Trick Training: Take a Bow

Liz Palika
Take a Bow Dog TrickKate and her dog, Walter, work on the
"Take a Bow" trick.

If you enjoy showing off your dog’s tricks, it’s nice to finish each demonstration with a bow. After all, a bow to the audience is a thank you for their attention and applause. Plus, your audience will be thrilled that your dog is so clever.

The bow command means your dog will lower his head and front end to the ground while his hips remain elevated. This is a natural behavior for dogs; it’s a solicitation for play. Often a puppy or young dog will bow with front end lowered, hips high and his tail wagging wildly to invite another dog to play.

To see how this works, call your dog’s name. When he looks at you, raise both hands in the air and then bring them down in front of you to your knees. With your hands on your knees move your hips from side to side. If you have done a good job your dog will play bow back and then bounce up barking with joy. Congratulations! You’ve established communication.

Easy to Teach

This is an easy trick to teach and most dogs catch on in no time. Kneel or sit on the floor with your dog standing in front of you. Have his right side next to you, his head near your right hand and his hips to your left. Have a few good treats in your right hand.

Let your dog sniff the treats in your right hand. As he’s sniffing the treats, move your hand toward the floor as if giving him the down hand signal. As his head follows the treat, praise him for the downward movement, “Good to bow!”

Keep your left hand near his belly and if he begins to lie down, use that hand to keep his rear end up. Wait for a second or two with him in the position and then release him and praise him. Practice four or five times, take a break and then in a little while repeat the training steps.

When he’s following the treat readily, begin using the name of the trick as you move your hand, “Sweetie, bow! Good!” Keep your hand near his tummy just in case he tries to lie down.

A Variation

Once your dog knows how to bow and is doing it well, then you can teach a variation of the bow that will become a new trick. “Say your prayers” will be a bow with your dog’s head lowered to his paws.

To teach this, have your dog bow and then keep the treat on the floor until your dog’s head lowers to the treat. Keep the treat there for a second or two then give him the treat and praise him, “Sweetie, good to say your prayers!” As with all tricks, practice four or five times, take a break, and then repeat the training steps.

When your dog is lowering his head willingly and without confusion and is holding still for a few seconds in anticipation of the treat, then stop asking him to take a bow when doing this trick. Begin by asking him to say his prayers, but keep using the hand signal with the treat.

Have Fun

Trick training is a great way to have fun with your dog while practicing your training skills at the same time. It doesn’t matter that you’re laughing while training your dog to do tricks; it’s still training.

Granted, a part of training your dog is teaching him the rules of living with people. But training is also communication between the two of you, building the relationship the two of you share, and having fun. So teach your dog tricks!

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