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How to Teach Your Dog to Say Prayers

Learn how to teach your dog how to say prayers with this Howcast dog training video featuring professional dog trainer Andrea Arden.


Teaching your dog to say his or her prayers is a trick that you need broken down into multiple parts. That is, it's not a behavior that's just one thing the dog is doing. The parts are as follows. You're teaching first for your dog to put their paws up on an object, and then the second part is that you're teaching your dog to bend down and to put their head down on the object so it looks like they're saying their prayers.

So the way we're going to teach this is, the first step is going to be teaching our dog, "yes", to put a paw onto an object. Make sure that object is appropriately sized for your dog. In Nora's case, this object is just high enough that she only has to lift her paw a little bit. If you have a smaller dog, like a Maltese or a Chihuahua, this stool should be a little lower, and if you have a bigger dog, you might want it to be a little bit higher. So, again, what I'm looking for is for Nora to come forward, yes, and put even just one paw on this object. When she does that, I'm going to let her know that's what I'm looking for by using a marker. In this case, the word "yes." Good job.

The next step in this trick is to have her understand that I'm looking for her to put both paws on this object, so now I'm changing the criteria. What might happen here is that Nora might decide that she's a little bit confused, because for a number of repetitions I rewarded her for putting just one paw on this object, and now I'm waiting for her to put a second paw. So be fair to your dog and make sure that you go slowly, and you're very encouraging. This is not something that you want to rush, or that you want to push your dog to do, because you don't want training to be stressful.

So I'm going to wait for her to put one paw up. I'm going to ignore that behavior now. This, again, might be a little confusing for her. She might hold that. She might try and put her head down, because she understands that's something I like a little bit. If she gets sort of stuck, I might help her with a little bit of luring or prompting. Yes. In this case, I moved my hand forward a little bit, knowing it would make her body move forward and bring the other paw up. So let's try that again and see if now . . . yes. So that one time of helping her a little bit was enough for her to sort of have a light bulb moment and think maybe she wants me to put two paws up there. So now we're going to repeat this a number of times until she, yes, is consistently putting both paws up on the object.

Once we get to that point, what we're going to do is we're going to help her to understand that we want her to put her head down so it looks like she's praying. So I'm going to take my hand in this case and use a little bit of luring, which is I'm going to lower my hand down towards the stool a little bit so that her head lowers. If your dog doesn't know this behavior yet, what you want to do, yes, is start to reward for tiny steps in the right direction. So if her head goes about here, I might say, "Yes" and give her a reward, even though it's not the full behavior, or the full trick. But eventually what you want to do is ignore those movements that don't go all the way down to the stool and wait for her head to go all the way down. Yes, good job. When you get that full behavior the first, second, and third times, you want to throw a party and give your dog a jackpot that is extra award so they really understand how great it is to do that full behavior that you're looking for.

So now let's see if Nora has got the idea and understands that when I say, "Say your prayers," yes, that's what I'm looking for. And that is how you teach your dog to say his or her prayers.

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