Teach your dog to take a bow

06 Dec 2023


Like all skills training, teaching a bow is a good way to keep your dog mentally stimulated and exercise their brain as well as their body. Plus, you have a fun trick to show off your dog's talents to your friends and family. Before you start, it's helpful if your dog already knows a stand command. Check out advice on how to teach a stand for further information.

Take a look at our video on teaching your dog to take a bow, or follow the steps below:


With your dog standing in front of you, show them a treat just in front of their nose. Slowly move it down in a straight line from the nose to the floor. Reward your dog for any movement that brings the elbows closer to the floor. If you're struggling to get your dog to bend their elbows, try gently pushing the treat into their chest to encourage them to shift their weight back and bend their front legs.



Keep building up the movement, mark the behaviour with a yes or good, and reward small bits of progress until your dog's elbows are flat on the floor, with that back end in the air. If your dog is struggling to bend their elbows, you may need to adjust your hand position - try keeping your hands still about an inch in front of their front paws. If your dog still isn't dropping their elbows down, try to move your hand closer to their chest.

If your dog drops straight into a down and doesn't keep that back end up in the air, try raising the treat when you're rewarding them, and get the reward in just before they start to drop down. Repeat steps one and two until your dog goes into the bow position every time. Remember to mark and reward your dog while they are in the bow position. If your dog drops into the down position ask them to stand again, take a little break and try to reward them earlier next time.



Now that your dog can go into the bow position, you're ready to remove the treat as a lure. To do this, hold a treat in one hand and use the other hand to lure them into the bow as you did before. When your dog goes into the bow position, mark and reward with a treat with your opposite hand.

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Once your dog is going into the bow position without the food lure, it's time to build up the length of time your dog holds the position for. Reward your dog for going into the bow and then follow with a second treat for holding the position. Repeat step four until your dog is comfortable holding the position and not dropping their bottom to the floor.



Next, you can start to change your lure into a hand signal by pointing whilst luring them into the bow position. You can now start to delay the treat by a few seconds, rewarding your dog for holding the position.



Now your dog is happy holding the bow position, you can start to add a verbal cue. To do this, say 'take a bow', wait a few seconds, then show your dog the hand signal. Mark and reward when they go into the bow position. To get your dog to go into the bow position with just a verbal cue, practice saying 'take a bow' and then gradually build up the amount of time you leave before showing the hand signal, and reward as soon as your dog goes into the bow position. Over time, your dog will rely less and less on the hand signal to know what you're looking for.