Toronto pet photographerTeaching your dog how to hug is a great way to exercise her brain and body! Plus it is a great way to keep your pupster entertained when indoors. Jess and Cohen from Cohen the Australian Shepherd are here today to share a step-by-step guide for how to teach your dog to hug (aka mastering the most adorable trick in the world!)

This trick can be done with a dog who knows how to “sit pretty” with her paws held off the ground, or a dog who knows sit. The difference between the two positions is whether you’ll have a 1-handed or 2-handed hug.

Step 1
Get your dog accustomed to targeting your hand with her paw. Dogs, like humans, are normally right-pawed or left-pawed and will normally offer up their dominant paw first. Work with their dominant side for this trick. The start of this trick is just a “paw” cue.

Step 2
Once she’s comfortable raising her paw and stretching it out to reach your hand, start asking for her to paw an object. A toy, a book or a post-it note are all good items for this. This is to get her more proficient at pawing a target. The next object we’ll use will be something long and thin like a broom handle, a 1″ dowel or an umbrella.

Step 3
Sit your dog in front of you, present the rod and cue her to paw at it. She should be getting pretty good at pawing at things by this point. Place the broom handle upright in front of your dog and encourage her to paw at it. Hold onto the top so it doesn’t get kicked around too much. Present it to her and try to push the broom into her slightly so she naturally wraps her paw around it. It may take a while for you to get your first paw wrap, so be patient and reward like crazy when it happens.
Toronto pet photographerStep 4
Practice until your dog is comfortably wrapping her paw around the handle while you steady it. Once she’s proficient, pull the broom away from her ever so slightly to engage her opposition reflex. In other words, you pulling on it should cue her to pull back on it. This is a way to teach her that you want her to put a bit of muscle into holding the broom.

Step 5
Next cue her to wrap her paw around the broom and let go of the handle gently. You’re looking for her to support the broom herself. Just do this for a split second, steady the broom again with your hand (so as not to let it bang onto the floor) and reward like crazy.

Work in split second increments. Adding duration is always a difficult step for dogs, so don’t go too far too fast.

Step 6
Once she’s supporting the broom without much help from you, you can start introducing new objects. You can wrap toys or even old clothing around the broom for her to hold on to. Then, remove the broom. You’re now asking your dog to support the weight of the object without it being braced by the floor. Voila! Your dog knows how to hug! It’s now up to you to find an adorable toy for this trick!
toronto-dog-photographer{BONUS PRO TIP!}
Start with a LIGHT, soft object. It will likely take some work to get your dog proficient at holding a new object like this, so keep working at it in brief sessions each day.

This Tough Rabbit Dog Toy is arguably the most adorable item ever to teach your dog how to hug with! This Crinkle Rabbit Toy is a close second. Really any cute plush critter will do!
tough-rabbit-dog-toyKEEP IN MIND
It’s not a natural position for a dog, so I would recommend keeping it brief. Never increase duration by jumps any larger than 0.5 seconds — it’s simply too difficult for her. Work on this trick for 2-5 minutes, 3 times a day, max. Obviously, remember to keep your trick training sessions fun, engaging and rewarding. You don’t want your dog getting bored or stressed.


{Special thanks to Jess Bell and Cohen the Australian Shepherd for this wonderful dog training guide! Photography by Pawsh Studio. Video by Jess Bell.}