How to teach a dog to cross its front paws?

Today, together with Vector and Haker, we come to you with a new trick. We will show you step by step how you can teach a lying dog to cross its front paws. This is a very cool trick that not only looks cute in photos or videos, but also improves your dog’s body awareness.

Before we start teaching the dog this trick, it would be good if he could already lie down on the gesture or verbal command and stay in this position until he heard the release command. Of course, you can also lead the dog to a lying position, but if he is not trained to do so, he can get up quickly, and we do not want that.

We will need a few things to learn. Treats that we will reward the dog with will surely be useful. If you know how to use a clicker and your pooch is conditioned to it, you can use it. If your pooch does not know the clicker, we will mark the desired dog behavior with a short, sonorous word “yes”. The last thing we need is a target. I use a yellow cloth for this, but you can use any item here. It is important that it is not too big and clearly visible to the dog.


During the warm-up, we want to teach the dog to touch the target with the front paw. We put the treat on the floor and cover it with a target. We mark with a clicker or a voiced “yes” word every time the target is touched with the dog’s front paw, and of course reward this behavior. Certainly some of your dogs will try to get to the treat with their teeth. In this case, hold the target with your hand to prevent the dog from eating the treat. After a few unsuccessful attempts, the dog will finally start using the front paws.

crossing the front legs - warming up

If your dog knows the “give the paw” command, you can use it during warm-up. We put the target on the hand and ask the dog to give us a paw. We praise him and reward him for carrying out the command. With each subsequent repetition, we keep the hand with the target lower and lower, until we finally put it on the floor. When the dog touches the target lying on the ground with its front paw, we can proceed to the next stage of learning.

Stage 1 Target with the front paw in a supine position

We ask the dog to lie down. Then we put the target between the dog’s front paws. We mark with a clicker or a voiced word “yes” and of course reward each touch of the target with a paw. It is worth looking at which paw the dog is pointing to. After about three attempts, mark and reward the dog for touching the target with only one chosen paw. This will make the next stages of learning easier for us. In the future, of course, you can teach your dog to cross the other paw, but it’s better to do it separately. Otherwise, everything can be wrong for the dog.

crossing the front paws - the first stage

My dogs have been taught a lot of muzzle targeting. It is a very useful skill when learning a lot of tricks or when marking the smell in a nasal bag. Unfortunately, when learning how to cross the front paws, we want the dog to target us with its paw, not its mouth. Therefore, if the dog begins to target its mouth, you can simply take the target away and not reward the dog for the behavior. If this problem persists, I advise you to go back to warming up and strengthen your dog for paw targeting.

Stage 2 Crossing the paws

When the dog is happy to touch the target with the selected paw, we can move on to the next stage of learning. With each subsequent repetition, we move the target farther and farther so that the dog finally crosses its front paws. Of course, we still mark and reward touching the target with a paw. In this way, gradually, in small steps, we teach the dog to cross its front paws.

crossing the front paws - the second stage

The most difficult moment here is when we carry the target with the paw lying on the ground and ask the dog to cross its paws. Many dogs may find it easier to touch the target with the other paw. That is why consistency is so important when working at an earlier stage. If in the first stage we rewarded the dog only for the target, e.g. with the right paw, now it will be easier for him to understand that we are still asking him to target with the right paw. However, when the dog tries to touch the target with his left paw, we simply take the target away and do not reward him for such behavior. If this error repeats, it is worth returning to the previous stage of the exercise. Remember not to force learning to speed up. It is better to divide the whole training into smaller stages than to demand things from the dog that are still too difficult for him.

Stage 3a We add a gesture

When the dog is nicely crossing the front paws of the target, you can start entering the verbal command and gesture. For most dogs, our body language is more understandable than the words we say. Therefore, entering a gesture is usually simpler than teaching the dog to perform a trick on a verbal command alone.

First, we must, of course, choose a gesture. This may be, for example, a finger pointing where the dog is to put its paw. However, I chose the gesture made with the foot. I want to teach my dog ​​to cross its front paws when I cross my legs. How to teach it? First, it is worth repeating the exercise from the second stage in a standing position. Remember that dogs do not generalize and learn contextually poorly. This means that many details are important for a dog, which we do not always pay attention to, e.g. what position we have when giving a command. Therefore, if you have already exercised with your dog, kneeling or sitting, and you would like to show the gesture while standing, you must first teach the dog to cross its front paws when you are standing in front of it.

crossing the front paws for a gesture

When this is achieved, we move on to the next stage of learning. We make a predetermined gesture and put the target in such a place that the dog crosses its front paws. We mark this behavior with a clicker or a voiced “yes” word and reward. After a few successful repetitions, we are trying to withdraw the targeting. We make a gesture and wait if the dog has already guessed what we mean. If so, of course we mark the crossing of the paws, praise the dog and reward. However, when the pooch needs a hint in the form of a target, let’s give it to him. We don’t want him to become unnecessarily frustrated while learning. Remember that it is your job to clearly explain to your dog what you mean.

Stage 3b We add the word command

We also enter the word command in a similar way. You can enter them yourself or combine them with a gesture. If we want the dog to cross its front paws at just a verbal command, we do it similarly to entering a gesture. This time, instead of showing the dog a gesture, we say a verbal command. Then we guide the dog with the target so that it crosses its front paws. After a few successful repetitions, we try to withdraw the targeting and check if the dog can already follow the commands just on the word.

If we have a previously worked out gesture for this trick, the sequence of actions should be as follows. First, we say a verbal command that the dog does not know yet, and only then we show a gesture that is already known to him. Over time, you can start to slowly withdraw the gesture and teach the dog to cross his paws on the verbal command.

Remember that the word you choose for this trick must not be similar to any other commands your dog already knows. My dogs know the word “paw” in various forms. We have an ordinary “paw”, on which dogs put my front paw in my hand. We also have a “paw” command when I ask dogs to get out of the leash during a walk. I also use the words “First paw, second paw, punch … etc.” when wiping mud from paws after a walk. My dogs are taught to raise all four paws one by one for these words. Therefore, in my case, the verbal command to cross the front paws cannot be anything related to the word “paw”. Instead, I use the word “right” for the crossing of the right paw and “left” for the crossing of the left paw. I do not recommend this solution to people who are often wrong on both sides. 😛

I am very curious how you like this trick and will your dogs teach it?