Who is this trick for?
Crossing your paws is a fun and unusual trick that not many dogs can do. He is easy to train and physically not too demanding. However, it is important that your dog already knows how to give a paw, because this trick builds on that. The trick of crossbreeding will make mental demands on your four-legged friend. If he is fit and healthy and has no problems with an illness (such as elbow dysplasia or similar), you can get started right away!
How do I teach my dog to cross paws?
Using the clicker is incredibly helpful with this trick, as the desired behavior is often only shown for a fraction of a second. With the clicker, you can click at the right moment and thus confirm the right behavior of your dog with pinpoint accuracy. If your dog is new to the clicker, you should start conditioning him first so he understands that the click sound has a positive meaning for him. You take some treats in your hand and hold them behind your back. Then you click once and then move the treat hand forward and immediately give your dog a treat. You don’t expect any specific behavior, just click and reward directly afterward. Repeat this 15 to 20 times. Your dog will quickly realize that the click is followed by a treat.
When the clicker is ready to use and the treats are ready, the actual trick can begin. You let your dog sit and hold out the palm of your hand. Now he will probably put his paw in it quite quickly. You click and give your dog a treat. Then try it from the place. Your dog is lying down, you hold out your hand and he should put his paw back in your hand. You click and reward this too.
If your dog reliably puts his paw in your hand, whether he is sitting or lying down, you can vary. You hold your hand a little bit towards the other paw. Your dog should also lay your hand on these. If this works, you work your way to the other paw from time to time so that your dog gradually begins to cross its paws.
If your dog shifts his weight so that he doesn’t cross his paws, you ignore this – don’t click – and repeat the process.
If your four-legged friend now easily crosses his front legs when he tries to hit your palm, you introduce the word signal. Depending on what you feel like, you say “Kreuzen”, “Cross” or “Diva” in advance. In this way, your dog can immediately associate the word with the trick.
Since you don’t want to hold out your hand every time later, you sneak it out after the signal has been introduced. At first, you hold it out as before so that your four-legged friend starts to cross its paws, but just before it reaches your hand you pull it away but click in time and reward. You repeat this many times until your dog knows what you want from him without you having to give the “big gesture” to help.
If your dog shifts his weight too much in step 2 so that he slides to the side every time so that he doesn’t have to cross his paws, you can insert an intermediate step. You place one hand lightly on the resting paw, pause, and click if your dog doesn’t pull the paw away. After a few reps, place the other hand over your “resting” hand in such a way that your dog begins to cross but is motivated by your first hand to let that paw rest. Don’t demand crossing too quickly, but work your way inch by inch.
Kristina Ziemer-Falke is a certified dog trainer and behavioral consultant by the Schleswig-Holstein Veterinary Chamber and the Messerli Research Institute of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna. In addition, she has many additional training courses and specializations and is on the examination board of the Lower Saxony Chamber of Veterinarians for dog trainer certifications.
With her husband Jörg Ziemer, she founded the Ziemer & Falke training center, where they have been training dog trainers all over Germany with a lot of heart, passion, and competence for many years and where they offer many further training opportunities. Many also know Kristina as a successful author of specialist books for dog trainers and dog owners as well as from articles in popular dog magazines.