Time to Take a “Bow”

If you have a dog that loves to perform for you and your family, you will definitely want to teach your dog how to take a bow. This is a fun trick that is not only entertaining, but also useful for obedience training. The bow position places your dog in a submissive position, which could be useful to ease the tension between two dogs.

Have you ever seen your dog take a nice long stretch after a nap by placing his two legs out in front of him, and raising his bottom in the air? This is actually the bow position that we are trying to accomplish on demand. If your dog is already doing this motion, grab your clicker and your treats and get ready to reward your dog. Each time they perform the action, click and reward. After several round of this, begin to add the verbal cue word “bow.”

If you don’t get lucky enough to have your dog perform the action on his own, I have a step-by-step method to train your dog to take-a-bow.

Step-By-Step Instructions:

  1. Stand in front of your dog with your target sticks in hand.
  2. Hold the target stick level to your dog’s nose and move it toward the floor.
  3. If your dog follows the target stick even just a little bit, click and reward your dog.
  4. Continue this process, but make it a little harder to earn the treat. Wait until your dog’s elbows bend a little and get closer to the floor, then click and reward.
  5. Next, make your dog’s elbows touch the floor before you click and reward.
  6. Once your dog’s elbows are consistently touching the floor, you will want to begin concentrating on the back legs. They should be straight up tall. If they bend down, and your dog lands on the “down” position, do not click and reward. This is the most common problem that you are going to run into with the “take-a-bow” dog trick.
    If your dog is collapsing into the “down” position then you are waiting too long for the click and treat. Begin to reward your dog quicker. This will help to get your dog into the habit of not collapsing into the “down” position receive his treat. You may want to make your dog go after the treat instead of handing it to him. Dogs are more likely to keep their legs straight if they are about to run off and chase something (like a treat).
    Most of the time this will be enough to get your dog into the habit of keeping his legs straight. Sometimes it is not enough though. If your dog insists on going into the down position, try placing a rolled up towel just in front of his back feet under his belly. He will not be able to reach the floor with this towel as a barrier. Your dog will want to keep his legs straight to avoid his belly hitting the towel.
  7. After you have managed to train your dog to keep his legs straight in the back pause for a moment or two before you click and treat. This will build up your dog’s time in the bow position.
  8. Once the action is easy for your dog to perform, you will want to attach the cue word “bow” to your training sessions. You can also use “stretch” or “take a bow”.
  9. Begin to phase out the training sticks and have your dog rely on your verbal cue “bow.” You can phase out the sticks by making them shorter and then finally taking them away for good.
  10. Your final step will be to remove the clicker and the treats from the process. Your dog should be able to perform the entire action by simply saying, “bow.”

Your dog will love to perform this trick for people that you come across, so make sure to let your dog shine and give him the cue when appropriate. It is also good to reinforce the trick in other locations other than your original training spot. If your dog seems to be a little confused or not able to perform the trick for others or in a different location, you may need to back up a few steps and give your pup a few refresher lessons. Dogs are creatures of habit and the like familiar people and places. Some dogs don’t want to perform their new trick for a stranger or in a strange location, but most dogs will thrive with this new exposure that you are offering to them.

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