Dog in forest doing a play bow

How to teach your dog the ‘Play Bow’ command

14 September 2022Dog Training

You may have already seen your dog doing the ‘bow’ on their own accord – it’s the morning stretch where their hind legs are extended, and their front legs are on the floor. And that well-known stance when they’re about to start an epic game of play with their best friend.

But play bow can also be taught with a command – it’s a great stretch for your dog either on or off equipment and a doggy core strengthener too. Diane, our Canine Behaviourist and owner of Superhounds teaches you how to master it below. Paws up if you’re in!

Dog behaviourist Diane with dogs

First you need to think of what cue to use for this trick. Be mindful that if you use the word “down” to ask your dog to lie down, they might get confused with the word “bow” as it sounds similar. Using a command such as “curtsy”, “stretch” or even “ta-dah” are brilliant alternatives.

Watch the video and follow the steps below.

Step 1:

Get your dog to stand in front of you, facing you, and hold a yummy treat just in front of his nose. 

Step 2: 

Slowly move the treat towards your dog and downwards at a 45° angle - as if you are pushing the treat in between their front legs towards the chest and floor. Try to get his nose aiming towards the floor and slightly backwards.

Step 3:

As soon as his elbows drop onto the floor, mark it, and reward him before he drops into a down. (Marking it means a “click”, or a word such as “YES” to teach your dog it’s the right response.)

Step 4:

Build up the move by waiting a few more seconds before you mark it, withholding the treat. Once your dog can do this, then you can start to add your cue word. 

Step 5:

Now try to do this with you kneeling and then standing. Once your dog can do it just using the cue word, then you can try bowing to each other!

Step 6:

Take a video of your dog showing off their bow and tag @differentdog and #trickoftheweek, we'd love to see their new moves.

Need some extra tips?

  • If your dog drops into a down, you may need to place one hand underneath his back end to keep his back end up in the air. 
  • If your dog keeps walking backwards, adjust the angle of your hand and move the treat forward and downwards.
  • If your dog sits, you are holding the treat too high, lower the hand with the treat in.
  • Timing is critical - you must mark the exact point your dog puts his elbows on the floor, before he drops into a down. 

Ready to learn another command? Watch Diane teach ‘Paws-Up’ here and stay tuned for another trick next week.

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