Teaching a dog to bow is so cute, it’s a fun easy trick that will really impress your friends and family.  It’s also great for working on your dog’s flexibility, and a way to expand the range of cues you teach them. 

In this fun guide to teaching a dog to bow, we’re going to break down what teaching a dog to bow looks like. The reasons why we think teaching a bow is a good idea, and easy steps to teach your dog to bow.

We have a bunch of tricks in our Zigzag puppy training app waiting for you to try out with your dog. We’ll also teach you how to train your puppy right from the day you bring them home, covering important topics like socialisation, toilet training and home-alone training. We won’t leave you on your own either; a team of fully qualified professional dog trainers is in the app ready and waiting to talk to you.

yorkie sitting on carpet
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What is teaching a dog how to bow?

You’ll be pleased to know that teaching a dog to bow is a fairly easy trick to teach, and it looks like your dog is putting their head to the floor with their bum up in the air. Teaching your dog to bow also looks a little like the yoga pose ‘happy puppy’ pose.

Why should I teach my dog to bow?

Teaching your dog to bow is a fun way of applying positive reinforcement training without the daily pressures of obedience training like loose lead walking, and recall. Teaching a dog to bow will help strengthen your relationship, as tricks are fun to teach, and easy for your dog to learn.

Tricks such as bow (or spin) also improve flexibility and can be a good exercise for rear-end awareness and canine conditioning.

Teaching the bow trick will help your dog to work their brain, and trick training can also prevent boredom.

How to teach a dog to bow in 8 easy steps

You’ll use luring and a word marker or clicker training to teach your dog to bow. They’ll follow a tasty treat to get their body in the position you need them to, so it looks like they’re taking a bow!

1. Ask or lure your dog to stand

This is the starting position for your dog to take a bow. You can use a treat on their nose to bring them up and forward into a stand if they don’t know how to do it on verbal cue.

2. Have the treat in between your fingers, with your hand palm facing up

Pop the treat on your dog’s nose and bring it down to the floor in a straight vertical line.

3. Use a clicker or say good or yes when your dog dips your head to the floor

Using a marker word like ‘good’ or ‘yes’ means your dog receives instant feedback when they do the right thing, you can then give them a treat. You can also use a clicker.

4. Repeat this so your dog starts the understand the bow movement

Positive reinforcement training relies on repetition and patience. Your pup needs time to practise the movement so they understand what gets them their reward.

dog lying down
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5. Try the same movement without the treat in your hand

Once your dog can reliably follow the treat and do the bow movement, you can remove the lure and turn it into more of a hand signal. Make sure you still use your clicker or marker word and give them a treat when they follow your hand and do the bow.

6. Adding duration to the bow trick

Now you’ll want to move your hand away a little when it’s at the bottom, and your dog is in a bow position.  Use your marker word or click when your hand is away from your dog and they’re holding the bow position, and then give them a treat.

Practise this 3-5 times and then add a little more duration on the next set of 3-5, doing this will mean your dog starts to get used to your hand not needing to be there.

7. Make your hand signal smaller

As you progress with teaching your dog to bow you’ll want to make your hand signal a little smaller, you might even find that as you bend down your dog is starting to go into a bow already. That’s excellent – I like to turn my signal to bow into me doing a bow, it looks impressive when you do it and your dog copies you!

8. Add a verbal cue to the bow trick

The verbal cue can be anything you like. It could be as simple as ‘bow’ but you could say ‘curtsey’ or ‘dip’ or ‘head low’ it doesn’t matter what you choose, just pick one that you’ll remember when teaching your dog to bow.

Say the verbal cue like ‘bow’, then count one second in your head before you do your hand signal or body movement. Reward your dog for bowing and then repeat this 5 times. 

What we’re doing here is pairing the verbal cue with the hand signal, but there needs to be a little gap in the middle. Dogs respond to visual cues like hand signals or body gestures much faster than verbal cues, and if you say the cue and do the movement at exactly the same time, you won’t be able to transfer to a verbal cue.

Now say your verbal cue ‘bow’ and wait 3-5 seconds, did your dog understand they were meant to bow when you said it? Yes? Brilliant, keep going! No? Go back and pair the word again, say the cue ‘bow’ have a one-second gap and then give them the hand signal, followed by a click or marker word and treat.

dog looking to the side
Photo by Lesli Whitecotton on Unsplash

Tips for teaching your dog how to bow

  • If your dog drops all the way into a down position when you try to lure them into a bow, there are a few things you can try.
    • Alter the way your hand moves, and do less scooping under which can make them fold down. 
    • Break the bow into much smaller steps so just dip the head a little, and reward if their rear end stays up – we call this shaping.
    • Place your hand underneath their tummy to keep their rear up, but be very gentle, you’re not aiming to push, it can just sit there and stop the back end from dropping.
  • Do short sessions. It uses brain power and works your dog’s muscles to get into the bow position, so practise a few, then take a break so your dog can rest and digest the info.
  • Practice on a non-slip surface, yoga mats or blankets with a non-slip back are great for this, so your dog feels comfortable and secure. Slippery floors can cause joint problems or pain so make sure your dog is happy when training.
  • Use nice tasty small treats your dog likes to make this a super rewarding thing for them.
  • Train your dog to bow in different places so that they generalise and understand the exercise wherever you might be.

Teaching your dog to bow is a relatively simple trick you can train your dog to do. It looks impressive, is great for flexibility and canine conditioning, and is a low-stress yet also a high fun activity for you and your dog to engage with.

Trick training in general can open your dog’s eyes to the fun training can be. The possibilities are endless as to what you can achieve with positive reinforcement training.

If you want to learn more tricks then check out our trick training guide, or why not teach your dog to spin or twist? We also have a detailed clicker training for dogs article that will open your eyes to the joy that reward-based training can bring.

Download the Zigzag training app for more content like this, we teach important life skills not just tricks and follow your pup through each stage of development for you to get the right lessons at the right time. Not just that but we’ve specifically created the app to work with your pup’s breed type because Border Collies have different needs than Chihuahuas. Our team of professional dog trainers are available 24/7 to talk to you in our in-app chat. Drop them a line, they’d be happy to talk to you.