[Updated February 6, 2019]
The trick “Take a Bow!” is basically an exaggerated play bow, put on cue. The first part of training any trick is figuring out how to get the dog to do the behavior. A bow is a great example of how different methods can be effective with different dogs. You can teach a bow by capturing, shaping, or luring. My favorite method for this particular trick involves a physical prompt (a tummy tickle) and a lure (to bring the nose to the ground) and shaping (using approximations to get to the final behavior). Here’s how:
– Start with your dog standing in front of you, his body perpendicular to yours, with his head facing to your right (you can be kneeling or standing, depending on the size of your dog).
– Gently place your left hand under your dog’s belly for a light tummy tickle (this is just to help your dog keep his rear in the air and not lie down).
– With a treat in your right hand, lure your dog’s head slightly down and toward his front feet. Click (or use a verbal marker, such as the word “Yes!”) and reward your dog for any body movement that is back and toward the ground, gradually encouraging your dog into the bow. Take this step slowly so you don’t accidentally lure your dog into a down.
– Once your dog has the general idea, remove your hand from under her belly. When you remove your hand, you may need to go back a step or two and reward the approximations.
– Gradually fade the treat lure at this stage, moving from a lure to a hand signal or verbal cue.
– The location where you give your dog the treat is always important in training. For this behavior, try giving your dog the treat slightly up from the position at first (so that you do not draw her into a down while treating). At this stage, it is OK if she does a quick bow, then moves up for her treat.
– Once she happily offers a quick bow and bounces up for the treat, you can begin pausing a moment before “marking” the behavior (with a click or “Yes!”) so that she learns to stay in the position a moment longer. You can gradually extend the bow to a few seconds or until you offer a release such as “free” or “OK.”
Tip: The bow can be a physically stressful position for some dogs. Practice this trick in short 2 to 3 repetition sessions rather than a prolonged training session. Keep your dog wanting more!