‘give me your paw’ trick.
According to American psychologist Edward Thorndike and his Law of Effect, “any behaviour that is followed by pleasant consequences is likely to be repeated, and any behaviour followed by unpleasant consequences is likely to be stopped.”
Your pup associates giving his paw as behaviour that follows with a pleasant consequence, and would therefore continue this behaviour even if you don’t ask for it.
Your dog can sense your happiness and excitement when he gives you his paw, so the learning of this trick has taught him that giving you a paw is a gesture that pleases you.
As a result, when your pup feels unsure or uncertain, he may decide to hand you his paw as his way of trying to appease you!
If the behaviour gets excessive and Fido is pawing at everyone and every day, you can correct this behaviour by ignoring all the paws you get when you don’t ask for it.
Only reward him with treats and/or affection when you specifically give the command!
*This article was updated on 18 Nov 2020. It first appeared in PetsMagazine.com.sg on 10 Jun 2016.