Training: "What do you think?"

Hello All,

I would really appreciate your input. About three weeks ago I started training "what do you think?" This is really just training the dog to shake no, as if they were shaking off water, on command. I have been clicking, treating and saying "good think" whenever Cannoli will shake herself off. The problem is, other than one time when she did it about 7 times in a row, she has not gotten the hang of it and gets upset when I request the behavior as if she doesn't know what I am asking for.

We use a handsignal of the outstretched hand going from left to right to signal that I want Cannoli to "think?" or "what do you think?" Ideally, she would shake as if shaking off water to tell everyone "no." I think this will be a cute trick to ask Cannoli a question, then say "what do you think," and having her shake no. However, the only way I have been able to train this is to try to click and treat immediately after she shakes herself off throughout the day. Sometimes, I don't have a treat ready and the timing is not good. Other times, I don't have the clicker ready and I just have to settle for saying "good think." Other times, my timing is great with the clicker and the treat. However, she is still not getting the idea.

My question revolves around how I can train this more formally than just reacting to whenever Cannoli naturally shakes herself off? We have tried to put water on Cannoli to force her to shake but she does not like that. We have tried blowing in her ears and she really hates that. I have tried to put a towel on her head in order to force her to shake it off, but that doesn't really work either. We have also given her the towel to put in her mouth and shake as if it were a tug rope (she's an AmStaff so she loves to tug), but that backfired because then she just thought we were training her to play with towels. We had to end that training technique right at the beginning because she was going around trying to chew towels for a couple days LOL!

Anyway, I don't know where else to turn so I am turning to the Academy? Does anyone have any ideas on how to train this? It's going on three weeks now and I am waiting patiently for the "breakthrough" that we all experience when our doggies start offering the trained behavior regularly upon command. But Cannoli seems stressed about it because whenever I request with the hand signal and ask her to "think?" or say "what do you think?" she will start to walk faster or bark as if to say "hey dad, I am not sure what you are asking for." Thanks for any suggestions! Gotta love the academy!



New Member
Most dogs can only perform behaviours like shaking, sneezing, twitching, etc several times in a row and then need a break. I imagine they're hard work to perform! (Try shaking seven times in a row - it gets harder as it goes by!).

I haven't taught a shake on cue, but had to teach a 'take a bow' (stretch) by capturing and, honestly, it took MONTHS. at one stage, I managed to teach him to take a bow when I opened the fridge door... ??? But I couldn't transfer it to another cue so had to restart.

Dogs get body cues easier than verbal, so for Mac I would use a fist in front of him and move it vertically while saying "Take a bow". I did this as many times as I could as he did the stretch I wanted. Then, I began saying/doing when I was pretty sure he was going to do my stretch - so when he was getting out of bed. From here we progressed to his current take a bow behaviour.

I anticipate a shake behaviour would be harder to capture, as it'd be harder to predict. But don't give up after 3 weeks. :D

Jean Cote

Staff member
Are you clicking WHILE she is shaking, or AFTER? You should definitely click WHILE the dog is shaking, and then give a treat a second or two after.

Personally, I wouldn't even bother with any kind of cue right now because the dog doesn't even know what is being reinforced anyways. A cue is very easy to teach once the behavior is offered.

I haven't taught my dog to shake, but I have taught my dog to touch her nose on command. Both are hard behaviors which I trained by capturing it. I clicked every time the behavior was offered and eventually she learned to do it on her own which earned her a jackpot every time. Now she'll touch her nose any time she wants something. LOL.

I guess you will just have to keep training it. It might take some time, but make sure that your timing is correct. If you have the chance, you could record one of your repetition and share it with us, see if we can be of any more help.

Have fun!


Well-Known Member
You already tried most of what I was going to suggest, but maybe this will work:

She didn't like it when you blew in her ear, but what if you put a cotton ball in there? Don't push it in, just place it in the opening so that it'll fall out when she moves her head. Maybe that'll be ticklish in a way that will work?

In her case, capturing may be the way to go with this trick, but if you are able to shape it in some way, maybe starting off with just getting her to cock her head to the side would sort of get the idea to her that she should move her head... then again, she may not understand to turn it into a reflex like shaking...

Let us know how it goes!
I should clarify that the one time she repeatedly did "think" I rewarded any side head-to-head movement and she was testing what would get treated. However, ever since that day she has not progressed. Thanks for your help. I will certainly not give up, not after three weeks, months or years lol. Hopefully it won't take that long, but if it does it does.

Thanks for all your help.


Experienced Member
What do you think?

When I taught Storm to shake her head I blew in her ear, but eventually she started ignoring that, so I just brushed the hair in her ear with my finger. I guess that tickled enough because it worked. I also had the problem where she would not offer the behavior no matter what, so I just stopped doing it for a couple of days and one day when I was just running through her tricks for practice I said the cue word for shaking her head and she did it! Just out of the blue. I think because she didn't have to think about it. It had already become a habit, but truthfully I don't know for sure what I did that made it work lol. But keep your hopes up because the break through will come.