To start you will need your clicker, lots of tasty treats, chicken, beef, liver or cheese and a dog that already knows what the clicker means – in other words you have ‘charged’ your clicker.
There are many different ways to teach this trick, by luring or free shaping but it is not necessary to know too much about the technicalities or to complicate the procedure too much. Clicker training need not be complicated for the pet owner, just make sure you stick to the basic rule, that is; always reward when you click.
Ideally, your dog will need to be in a sitting position. One of the easiest methods is to let your dog see you place a titbit in your hand. Close your fingers around it and offer your hand fairly low and towards your dogs paw. It is likely he will move forward to sniff your hand, (especially if you have previously been teaching targeting), but keep encouraging your dog to offer a new behaviour and just be patient. You need not give any commands, just remain quiet and wait. At some point it is likely you will see your dog shift his weight or move one of his front feet. As soon as you see this happen click and treat. Remember from earlier articles you are not necessarily looking for the finished behaviour, but increments of it, something that looks similar to the behaviour you want.
You will see that the dog will quickly repeat this behavior, so click and treat a few times more. Then wait for more movement of the foot and only the foot you want. At the same time begin to raise your hand a little higher.
Some dogs may try to paw the treat from your hand straight away. This is good; so as soon as his paw lifts, or hits your hand click and reward. Then take the treats out of your hand and repeat, next time rewarding from your bum-bag or bowl.
Once your dog is reliably touching your hand by lifting his paw you can add the ‘cue’ word which might be ‘shake’ or ‘paw’, or another word of your choice. One of my dogs would shake on the cue of, ‘put it there’! But if you want to use this phrase perhaps just start off with the first word, ‘put’.
Once the basic behavior has been learnt you are now ready to phase out the food reward. So sometimes click and reward and at other times don’t, until you get to the stage where the clicker is no longer in your hand and your dog is reacting to the cue word. Phasing out food reward can be an art in itself, but as long as you start to click and reward on a more random basis this is fine for fun basic tricks for novice handlers. So, once you have achieved this, only reward randomly for giving a paw, though always praise your dog verbally and let him know what a clever dog he is!