If you’re looking for an impressive dog trick, don’t forget about the classic bow. This trick puts the natural dog play bow behavior on cue so you can ask your dog to bow anytime, anywhere. This playful position — elbows down on the ground, bottom in the air — is also a great stretch for your dog’s core and back. You don’t need a lot of space or supplies to get started.
To teach your dog to bow, you need:
- lots of small pieces of treats that your dog is excited about.
- If clicker training, use a clicker to mark when your dog is in the right position.
- Or, say “yes” as a verbal marker when your dog is in the right position.
Sassafras Lowrey, CPDT-KA, shows us how teaching your dog to bow is an easy trick for most dogs to learn. ©Sassafras Lowrey
How to teach a dog to bow:
Step 1: Start in a quiet area of your home with minimal distractions. With your dog standing in front of you, get her attention with a treat.
Step 2: When you have your dog’s attention, use that treat to lure her head down toward the floor. As her head goes down and back, she will naturally lower the front of her body.
Step 3: When your dog’s elbows touch the floor and her back legs go up, click if you’re clicker training, or use a verbal marker like “yes,” and then quickly treat your dog.
Dogster trainer tip: If you find your dog is dropping into a down position instead of staying in a bow, you can toss a treat instead. This will help cue that we want the bow position, not a down.
Step 4: Repeat several times, continuing to lure your dog into the bow position and praising and treating your dog when her elbows touch the ground, and her bottom goes up. When your dog is consistently following the lure, add in a verbal cue of your choice like “bow” or “fancy.” Say your cue word as your dog’s elbows go down, and her bottom goes up.
Step 5: Fade out the treat lure. Start by luring your dog into the bow position with an empty hand. Then, praise and treat your dog when she goes into the position.
Step 6: After several repetitions of luring with an empty hand, start to phase out the full lure. Use your verbal cue with a smaller hand signal. Start to add duration where your dog is holding the bow position longer before you click, treat and release your dog.
Step 7: Once your dog is smoothly performing the bow behavior on cue, continue to phase out the lure, so you eventually have only a verbal cue or a small physical cue. Then, practice doing the trick in different positions like bowing or curtsying yourself! Also start practicing bow in new and more distracting environments.